Lyndon Johnson Would Have Smiled Knowingly at this Rule on MA Casino Property Deals

Friday, April 18, 2014

“I can at least make the son of a bitch deny it,” Lyndon Johnson would say when he was Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.

“It” was something unsavory and/or regrettable in the background of someone who was standing in Johnson’s way.  “It” only had to be within the realm of possibility, not unquestionably true.
Johnson or one of his minions would feed the negative info to a compliant news person.  Soon enough, the Leader’s adversary du jour would get a call.  It did not matter if he meekly conceded the information was true or vehemently denied it.  There’d still be a story.  As a headline, “Senator Smith Denies Beating Wife” is as irresistible as “Senator Smith Admits Beating Wife, Expresses Remorse.”

When the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided to make the parties who are selling properties to casino license bidders swear that no criminals will profit from the deals, I’m sure the commissioners did not have Lyndon Johnson’s tactics in mind.  It’s only a coincidence that the commissioners have come to stand in the footsteps of the great Texas arm-twister.
A cloud hangs over one of the co-owners of a property in Everett where Steve Wynn hopes to build a casino because that person reportedly declined to sign a statement affirming that no criminals will make anything on the deal.  The co-owner in question is not signing that statement “under the advice of his criminal counsel,” according to the Boston Globe.

A $1.5 billion casino project and the hopes of an entire city for a massive, multi-year casino pay-out hang on this question of an unknown law-breaker profiting or not. 
By so far avoiding the question, the co-owner has forced the gaming commission to infer that someone with a record will make a buck. 

If the situation remains unchanged, the commission will either have to invalidate the effort and funds Wynn has expended in Massachusetts or change one of its key policies.    
The commission wants to ensure that all property transactions are pristine and that every consequence of those transactions is pristine, too.   Depending how you feel about casinos, you bow to their ethics or you shake your head at their wooly idealism.

The commission is holding Wynn accountable for: (a) the people he’s doing business with, and (b) the people doing business with the people he’s doing business with.  Wow.
You can be sure Wynn is tearing his hair out over this.

As quoted in a just-published article in CommonWealth Magazine, Wynn is not happy that the state’s casino-enabling legislation requires casinos to withhold taxes from the proceeds of any patron who wins $600 or more, and he will likely try to amend that part of the law if he secures the eastern Massachusetts casino license.  The withholding issue is small beans compared to the policy denying land-sale profits to anyone with a felony conviction.
[Sticking for a moment with this digression, here’s the question from CommonWealth editor Bruce Mohl about withholding taxes from casino winnings and Wynn’s answer.  Mohl:  “One of your concerns is a requirement that anyone receiving winnings of $600 must pay withholding on those funds at the casino.  Why is that bad?”  Winn: “You can’t do that.  You can’t treat everybody like they’re a deadbeat dad when they cash out $600.  That’s like everybody is presumed to be a bum.  A table-gaming person comes in three days in a row.  He loses on Friday.  He loses on Saturday.  He loses $10,000, but wins $600 on Sunday.  He’s lost $9,400 and they take taxes out.  My customers won’t put up with that and I won’t be a part of it.  It’s an outrageous mistake.”  To see more, please go to: www.commonwealthmagazine.org]

You can be sure Carlo DeMaria, the mayor of Everett, is tearing his hair out over this.
DeMaria is so concerned that the project could implode on this one issue that he quickly came up with a plan to have the city purchase the casino site and resell it at the same price to Wynn.  That’s one big hoop for the taxpayers of Everett to jump through, but maybe not so big when you consider the many millions the city will get from Wynn up front and every year afterward from his casino.  Big paydays sometimes require big leaps.

 

 

Steve Wynn Is an Ask-Me-Anything-and-I'll-Tell-You Kind of Guy, God Bless Him

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Credit Bruce Mohl with producing the most interesting and lively article on our state’s entry into the wonderful world of casinos: a blunt-from-the-first-word interview with Steve Wynn in the latest edition of CommonWealth Magazine, www.commonwealthmagazine.org

Mohl is the magazine’s editor and a former State House bureau chief for the Boston Globe, where he labored with distinction for three decades.  He traveled to Las Vegas to grill Wynn at his eye-popping, art-laden villa.
Wynn, who wants to build a casino on a Mystic River-front site in Everett, is battling the folks at Suffolk Downs and their gaming partner, Mohegan Sun, for the sole available eastern Massachusetts casino license.

Even if you could not care less about casinos, you should read this article because it is an all-too-rare example of a CEO speaking fearlessly on the record.  If you’re sick of corporate honchos always talking in euphemisms and hiding their true thoughts behind instantly forgettable generalities, the Mohl-Wynn interview is just what the doctor ordered.

Consider, for example, Wynn’s comments about Joe O’Donnell, who grew up in Everett and achieved fabulous success in business.  O’Donnell’s an icon in Everett.  He also happens to be a principal of the Suffolk Downs casino team.  
“The conventional wisdom all along in Massachusetts was that Suffolk Downs was going to get the license.  Did you hear that?” Mohl asks.

“Joe O’Donnell,” Wynn says, “let everyone know from day one that Boston was his.  [He puts on a Boston accent.]  ‘I’m the guy from Harvard.  Suffolk Downs?  Don’t worry about it.’  When I was in Foxborough, I bumped into Joe one day.  He said, I wish it had been you with me, Steve.  Total confidence.  Very successful man.  A man of respect.  He let everyone know – perhaps it was a strategy to discourage competition – that Boston was his.  And there isn’t anyone in America in my industry who wasn’t told that one way or another by him and [fellow Suffolk investor] Richard Fields.  They laughed at me.  And one of their partners was Steve Roth from Vornado.  He came on my boat and he said to me, we’re going to kick your ass.  He actually said that to me.”
Mohl asks, “Have you had any more dealings with O’Donnell?”

Wynn says, “When we came to Everett, I saw O’Donnell and he gave me the same speech.  Steve, you’re going to lose, you’ve got the wrong site.  I wish you had been with me, but you’ve got no chance.  When Caesar’s took a hike, or got tossed, I called him.  He said, what took you so long?  I said, what do you mean?  He said, I thought you’d have been here already.  This is your chance.  Look, I said, I’m calling because I wanted to figure out what your deal is.  He said have your guy talk to my guy, we’ll tell you everything.  He said it’s a good thing you’re calling me because you have no chance where you are.  The next day I called him back and he asked me, when are you going to withdraw?  I said, based on our conversation yesterday, I am calling to withdraw my inquiry to you.   I am not withdrawing from Everett.  Sorry.  Oh well, he said, you’ve got a problem. ..”

The Mohl-Wynn colloquy may be found at:


 

Transportation Committee Had the Sense to Put this Bill in the Circular File

Friday, April 4, 2014

Many years ago, my wife and I lived in an apartment above a business on the main street of a city not far from Boston. Across the street from us was a funeral home run by two gregarious middle-aged brothers.

There was a wake at the funeral home one spring night for a young man who’d been killed in a motorcycle accident.   Hundreds of mourners showed up, many of them on motorcycles. 
For three hours, we heard the roar of motorcycle engines and the squeal of rubber on pavement as the bikers arrived and departed.  We heard their voices in stunned and anguished conversations.  Things did not quiet down till close to 10.

Later, while I was bringing trash barrels from our garage to the sidewalk for pick-up the next day, I saw the younger of the two brothers.  He was on the front porch of the funeral home, smoking a cigarette.  There was hardly any traffic at that hour.
“Hello, Bob,” I said, loud enough for him to hear.

Bob waved and started down his front stairs. He felt like talking, which was usually the case.  We sat down on the granite steps at the base of the front walk to the building where my wife and I lived.
“You had quite a night,” I said. 

“You’re not kidding,” he said.
“It was pretty tough.  This kid was only 20 years old,” he said.  “A lot of his buddies and their girlfriends couldn’t take it.”

“How are his parents doing?” I asked.
“It’s just his mother who’s around.  She’s doing OK, I guess.”

“I read about the accident.  It sounded terrible.   A difficult job for you.”
“We have him looking pretty good.  They could keep it open.” 

Bob did all of the embalming at his establishment.
He dropped his cigarette on the sidewalk and ground it out with his foot.  “They had a special T shirt they wanted him to wear in the casket,” he told me.  “You know what it says on that shirt?”

“I have no idea.”
“Helmet Laws Suck.”

That conversation has never left me.  A young person dies tragically in a motorcycle accident, and because he felt so strongly about the heavy hand of government, his mom decides one final message from him to the world is in order: Death be damned.  Helmet laws still suck!

Talk about dying for what you believe in.
I guess a lot of people still feel that way, including at least one member of the Massachusetts legislature, Rep. Marc T. Lombardo, R-Billerica.  He introduced a bill this session that would have eliminated a section of state law requiring every person operating a motorcycle or riding as a passenger on a motorcycle to wear “protective head gear.”  In place of that section, which is part of Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws, Lombardo’s bill would have inserted language requiring only those motorcycle drivers and passengers who are under age 18 to wear head gear.

Fortunately, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation decided recently to send Lombardo’s bill, titled benignly as An Act Relative to Motorcycle Helmet Choice, to study.  This means it has virtually zero chance of being seriously considered, never mind enacted, this year.
I follow fairly closely what goes on in the Transportation Committee.  Not too long after seeing an online notice about Lombardo’s bill going to study, I read a New York Times article on what has happened in those states that have already done what An Act Relative to Motorcycle Helmet Choice would accomplish here if it ever passed: repeal the helmet law for adults.  The headline told the story: “When Motorcycle Helmet Laws Ease, a Fatal Trend Follows.”

The article said: “In the past two decades, six states have repealed or relaxed laws that required every motorcyclist to wear a helmet.  Charting fatal motorcycle accidents in each of those states reveals a definitive trend: As soon as the law changes, the number of fatalities rises.”
One of the disturbing examples cited by the Times was Florida.  The article said:

“When Florida relaxed its laws in July 2000, it required helmets only for riders younger than 21 and those with limited medical insurance policies.  Safety experts watched closely to see what would happen in the state, which has a large population and a strong motorcycle culture.

“Fatalities among motorcyclists who did not wear helmets rose more than sevenfold, to 164 in the year after the new law from 23 in the year before.”
Jeff Hennie, vice president of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, was quoted by the Times as saying, “We are 100 percent anti-helmet laws, but we are 100 percent pro-helmet.  We believe that the government should not tell you to wear a helmet.”

I’d support that proposition wholeheartedly if the Jeff Hennies of the world agreed to encode just one stipulation in all state laws addressing head gear for motorcyclists and their passengers:  Anyone not wearing a helmet who suffers a head and/or spinal injury leading to permanent disability agrees to forego permanently any public assistance, as through Medicaid, Medicare, etc. 
I figure if you don’t want the government telling you how to protect yourself in an accident, you can’t expect the government to pay for the care you need after you get hurt in an accident.

The above-cited Times article may be found at:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/03/31/science/motorcycle-helmet-laws.html

 

In its Wisdom, Commission Could Choose to Hit 'Reset' on Casino Licensing Process

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Later this spring, the state gaming commission is expected to award the licenses to operate casinos in eastern and western Massachusetts. 

The choice for the eastern license is between Wynn Resorts and Mohegan Sun.   In the west, only MGM Resorts is in the hunt.
Wynn wants to build on an industrial site in Everett and Mohegan Sun on Suffolk Downs, a property that spans East Boston and Revere.  MGM has nailed down a site in downtown Springfield.

Legally, the commission does not have to grant licenses to any casino applicants; it can reject all of them and start the process over again.
The commission could decide, for example, that the revised plan to position the Mohegan Sun casino entirely on the Revere side of Suffolk Downs is unfair to the people of East Boston.  You will recall that East Boston voters rejected the original plan, which had the casino on both sides of the East Boston-Revere divide.  Suffolk Downs and Mohegan Sun quickly changed the plan to put the casino all in Revere, and Revere voters almost as quickly approved it. 

Likewise, the commission could decide that the Wynn Everett site, located across a busy state highway (Route 99) from a power plant, is not the ideal place for a resort casino, no matter how hard Wynn tries to make it sound fabulous.  They might also judge the potential impacts of an Everett casino on the abutter communities of Charlestown and Somerville as unacceptably high – and the same on the quagmire that is Sullivan Square.
If the commission hits the reset button on the eastern license, maybe someone would then do what someone (surprisingly) did not do two years ago: pitch a casino for downtown Boston.

A casino in the vicinity, say, of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center has a lot to commend it.  It would be close to the airport, South Station, Interstates 93 and 90, a bunch of existing hotels and restaurants, and various cultural, artistic, sports and entertainment attractions.  It would maximize the taking of casino profits from out-of-town visitors, a priority of those who fear casinos may cannibalize the limited recreational dollars of Massachusetts residents, thus hurting Massachusetts enterprises, not to mention the state lottery.

There is some pressure of a financial nature on the commission to make timely awards of the eastern and western casino licenses: gaming licensing fees totaling around $200 million have been built into the state’s current fiscal year budget, which ends June 30.

The folks constructing a slots parlor at the Plainridge harness racing track in Plainville have already paid the $25 million associated with a slots license.  If, in the next eight to 12 weeks, MGM and the winner of the eastern license each paid the $85 million required for a casino license, the total fee receipts for FY 14 would come to $195 million.
In the event the commission declined to grant the eastern and the western licenses, the budget would take a $170 million hit.  While problematical, a hole that size would hardly sink the state, especially when there’s money in the Rainy Day Fund to cover it.

Republicans Could Exploit Weak Job Market to Move Up from Irrelevance in Legislature

Friday, March 28, 2014

As good as we basically have it in a progressive state like Massachusetts I’m always struck by how bearish we are about the future.

The Great Recession ended in June of 2009, economists tell us.   Almost five years later, it seems like the trauma it inflicted has not come close to healing.

For my job, I have to watch what goes on in the legislative and executive branches of Massachusetts government, and follow developments in the state budget.  Practically every time I go to the State House, I notice a different state-funded group asking legislators for money, more money.  Never having enough money to spread among the needy constituencies on your doorstep could be the hardest part of serving in that building.

Many members of the Massachusetts House, some 12 or 13 reps, have recently resigned or announced their intention not to run again.  How many quit, at least in part, due to the weariness that comes from not being able to help people who need help?
For a long time, I’ve attributed the heavy public mood to the panoply of financial problems confronting the typical family: the high cost of buying a home, the high cost of a college education, the high cost of health care, the high cost of state and local taxes, the highly unlikely prospect of getting a raise exceeding the inflation rate, etc.

But lately I’m thinking there’s one issue bigger than all the rest suppressing the natural tendency of the American people toward optimism: the job market.  We aren’t creating enough new jobs.  And the jobs we are creating don’t pay enough.  I think it’s that simple.
A lot of good stuff has been written on this topic.  One of the best expositions came in April, 2013, from the National Employment Law Project, which published a briefing paper titled, “Scarring Effects: Demographics of the Long-Term Unemployed and the Danger of Ignoring the Jobs Deficit.”  I urge you to seek it out at:

Here are some excerpts:

·         “The elimination of good jobs over the past three decades continues to hollow out our nation’s middle class and fuel growing income inequality.”

·         “The Great Recession exacerbated a long-term trend away from good jobs.  Six in ten jobs lost during the downtown were in mid-wage occupations.  By comparison…employment in lower-wage occupations grew by 2.8 times more than employment in mid- and high-wage occupations.”

·         “…the Congressional Budget Office is warning that unemployment is likely to stay above 7.5 percent through 2014, marking the sixth consecutive year with unemployment that high, ‘the longest such period in the past 70 years.’ ” 

·         “…research shows that the loss of a good job during a severe downturn – the job loss pattern of this downturn – leads to a 20 percent earnings loss lasting 15 to 20 years.”

·         “Well into the recovery, the youth unemployment rate was stalled at its lowest level since WWII.  Traditional avenues into the workforce – manufacturing, retail and construction – have been closed to the youngest workers who have to compete against millions of unemployed with more job experience, making it hard to get a foothold.”

·         “…the United States faces a jobs deficit of nine million.  This is the number of jobs needed to restore the labor market to its pre-recession health after accounting for jobs lost during the downturn as well as potential labor market entrants.  At the current pace of job growth (183,000 jobs per month in 2012), the United States will not close the jobs deficit until 2019.”
If the National Employment Law Project is correct, if the nation’s “jobs deficit” lasts until 2019, it would almost certainly have an impact on the make-up of the Massachusetts legislature.  The overwhelming Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, a fact of political life here for decades, could become a thing of the past.

There is at least one cadre of small-business Republicans I am aware of that has already coalesced around the goal of defeating a select group of Democratic office holders in districts where the economy has been especially sluggish.  This group has the relatively modest aim of replacing eight to ten Democrats in each of the next four to five election cycles.  It hopes to do this by sticking to the theme of economic opportunity and avoiding issues like abortion, gay marriage, welfare benefits, transgender rights, etc.
If the Republican Party had to depend only on Republicans to carry out this plan, they wouldn’t have a prayer.  Only 11% of Massachusetts voters are registered Republicans. 

Fortunately for the Republicans, they have a large number of Independent (unenrolled) voters to turn to for aid and comfort.  Some 52% of registered voters are Independents, a much bigger share than are Democrats, 37%.
Independents are always the key to electing the Republicans our state frequently favors in gubernatorial elections, but not in most other races.  Think of the Congress, where our nine U.S. reps and two U.S. Senators are all Democrats, and of the constitutional offices like Treasurer and Secretary of State, all held by Dems.

Should the job market remain a bear market, Republican candidates could find receptive audiences all over the state, and especially among younger voters yearning for a life as good as their parents had.

To the Chagrin of State's Largest School Bus Operator, DEP Never Stands Idle on this Point

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When a police officer or a DEP inspector tells you to stop your engine, it’s best not to act like you can’t hear them over the hum of the pistons. 

No one driving a motor vehicle that has come to a stop may keep the engine running for longer than five minutes.  That’s the law in Massachusetts. 
There are some exceptions to the five-minute rule, such as for vehicles making deliveries, but most motorists, truck and bus drivers are bound by it in most situations.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has had an active anti-idling program for years.  As part of it, the agency educates school bus companies and drivers on the anti-idling law and enforces it during spot checks at schools.  Children are especially vulnerable to the exhaust gases and particulate matter produced by diesel engines. Think of how many kids you know who have asthma and carry inhalers with them to school.  The danger posed by a parked-but-running school bus, or a whole line of such buses, is real and immediate.
Earlier this month, the operator of the largest fleet of school buses in Massachusetts agreed to a whopping settlement in a case related to anti-idling violations and related problems.

Under that agreement, First Student, Inc. will pay $300,000 in civil penalties for idling violations outside schools and at its own facilities, and $150,000 to help fund state projects aimed at reducing particulate emissions and encouraging the wider use of hybrid motor vehicles.
First Student, a subsidiary of FirstGroup America, operates around 1,700 school buses in more than 30 Massachusetts communities.

According to a March 5 press release from the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, MassDEP conducted in 2008 and 2009 a series of unannounced inspections at Massachusetts public schools and other locations where First Student operates diesel-powered buses.  Those inspections, the release said, “found many instances of unnecessary idling” at schools in Springfield, Brockton, South Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury and Roslindale.  The Coakley press release went on to say:
“An administrative consent order, signed in 2010 between MassDEP and First Student, required the company to cease excessive idling, properly educate its drivers, inspect its own facilities and schools for idling instances, and report to MassDEP on a quarterly basis.  As part of the order, First Student paid the Commonwealth a $40,000 administrative penalty.

“The company has paid administrative penalties on this and two other occasions totaling $75,000 for non-compliance with the state’s anti-idling regulation.  First Student also paid $128,000 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2009 for idling violations in eight states, including Massachusetts.
“While First Student complied in part with the 2010 consent order with MassDEP, the Commonwealth again found numerous idling violations by company drivers between June 2010 and January 2013 at parking lot locations and schools across the Commonwealth, and also found First Student failed to conduct required inspections and to properly report violations.”

We’ve all used the expression, “Your tax dollars at work.” 
Always we use it sarcastically, as when we see a state police officer in a cruiser parked in the passing lane of a highway, blue lights flashing, but with no ostensible reason to be there, making the traffic crawl, or when we call a department of state government and get drawn into a humongous list of options -- “If you want the second assistant deputy secretary, press  0” – and are sent ultimately to an extension that no longer accepts messages because “the mailbox is full.” 

This is the first time I’m using it ingenuously:  “Your tax dollars at work?  Easy:  DEP’s anti-idling program.”

 

Kayyem's Candidacy Reminds Us that a Governor's Race Is No Place for the Self-Effacing

Friday, March 21, 2014

One may subscribe to the theory that we need more good people running for office and more people of diverse backgrounds and professions running for office without surrendering the capacity to be astonished at the immoderate ambition of the occasional candidate for governor who arrives in the public arena out of the blue, never having run even for school committee, and avers that he or she is the best person at this time to lead the Commonwealth.  One may be taken aback by the candidate’s self-possession and confidence and still welcome that person’s candidacy, although I personally do not find myself in so welcoming a mood in most such instances.  No, I am more of the ilk of Sam Rayburn, the late Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, (1940-47, 1949-53 and 1955-61).  Rayburn famously remarked to his protégé, Lyndon Johnson, on the occasion of Johnson extolling the intelligence of John F. Kennedy’s advisors to him in the summer of 1960: “I’d feel a hell of a lot better about that bunch if just one of them had once run for sheriff.”

What is it about the Juliette Kayyems of the world that keeps them from ever considering a run for sheriff?  What compels them, as she is now compelled, to seek the top job in Massachusetts politics, governor, on her first try at politics?  The obvious answer is they believe they’re at least as well qualified as anybody else who wants the job, and they have the confidence to put that belief to the test.
Kayyem, who is 44 years old, has reason enough to be confident.  A graduate of Harvard University (1991) and Harvard Law School (1995), she has been an advisor to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, a member of the National Commission on Terrorism, a homeland security advisor to Governor Deval Patrick, in which capacity she oversaw the Massachusetts National Guard; a member of President Obama’s transition team, and an Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the federal Department of Homeland Security.  She’s also been a lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a columnist for the Boston Globe.  Last year, she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism for a series of articles she wrote on allowing women soldiers to fight in combat.  Then there’s Kayyem’s marvelous family: she’s married to David J. Barron, a fellow Harvard and Harvard Law grad, whose nomination by President Obama for a judgeship on U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, is pending before the U.S. Senate.  Juliette and David have three children they’re raising in Cambridge.

I went to see Kayyem this past Wednesday at a forum sponsored by the Rappaport Center at Suffolk University Law School.  She spoke for about 20 minutes and took questions for 45 minutes or so.  I liked how she delved into every subject with unselfconscious enthusiasm.  She was very knowledgeable, articulate, and engaging.  Her physical presence is strong: she’s tall and thin, with long, dark hair and big, bright, warm eyes.  She appears to be a dynamo at the height of her powers, a force of nature.  Yes, she’s got charisma. 
It’s hard not to like Juliette Kayyem.

If you look at her campaign web site, it’s hard not to be impressed by the breadth of her campaign platform, and the degree to which she has thought out the issues, which she identifies as: reforming the criminal justice system, honoring veterans, finding opportunities for business growth in solutions to climate change, providing education “from birth to career,” growing the economy through a “connective infrastructure,” ensuring women’s health and workplace economy, and reinvigorating the state’s “Gateway Cities.”
If I had any criticism of Kayyem’s performance at Suffolk, it's that her answers were too long, so long in some instances that she was far from the point of origin by the time she finished.  With an affirming kind of audience before her, she could not resist the urge to over-communicate.

I’d also say that she has to be careful to avoid comments and asides that may grate on people who will never be able to afford a place in Cambridge, which is to say most of the voters in statewide elections.  Kayyem was rolling along the other day when she happened to mention in the middle of an answer that her husband had been nominated for a federal judgeship, which had caused one-half of the Kayyem-Barron union to observe (and the other half obviously to agree): “The higher we go, the less we make.”  
It was a throwaway line, barely noticed in the torrent of her policy-speak.  But, if Kayyem were to win (by some incredibly fortunate series of events) the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, it's the kind of comment that could come back to bite her.  I don’t know anyone who’s ever going to feel sorry for a federal judge and his high-achieving, Harvard-lawyer spouse.

The danger of being perceived as an elitist is, overall, the greatest threat to the Kayyem candidacy.  If she gets the nomination, some pundit or pontificator is bound to dig up that old William F. Buckley, Jr., quote and hurl it at her like a grenade -- you know, the one where Buckley said:  “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”
Kayyem, however, has two more immediate problems.  First, she has to get 15% of the vote at the Democratic nominating convention to qualify for the September primary ballot.  Then, she has to face off, most likely, against a seasoned campaigner like Martha Coakley or Steve Grossman.

Coakley started small in politics, running for a Dorchester seat in the Massachusetts House and losing, and subsequently running for Middlesex District Attorney and Massachusetts Attorney General (successfully), U.S. Senate (unsuccessfully), and Attorney General again (successfully).   Sam Rayburn would appreciate her paying her political dues.
The Democratic primary would be Coakley’s fourth time on a statewide ballot and Kayyem’s first.  Pondering that possibility, Kayyem is no doubt heartened by the fact that: (a) one of her mentors, Deval Patrick, won the governor’s job in his first-ever run for office, (b) Patrick beat Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly for the nomination, and (c) attorneys general more often fail than not when trying to move up to the governor’s suite.  Historically in the U.S., AG is not a great springboard to governor.