Sunday, June 22, 2008

Round One: Wilkerson vs. Chang-Diaz

This past week the Ward 5 Democratic Committee, of which I am a member, hosted a forum for the two Democratic candidates running for the 2nd Suffolk Mass. Senate seat. After the forum, the committee endorsed the incumbent, Senator Dianne Wilkerson.

It was my first significant vote as a rookie member of the committee, and I decided to abstain. Further, I think the endorsement by Ward 5 is premature. This is going to be a very exciting race between Wilkerson and her opponent, Sonia Chang-Diaz, and it's way too early to pick a horse.

Prior to the meeting, I was leaning toward Chang-Diaz, but I decided to enter the forum with an open mind, given that I really do not know much about either woman. Here are my impressions on this race:

--- Both candidates are exceptional, and the 2nd Suffolk district is blessed to have them (even though turnout at the Sept. primary will likely be tiny).

---The forum last week identified only minor differences between the two candidates. Chang-Diaz and Wilkerson both believe that casinos in Massachusetts are a bad idea. Listening to the the forum, one heard a series of "I agree with that," or "Yes" from either side as the two "debated" the issues. Fellow committee members and I exchanged a note in the crowd that stated: "Is there anything that they don't agree on?" [Note: I spoke to the Chang-Diaz campaign on June 25, and they noted that Sonia Chang-Diaz opposes the Level 4 BU Bio Lab until there can be significant research that shows the lab will not pose a risk; Senator Wilkerson supports the Bio Lab.]

---Seniority is a somewhat loaded term. Senator Wilkerson has seniority in the Senate, however I debate how important this is. Senator Wilkerson has had her difficulties in the past, including forgetting to get her name on the ballot two years ago to defend her seat. By choosing to ignore these issues and approach this race with a level playing field, I feel that the Senator's successes over the past many years also should not sway my opinion.

Given these first two points, I would like to hear more from both candidates on issues that I care about, such as how they are going to keep young professionals and young families in Boston, and how they can encourage those residents to settle and contribute to Boston's communities.

--- Senator Wilkerson was better in the debate this past week (though Chang-Diaz did have excellent answers to the final two questions on health care and education), but Sonia Chang-Diaz, in my opinion, "wants it more." As "squishy" as this sounds, in recent races the style of the candidate has ultimately swayed my decision, whether that's good or not. Chang-Diaz spoke to me three times ahead of the meeting; whereas Senator Wilkerson called me once. Chang-Diaz talks of change; I think her campaign is better characterized as raw energy. You can see the energy when she talks (and she sometimes talks fast).

I remain undecided. And by virtue of my abstention in the recent Ward 5 meeting, I encourage others to come to their own opinions. We're still in the early days of this race.

I also hope this race will lead to a broader discussion on the role of a Mass. Senator in local campaigns. I had never seen Senator Wilkerson in person before the State convention two weeks ago. Contrast that to my State Representative, Marty Waltz, who I see all the time. Obviously, Rep. Waltz represents less people, but you'd think Senator Wilkerson would show up at (the very least) the high-profile meetings, such as the meetings regarding Suffolk University. Admittedly, the state's role in the Suffolk issue is non-existent, but that didn't stop Marty Waltz from being there.

1 comment:

Josh Dawson said...


Love the blog - keep on truckin'