His Mighty Deeds for GOP Forgotten, Weld Needed Dem to Get on Ballot Here

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

With dignity and utter seriousness, Mayflower descendant William F. Weld soldiers on, Quixote-like, in his doomed quest to take the Republican nomination for president from Donald Trump.  The man who began and made possible a long reign of Republican governors in a state dominated by Democrats remains overlooked by the media and dismissed by the mass of Republicans, in Massachusetts and around the nation.  The Trump-drunk legions heap scorn upon him.  No matter: Weld's stature as a human being is now in inverse proportion to the size of his political prospects.

In the Massachusetts presidential primary election on March 3, 2020, Weld's name will appear on the Republican ballot, along with that of Trump and Joseph Walsh, a former Illinois congressman and Tea Party darling.  Weld owes that accomplishment to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, who exercised his right under state law -- in the case of Weld and others -- to put a candidate on the presidential primary ballot if that candidate is "generally advocated or recognized in national news media throughout the United States."

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Republican Party, in accordance with state election law,  submitted its list of credible Republican presidential primary candidates to Secretary Galvin.  That list had only one name on it, President Donald J. Trump.

Jim Lyons, former Republican rep from Andover and current Republican Party chair, said in his submission letter to Galvin that "Having a sitting President as the only name on the potential candidate list is not unprecedented, and is in fact, an established procedure."  In that letter, Lyons also said:

"As you are certainly aware, according to your office's own archives, during an incumbent presidency neither political party has submitted names other than that of the incumbent, first-term president.  We will follow set protocol and do the same, as has been done in 2012 under Democratic President Barack Obama and in 2004 under Republican President George W.  Bush."

Such an explanation seemed intended by Lyons to inoculate himself against complaints that he was being unfair and/or disrespectful to Weld, an Olympian figure, a certifiable hero, in the history of the Republican Party of Massachusetts, and, not for nothing, the person who brought current Republican Governor Charlie Baker into public life in 1991 and who inspired Baker to run for governor himself (unsuccessfully in 2010 and successfully in 2014 and 2018).

Weld is truly Baker's political godfather.  The two share a deep respect and affection.  It must have pained Baker to see his mentor slighted by their own party's hierarchy.  Then again Baker has had his own difficulties with Lyons, a natural contrarian.

Lyons has a gift for making enemies almost equal to that of 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas whose campaign in Massachusetts campaign Lyons headed.

Lyons may take refuge behind the cool reasoning of his Galvin letter. Political observers know better: Lyons can't stand Weld and is eager to stomp on his presidential dreams.  The letter also gave Lyons an opportunity to demonstrate to Trump that his days as a Cruz acolyte are far in the past and that Trumpism is now his heartfelt creed.

Question: Does Trump love anything more than when a former foe goes all Lindsey Graham on him and turns lapdog?  (When Lyons ran for chair of the party in January, 2019, the Trump administration was on record as favoring his opponent in that race, Brent Anderson.)

On Feb. 15, 2019, Weld announced he was running for the GOP presidential nomination. Before the sun set on that short winter day, Lyons had issued a statement predicting that "his (Weld's) self-seeking ploy to divide Republicans will fail." He added:

"Weld is the same ex-Republican who deserted Massachusetts for New York; who endorsed President Barack Obama over John McCain for President; who renounced the GOP for the Libertarian Party; who ran against the Trump-Pence ticket in 2016, while cozying up to Democrat Hillary Clinton.  After abandoning Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians, Weld demands that faithful Republicans consider him as their standard bearer.  Even Benedict Arnold switched allegiances less often!  We Republicans will put partisanship aside, reach across the aisle to Democrats and Libertarians, and reject Bill Weld."

During his time in the House (2011-18), Lyons had more than his share of enemies.  They included a significant percentage of the small contingent of House Republicans and of House Republican staff members.  That 2/15/19 statement reminded me why. Lyons always had the knife out.  Give him this: he has a flair for political invective, and speech of that nature is often exciting/entertaining.

If Lyons's slashes and the skirmishes around the primary ballot bothered Weld, there's scant sign of him countering the blows or complaining.  That's another thing to admire in our former governor: he almost always greets the pain of politics with bemused silence or light-hearted rejoinders.

Minimum Wage Earners Will Be Toasting the New Year, Though Not with Champagne

Friday, December 27, 2019

There are 400,000-plus Massachusetts persons who have good reasons to be looking with eager eyes to the new year.

These are the folks who, slugging it out every day at minimum wage jobs, will be getting a legally mandated increase in their hourly pay, from $12.00 to $12.75, as of Wednesday, Jan. 1.

A minimum wage earner who works 40 hours a week will thus see her weekly before-tax earnings jump by $30, or $1,560 for the entirety of 2020.

Grossing $30 more a week may not sound exciting to most of us.

But for those at the bottom of the pay ladder, that thirty bucks is a big deal -- perhaps even the difference between making their rent on Feb. 1 or facing eviction, homelessness and all the sorrow and indignities that involves.

In 2018, the Massachusetts legislature passed, and Governor Charlie Baker signed into law, a bill that is, in five yearly increments of 75 cents, hiking the minimum wage to $15.00 by Jan. 1, 2023.  (The first of those increases took place on Jan. 1 of this year.)

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a non-profit that advocated long and hard for the $15 minimum wage law, earlier this month produced a helpful analysis of the impact of the imminent increase to $12.75, which showed that:

  • 420,600 workers statewide will be getting this raise
  • Cumulatively, it will be putting $410 million more in people's paychecks over the course of the year
  • 45% of workers getting the raise are employed in food services, and 25% in retail 
  • Among those benefitting here, 89% are adults, 40% are persons of color, 60% are women, and 79% have at least a high school education

In a Dec. 23 press release, Marie-Frances Rivera, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said, "This planned increase in the minimum wage will make it easier for our lowest paid workers to make ends meet.  Though, more still needs to be done to ensure that in a high-cost state like ours, we can achieve a truly inclusive economy that works for everyone."

The Center points out that Massachusetts is one of several states that will see an increase in the minimum wage in the New Year, and that California and Washington state will have higher hourly rates than Massachusetts, at $13.00 and $13.50, respectively, as will the nation's capital, the District of Columbia, where workers are already earning $14 an hour and will get a raise to $15 on July 1, 2020.

When I toast the New Year next Tuesday night, I'm going raise at least one glass to a "truly inclusive economy" and ponder the dumb luck that has spared me from every having to get by on only the minimum wage.  

To view the analysis cited above, go to www.massbudget.org. Click on "Research Areas," click on "All Reports," then click on "Impact of the Increase in the Massachusetts Minimum Wage to $12.75".

It Says Here 'Teflon Charlie' Won't Seek a Third Term

Thursday, December 19, 2019

If the careers of successful governors in recent times are a reliable guide -- and I believe they are -- Charlie Baker would be an odds-on favorite to win a third consecutive term if he sought re-election in 2022.

Item: Smart Politics reported back in March of 2017 that "Governors seeking their third consecutive four-year terms have won nine elections in a row since 1994 and 20 of 24 dating back to 1970."

Since taking office in January of 2015, our governor has maintained a remarkably high level of popularity with the electorate, polling early on as the most popular governor in the nation.

Back then, many professional pollsters and political know-it-all's predicted that Baker's approval rating would inevitably, swiftly tumble.

Boy, were they wrong.

Two months ago, for example, 73% of registered Massachusetts voters approved of the job Baker is doing in a Morning Consult poll.  The Boston Globe article (10-17-19) on that poll appeared under this headline:

Teflon Charlie: Baker sky-high popularity holds amid RMV scandal, T troubles

Baker's finishing the first year of his second term and he has not ruled out running again. Based solely on gut instinct, I believe this term will be his last.

My reasons are like me: simple and obvious.

First, Baker will be 66 years old in 2022 and it will be time for him to make some serious money again... because, one, he can, and, two, he'd be crazy not to maximize his earnings then for the sake of himself, his wife, their children, and their children's future children.  As governor, Baker earns $185,000 a year.  For an indication of what he could be earning, look at what he made as chief executive of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care: well over a million dollars a year during his final years there.

Two, Baker will be pretty tired by 2022 of working as hard as he does at being governor, of dealing with the endless frustrations of running the vast state bureaucracy -- How would you like to "own" the MBTA and the Registry of Motor Vehicles, not to mention the Department of Children & Families? -- and of feeling, in his heart of hearts, that he is not sufficiently appreciated for the caliber of his intelligence, the depth of his knowledge and experience, and the squeaky cleanness of his ethics.   Try as he does to conceal it, and to present as just "one of the guys" in public, Baker is almost always the smartest human being in the room.  Three years from now, I say his ability to suffer fools gladly will have been totally exhausted.

There's going to be a hell of an election for governor of Massachusetts in 2022, a race that will likely see Charlie Baker campaigning dutifully hard for his lieutenant governor and mutual admirer, Karyn Polito, versus our attorney general (and also Baker's mutual admirer and fellow Harvard alum), Maura Healey.  Let the fundraising begin!

Governors Fill Register of Probate Vacancies, Artfully

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Gina DeRossi was far into her second six-year term as the elected Register of Probate for Bristol County when word came she was in line to be the next administrator of the Massachusetts Appeals Court.  This is a coveted, highly compensated ($161,180 per year) position in our court system.

Mark Green, Chief Justice of the Appeals Court, made the news official on Oct. 31, 2018, when he announced the DeRossi appointment.

A graduate of Providence College and the New England School of Law in Boston, DeRossi seems to have been contemplating a switch to the appointed side of public service for quite some time: in 2017, she earned a certificate in judicial administration from Michigan State University.

DeRossi moved on, her longtime second-in-command, Assistant Register of Probate Jason Catron, became acting register, and the world went back to ignoring what happens in the Registries of Probate in Bristol and in the 13 other counties of the Commonwealth...until Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, when Republican Governor Charlie Baker announced he was appointing Taunton Mayor Thomas Hoye, a Democrat, interim Register of Probate in Bristol County.

The appointment was for the unexpired portion of DeRossi's term, which runs through 2020.  Hoye will have to run for the office next fall to hold onto it.  Most certainly he shall run.

The deadline for filing nomination papers for the fall 2019 elections in Taunton, including the office of mayor, was 5:00 p.m. on the day following Baker's announcement of the Hoye appointment, Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Immediately after Baker's announcement on Monday, Aug. 5, Taunton's Republican state representative, Shaunna O'Connell, announced she was running for mayor.

Democrats cried foul, claiming Baker had obviously given O'Connell a heads-up so that she'd be primed to obtain the signatures needed on her nomination papers for mayor and that other potential candidates would be disadvantaged, time-wise, in obtaining their signatures.

With typical hyperbole, Gus Bickford, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said Baker's scheduling of the Hoye announcement was "the kind of tactic preferred by dictators."

Marc Pacheco, Taunton's Democratic state senator, said, "I clearly believe that there was an attempt to remove the voters from the selection of the person that would hold the seat and the office of the mayor."

Democrats accused Baker directly of elevating Hoye to clear the way for O'Connell to become mayor, but Hoye eventually let it be known that it was Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito who initially approached him and inquired as to his interest in Register of Probate.  This was, I believe, a significant data point.

If the timing did give an advantage to O'Connell, it was small and not decisive.

Only 25 certified signatures are needed to qualify for a mayoral election in Taunton.  Any half-good politician can gather the signatures of 25 registered voters in his hometown in half a day or less.

By 5:00 p.m. on Aug. 6, O'Connell was one of four candidates who submitted nomination papers with sufficient signatures; the others were Estele Borges, a member of the Taunton City Council, Mark Baptiste and Peter Bzudula.

O'Connell and Borges finished number one and two in the Sept. 24 preliminary election. In the Nov. 5 final, O'Connell beat Borges by a better-than-two-to-one margin, 3,224 votes to 1,507.

For discussion purposes, let's say Charlie Baker does not seek a third term in 2022, in which case Karyn Polito would be the odds-on favorite to be her party's gubernatorial nominee that year.  A former state rep from Shrewsbury, Polito is a shrewd politician, keen strategist, and prodigious fundraiser.

Let's say also that Polito easily doubled the value of the political IOUs she's holding here.

A popular, trusted leader in Taunton (Hoye) will be forever grateful to her for getting a better-paying, less-politically-risky job than mayor, while another such leader in the same community (O'Connell) will always appreciate that Polito made it a little easier for her to get her mayoral candidacy quickly off the ground.

No doubt Polito would have supported her fellow Republican in the Taunton mayoral race regardless of the circumstances or the opposition.  However, she would have perceived (and been comforted by) the negligible impact upon her of offending O'Connell's most likely opponent in that race, City Councilor Borges.  Borges, you see, had challenged O'Connell when she last stood for re-election as state rep, in 2018, and had lost to O'Connell by 26 percentage points.  Borges was likely to lose another contest with O'Connell undertaken so soon after the previous one.  Polito did not have to worry much about ticking off a future mayor.  


Register of Probate an Overlooked Gem in State Payroll Jewelry Case

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

If I believed in reincarnation, on my deathbed I'd pray to be a register of probate in my next life.

The job pays over $130,000 a year, has good benefits, and comes with the kind of pension one can no longer find in the private sector.  And a register of probate's term runs for six long years. That's like the longest time you get in elective office around here.

Consider also the job's low-low profile and how that automatically improves an incumbent's odds of being re-elected.

In Massachusetts, there are 14 registers of probate, one for each county. Do you think one person in a hundred in any county could tell you the name of his/her register of probate?

You disappear in plain sight on becoming a register of probate, meaning you duck the contentious issues of the day and avoid the prying eyes of media scandal mongers.  This job entails zero risk of offending large segments of the public.  How good is that.

I'm not saying registers of probate don't do much or are unimportant.  Their work, while lacking excitement, is significant and vital.

Thinking about writing this post, I looked up stuff on the Internet regarding the responsibilities -- the purview -- of a  register of probate.

One of the most succinct descriptions I found was from the archives of WGBH radio, 89.7.  In a September 10, 2014, report on "Bottom of the Ballot" races,  Edgar B. Herwick, III, wrote:

"Getting a divorce? Probate court.  Want to establish a will?  Probate court.  Collecting your inheritance?  Adopting a child?  Changing your last name?  Probate court."

I found a longer, good explanation in an August 22, 2018, interview by reporter Brian Dowd of the Martha's Vineyard Times with two candidates then running for the position in the Democratic primary in Dukes County, Acting Register of Probate Daphne DeVries and challenger Gail Barmakian, an attorney and select person in Oak Bluffs.  Responding to "Why are you running?", Barmakian said:

"The mission of the Probate and Family Court is to deliver timely justice, equal access and assistance with impartiality and respect, which begins at the Probate and Family Court Office.  The Register of Probate is, in essence, the face of that court, and is responsible for seeing that the duties and responsibilities of the office are carried out.  This includes ensuring that paperwork is in order and meets the criteria set out by rules and policy, managing the efficient flow of cases, prioritizing time-sensitive issues, handling matters that are emotional and troubling, with respect and impartiality, and helping to effectuate the just and speedy resolution of family law cases when possible.  The jurisdiction of the court is broad, and doesn't only address the probate of estates, divorces, and child-related issues.  It includes the real issues we see today: providing for elders who can no longer care for themselves; providing for the children of parents who cannot manage them; providing for unmarried couples and the issues of their children when the parents cannot agree; providing for estates for those who have passed away and the aftermath; providing for real estate matters when the owners cannot agree; and consideration of the law as it addresses domestic violence here in our community and throughout the Commonwealth.  As an attorney and an elected public official who is faced with addressing these problems, I believe my qualifications are best suited to fulfill the role of Register of Probate."

If I lived on Martha's Vineyard, I think I would have voted for Barmakian due solely to the breadth and cogency of that response.  I would have been in the minority.

Illustrating that it's hard to lose one of these jobs, Acting Register of Probate DeVries bested Barmakian in the primary, 2,210 votes to 1,636. In the November final, DeVries was unopposed.

BTW, you don't have to be an attorney to run for and serve as a register of probate -- yet another reason every jealous knucklehead can dream the register of probate dream.

Surprise! Deval Patrick May Lead Strike from the Center Against Warren.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The reason for President Trump's Ukraine caper can be summed up in 10 words:  Trump would rather run against Elizabeth Warren than Joe Biden.

Amazingly, Democratic primary voters may grant the president his wish -- but not if the Mike Bloombergs and Deval Patricks of the world have their way.

Yes, I said Deval Patrick.

There were reports just a few hours ago that our former governor is reconsidering his decision not to seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, his good relationship with our senior U.S. Senator, Ms. Warren, notwithstanding.

Were he to declare, Patrick would immediately become a contender in New Hampshire's first primary.  He's well known there from eight years as the governor next door.

Patrick has to act fast: the deadline for entering the NH primary is this Friday, Nov. 15.  We'll know soon if he's in or out.

What Patrick obviously shares with Bloomberg (and millions of other Democrats) is a concern that Warren is like someone Trump would order up from Rent-a-Candidate, that is, she's the perfect size for the socialist clown costume Trump has ready for her in his armoire.

Now, I have great respect for Warren.  I love the way she clawed her way up from near-poverty in Oklahoma.  I admire her greatly for being super-intelligent, unpretentious, tough-minded and pretty much invincible on a Democratic debate stage.

So, I'll let someone else's words encapsulate why she would likely not stand a chance in November of 2020 against Trump.  Here's New York Times columnist Bret Stephens in an October 25 piece titled, "Elizabeth Warren Wants to Lose Your Vote":

"You don't have to think that fracking is an unalloyed blessing -- much less deny that tough safety standards are necessary -- to acknowledge its benefits.  You might also argue that curbs on oil and gas production are needed both to preserve the environment and accelerate a transition to renewables.  Fine.

"Yet it takes a peculiar sort of political audacity to pledge, as the Massachusetts senator did last month, to 'ban fracking -- everywhere.'  Warren also favors a ban on fossil-fuel exports -- another U.S. industry that has seen dramatic growth in recent years -- and a 'total moratorium' on new fossil fuel leases on federal lands, which generate billions every year in federal and state tax revenue.

"American Indian tribes also got about $1 billion from those leases in 2018.  Isn't the Warren campaign supposed to be about sticking it to richer Americans instead of poorer ones?

"That's a question that would-be Warren supporters might ask a little more insistently as she approaches front-runner status.

"Take health care.  As an ethical matter, it may be defensible for Warren to argue that Medicare for All is fairer than the current system.  As an economic matter, she could be right that overall costs will come down under her scheme.  And as a political matter, it isn't surprising that she has been less than forthright about the middle-class tax increases her plan will require.

"But what about the fact that Warren isn't merely proposing a dramatic change in the way 170 million or so Americans obtain health insurance?  She is advocating the abolition of an entire industry, one that employs approximately 550,000 people.  Whatever one thinks of health-insurance companies (and most Americans seem satisfied with the coverage they have), isn't it worth wondering what these half-million workers might do with themselves after being put out of work -- or, as voters, what they might think of Warren's designs for their future?

"Then there's big tech, another industry Warren doesn't like and promises to 'break up' by turning Facebook, Amazon and Google into regulated utilities.  For this task, involving some 800,000 workers and companies with about $500 billion in revenues, she has...a 1,700-word plan."

Democrats, I think, ought not give Trump what he most desires in a Democratic opponent.

That Deval Patrick feels that way -- and that he is seriously contemplating a leap into the race at this late date -- suggests that Warren's candidacy may never get stronger than it is today.

More Blogster's Miscellany -- Meaning More to Shake Our Heads At

Sunday, October 27, 2019

COME ON GUV, GET STUPID AND GET INVOLVED: The leadership of the Massachusetts Democratic Party regularly goes through the political equivalent of a high-intensity aerobic workout trying to tie Charlie Baker to Donald Trump. If I saw someone at a health club straining as hard as some Dems do when arguing that our governor must do more to distance himself from our president, I'd hand him a bottle of cold water and beg him to take a breather. Example:  In an interview broadcast Sept. 9 on WGBH radio, Baker responded "I don't want to get involved" when asked if he'd be comfortable with the idea of a second Trump term.  Before the day was over, Gus Bickford,  Democratic state party chair, released this boiling-hot statement:  "It is outrageous that Charlie Baker cannot tell his constituents whether he is concerned about the possibility that the most dangerous President this country has ever seen could be re-elected to another four-year term.  Trump is a racist who is pushing a nationalist agenda from the White House, but Charlie Baker doesn't want to get involved.  Trump attacks women and wants to defund Planned Parenthood, but Charlie Baker doesn't want to get involved.  Trump is attacking the transgender community, stripping people of basic protections, but Charlie Baker doesn't want to get involved.  Trump is ripping children from their families and putting them in cages, but Charlie Baker doesn't want to get involved.  It is disgraceful that Charlie Baker doesn't think the most consequential Presidential race of our lifetime is worthy of him getting involved.  Governor Baker's silence indicates that he is either worried about upsetting the extreme right-wing of his Party, or he supports his party's President."  Three years of this stuff hasn't had an impact on Baker's poll numbers.  Maybe it's time, guys, to try something new?

MAYBE THEY HAD A REASON AND FORGOT IT: Two members of the Governor's Council, that living fossil of the Massachusetts Colonial Era, have been voting no lately on authorizing the state's financial warrants.  And they won't say why.  State Comptroller Andrew Maylor wanted to smoke out the opposition, so he sent a friendly letter on Oct. 18 to all Council members offering to attend an upcoming meeting and answer any questions they may have.  Warrant naysayers Robert Jubinville and Marilyn Devaney have so far not reacted publicly to the Maylor mailer.  Warrants need to be authorized to pay state employees and state bills.  My guess is Jubinville and Devaney have a beef with someone on the state payroll or have developed a dislike for a particular state office or function.  Whatever's motivating them, you can bet your paycheck it is the opposite of profound.  This is the Governor's Council.  They don't have enough to do and no one pays them enough attention.  Mischief is inevitable

MITT COULDN'T MAKE JV AT TRICKSTERS U: By now you've likely heard that Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and current U.S. senator from Utah, has been maintaining a secret Twitter account under the delicious name of Pierre Delecto.  This enabled him to comment anonymously on events and persons in the public sphere.  Romney himself set off the media sleuthing that showed him to be a "lurker" -- that's the slang term for secret Twitter users -- when, unprompted, he told a writer for the Atlantic that he owned such an account. He has to be the only high office holder in the land who'd tell on himself when engaging in the grey arts of political skullduggery, which is why I love the guy. Even when going rogue, he acts almost like an Eagle Scout. Newshounds carefully reviewed every tweet by "Pierre" and found nothing especially rotten, nasty or underhanded -- and nothing terribly interesting, either.