Good for Capuano: Beaten Badly, He Did Not Look Crushed or Even a Tad Angry

Friday, September 7, 2018

Now that Mike Capuano has lost, I’m hearing some grumbling to the effect he could have run a better campaign.  Some say he wasted too much time talking about Trump when he should have been taking the fight hard, much harder than he did, to Ayanna Pressley.

“In terms of experience and ability to get things done, she doesn’t belong in the same ring with him,” said one lifelong resident of the district who was sorry to see the curtain come down on Capuano's career.  “For whatever reason, or reasons, he decided it was too risky to attack her.  Well, look where that got him.”
At first, this line of reasoning made sense to me. But, the longer I thought about it, the less convincing it became. 

I’d try to conjure a mental picture of Capuano ripping into Pressley on the stage at some candidates’ forum or on the set of some TV program, and every time I did, Capuano came across as a bully and the audience looked pained.
It now seems to me that Capuano's candidacy was simply doomed on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.  There was nothing he could have done to beat Pressley.  She was a force of nature, an agent of fate.  His number came up.  He had to go.

Based on repeated viewings on the Internet of his concession speech, I suspect that’s what Capuano also thinks.
It was an extremely brief speech, less than two minutes, delivered extemporaneously.  There was no text, no checklist of persons and organizations to thank, no scripted paeans to the glories of public service and the majesty of the electoral process.

He had the air of a coach whose team has just lost the Superbowl by 40 points and knows he has to say something before the cameras but has zero appetite at the moment for analysis and reflection. 
“The district is very upset with lots of things that are going on,” Capuano said.  “I don’t blame them.  I’m just as upset as they are.  But, so be it.  That’s the way life goes.”

He did not look sad or beaten down.  It was as if he had known in his heart two days before he was going to lose and had willed himself to put the whole damn thing behind him.
He talked about how honored and grateful he was to have had the support of the folks in the room for so many years, over so many campaigns, then wrapped up with kind of a verbal shoulder shrug:

“We did everything we could to get this thing done…I’m sorry it did not work out.  But this is life.  This is OK.  America is going to be OK.  Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congressman.  And I will tell you that Massachusetts is going to be well served.”
As Capuano exited the stage, the smile on his face was entirely genuine.  “You are all invited down to the Caribbean to have a drink with me on the beach!” he exclaimed.

I will not be surprised if he stays on that beach a long time.  Eight years as Mayor of Somerville.  Twenty years as a United States Representative in Washington.  Mike Capuano has a lot to think about, so much of it good.




Unfortunately for Stat Smith, He Had More House Signs in Everett than Votes

Thursday, September 6, 2018

In the case of Steven “Stat” Smith, the people of Everett were not willing to let bygones be bygones.  Thank God.

On Tuesday voters there decisively rejected Smith’s bid to regain his old seat in the Massachusetts House, a position he was forced from in 2012 by the U.S. Attorney because he’d abused the absentee ballot process.

Smith paid a $20,000 fine, was sentenced to four months in federal prison, and banned from running for public office again for a period of five years.  That ban was up in April.

Within days Smith was asking his townspeople to sign nomination papers to put him on the September 4 ballot in the Democratic primary for representative in the 28th Middlesex District.  He amassed more than 500 signatures in one weekend -- many multiples of the required number.
Smith ran an energetic, high-visibility campaign throughout the spring and summer.  He persuaded untold hundreds of Everett homeowners to put signs up promoting his candidacy.  You could not go a tenth of a mile without seeing a Stat Smith sign.  Smith even snagged the editorial endorsement of the newspaper of record, the Everett Leader Herald!

It was all for naught. 
When the votes were tallied Tuesday night, Smith was dead last behind the incumbent representative, Joe McGonagle, a well-liked and effective figure at the State House, and Gerly Adrien, a woman highly qualified for public office.  The results were: McGonagle, 1,968; Adrien, 1,800; Smith, 893. 

With no Republican opponent in November, McGonagle’s a lock for another term.
Smith was elected to the House three times.  I often bumped into him at the State House during his years there, 2007-2012.  He was a long-time friend of my late brother-in-law, Joe Curnane, Jr.  Joe thought the world of him.  Stat and I never had trouble finding something to talk about.  He was a good Everett guy, easy to like.  I liked him.

But I believe Smith’s guilty plea made him permanently undeserving of a vote for public office, any office.  Voting is the essence of a free and just democratic society.  Our system of government demands that the ballot be kept sacrosanct.
That is not to say Smith should never re-enter public life in some role, say as a member of the board of health or as a library trustee, or that he should be shunned in the community.   Smith paid the price for his crimes, two misdemeanor counts of voter fraud, and deserves every good chance at forgiveness and redemption -- as long as he isn’t trying to redeem himself, that is, through the local ballot box.

My first reaction to his candidacy was that Smith did not have a prayer.  Then I witnessed the steady proliferation of Smith house signs and started thinking, maybe I am missing something?
I kept expecting to see an ad in the local papers – there are three weeklies in Everett – or a flyer from the McGonagle or Adrien camps calling Smith out for having been a jailbird.  If such was produced, it escaped me.  Smith was getting a pass on his biggest weakness as a candidate!

I never expected to see a Leader-Herald editorial endorsing Smith. When it appeared just before the primary, on Thursday, August 30, the thought crossed my mind that the momentum might be shifting Smith’s way. I braced for a Stat comeback.
Turns out I worried needlessly. 

On Tuesday the voters of Everett restored my faith in humanity.  There’s a proverb that holds, “The judgment of the village is never wrong.”  Everett has a population of well over 50,000 but it is still like a village in many respects.  Everybody knows everybody.
Sitting on my desk is a copy of the pro-Smith editorial, headlined simply, “Smith for Rep.”  I read it again before starting to write this post.  Again, I marveled at how well it says basically nothing.  It has the feel of having come from the keyboard of a conscript whose heart wasn’t in it.  Here are three typical lines, followed by my comments in italic type…

“We believe he is the best choice because he is willing to work, and to work hard.”  80 percent of the Everett population qualifies for the legislature on that basis.
“Steven Smith has overcome trials and tribulations in his life.”  Where’s the person in Everett who, at 63 years (Smith’s age), has not overcome?

“He has worked hard and smart.” Except, of course, for that little absentee ballot caper.
“Smith for Rep” was written simply, which is usually a virtue in writing.  Had the Leader Herald wished to attain an even purer form of simplicity, it could have gone with a two-sentence editorial along these lines:

Yes, folks, a good smile has long been an element of success on Beacon Hill.  Stat gets our vote because he brushes and flosses.