The Circus Comes to the Bay State: A Look at the March 1st Primary

The Circus Comes to the Bay State: A Look at the March 1st Primary

With only a few weeks until voting begins for the 2016 presidential primaries, Secretary of the Commonwealth Francis Galvin’s office has released the official ballot listing for the March 1st Massachusetts primaries. Four parties currently meet the definition of a “major” political party in Massachusetts and thus are allowed to hold primaries. Of these four, one, Evan Falchuk’s United Independent Party, is not contesting national elections and thus is fielding no candidates. The other three contain a slew of candidates, including a handful of lesser-known politicos that lack mainstream coverage.

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

JIM GILMORE
Former Governor of Virginia, 2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate
DONALD J. TRUMP
Businessman, 2000 Reform Party Presidential Primary Candidate
TED CRUZ
Texas Senator, Former Texas Solicitor General
GEORGE PATAKI*
Lawyer, Former Governor of New York
BEN CARSON
Neurosurgeon
MIKE HUCKABEE
2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate, Former Arkansas Governor
RAND PAUL
Kentucky Senator, Ophthalmologist
CARLY FIORINA
Businesswoman, 2010 Republican Nominee for California U.S. Senate
RICK SANTORUM
2012 Republican Party presidential primary candidate, Former Pennsylvania Senator
CHRIS CHRISTIE
Governor of New Jersey, Former United States Attorney
MARCO RUBIO
Florida Senator, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
JEB BUSH
Businessman, Former Florida Governor
JOHN R. KASICH
Governor of Ohio, Former Ohio Congressman

*George Pataki dropped out December 28th but failed to file the paperwork necessary to remove his name from the ballot.

With 13 names on the ballot, the Republican primary will be the most intensely contested race to come out of the night. While Donald Trump currently retains a lead in Massachusetts based on robocalling polls, the Bay State still functions as an opportunity for some of the more moderate of the Trump alternatives to stake ground in a free-for-all in the event The Donald flounders.

Marco Rubio currently sits in second place with enough support to earn him proportional delegation, followed closely by Ted Cruz. There’s also a surprise John Kasich factor, as recent polling from the neighboring state of New Hampshire show a massive jump to 20% similar to Jon Huntsman in 2012. Whether or not that will translates into momentum for him in other moderate states will depend on how the field changes following February, but there’s a very real inner-party dissatisfaction with the Trump Juggernaut and “Super Tuesday” may be the only real chance of inflicting a lasting blow.

Massachusetts is also somewhat of a touchy subject for the national Republican Party, who may feel inclined to tread carefully. Something that many voters go without knowing is that Massachusetts has a two part process for selecting both Republican and Democratic delegates. The March 1st primary will establish who gets the delegates, but the April 30th caucus will establish who gets to become the delegates.

In 2012, a coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and Ron Paul supporters mounted a strong bid against Mitt Romney’s delegate slate and swept the caucuses with a super majority. In turn, the Massachusetts Republican Party engaged the “Ronald Reagan Liberty Slate” in a legal clash which led to their being disinfranchised. This, coupled with a delegate walk-out and the RNC rules changes– seen as unpopular by many conservatives and libertarians both, left a foul taste in the mouth of a number of the 2012 Republican delegates, and these same delegates, now primarily behind Rand Paul, are sure to be out in full-force for a rematch.

With 42 delegates at stake, 27 of which will be divided proportionally, this state will surely be seen as valuable for the wing of the Republican Party chanting for a brokered convention, as well as those seeking to change the party platform.

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

BERNIE SANDERS
Vermont Senator, Former Vermont Congressman
MARTIN O’MALLEY
Former Maryland Governor, Former Mayor of Baltimore
HILLARY CLINTON
Former Secretary of State, Former New York Senator
ROQUE “ROCKY” DE LA FUENTE
Businessman, 1992 Democratic Convention Delegate

The Democratic primary has had relatively little polling conducted in New England with the exception of New Hampshire. The few polls that have been conducted in Massachusetts, courtesy of Suffolk University and Overtime Politics, both show Clinton with a confident lead in the double digits. Looking at the results of the last three presidential elections, Massachusetts has traditionally sided with the “establishment” candidate as a final outcome.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was able to parry Senator Barack Obama, and harking back to 2004, Howard Dean, an enthusiastic progressive stalwart, was able to barely lead John Kerry for a brief moment in time before his campaign crashed entering into the Massachusetts primary. Unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, who is shaping up to be the anti-establishment Democrat this cycle, he also lacks the youthfulness and excitement of both Obama and Dean.

Martin O’Malley, polling in the single digits, and businessman Roque De La Fuente, not even recognized by major polling firms, are unlikely to change their standings. If it’s any consolation, in the event of an O’Malley campaign suspension, cross-tabs show a 2nd choice preference to Sanders over Clinton. Considering the jaunty campaign organization that Sanders has been running, and running well, any additional volunteers and voters are sure to go a long way.

One thing that could impact the race in Sanders’ favor is the semi-open primary system that Massachusetts utilizes. Younger voters, first-time voters, and anti-establishment voters, the cornerstone of the Vermont senator’s constituency, are generally unenrolled voters. There’s a certain difficulty in polling such voters, as the sheer number of unenrolled voters in Massachusetts outnumbers both the Republicans and the Democrats. With that in mind, if turnout is low and unenrolled voters pull a Democratic ballot en masse, it’s realistic to believe that Sanders has the slimmest of chances. Regardless, with 59 of the 116 delegates up for grabs in Massachusetts based on proportional voting, Sanders could still walk away with a worthwhile haul.

GREEN-RAINBOW PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

SEDINAM KINAMO CHRISTIN MOYOWASIFZA CURRY
Green Party Activist
JILL STEIN
Physician, 2012 Green Party Presidential Nominee
WILLIAM P. KREML
Philosopher, Professor Emeritus of the University of South Carolina
KENT MESPLAY
Alternative Energy Advocate, 2012 Green Party Presidential Primary Candidate
DARRYL CHERNEY
Musician, Environmental Activist 

No scientific polling for the Green Party race has been conducted, but informal polling by individual green groups show a strong support for the 2012 standard bearer, Jill Stein. Stein, a Massachusetts resident, comes into the race being no stranger to the world of Bay State politics, having served the Green-Rainbow Party as a candidate for numerous offices, the most recent being their 2010 gubernatorial candidate. Her opponents, all green activists with established records of their own, lack the immediate organization and name recognition of Stein.

With the Republicans and Democrats actively engaged in contested primaries of their own, the Green-Rainbow ballot will unlikely be pulled by any unenrolled voters. With many nonpartisan progressive minded people rallying around Bernie Sanders, the race is sure to be decided purely by Green-Rainbow enrolled voters, many of whom would immediately recognize Stein. There’s little reason to see her not duplicate her almost 61 point victory from last cycle.

The Green Party awards state delegation seats based on numerous factors, including state recognition, so Massachusetts will be a valuable delegation for Stein going into the convention. In 2012, she won nine delegates of the eleven delegates in play and cinched the nomination.

UNITED INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

WRITE-IN

Evan Falchuk’s Massachusetts specific United Independent Party has been advocating its members to temporarily change their registration for the sake of voting in other party primaries. As a result, the UIP primary ballot is a blank sheet.

Hypothetically speaking, a write-in candidate could be able to get on the general ballot via a blank primary ballot by being both the highest vote earner and earning at minimum the amount of signatures needed to originally qualify. Galvin’s office has stated that in the case of a presidential primary, the lack of a formal nominating convention would render such an attempt to “hijack a presidential primary ballot to be moot.

Evan Falchuk’s voters tend to side with anti-establishment candidates, as seen with an informal poll conducted within the UIP membership. If the mentality of this small group of 100 UIP voters is to be seen as representative of the entire party, Bernie Sanders is the most likely to benefit from the Operation Chaos style crossover being advocated by Falchuk.

As of September of 2015, the United Independent Party has claimed to have seen considerable growth with over 11,000 members in Massachusetts, although this could be reminiscent of the American Independent Party of California’s success with voters who mistakenly think they’re enrolling as independent.

One major party that’s missing this cycle around is the Libertarian Party. While Gary Johnson had an impressive showing in the 2012 cycle, breaking one million votes nationally and earning .97% in the Bay State, this doesn’t translate into automatic ballot access, nor was there any effort made by Libertarians to establish automatic ballot access going into 2014.

This however doesn’t mean the Libertarian Party has abandoned Massachusetts. Last fall, Worcester was the site of their first presidential debate, hosting four of the one dozen serious Libertarian hopefuls, and Massachusetts remains a valuable state with a split delegation that in 2012 had voted for Johnson as much as it voted for R. Lee Wrights. In a race where Gary Johnson only needed 297 delegates to win in 2012, Massachusetts’ prospective 19 delegates are a worthwhile investment.

Interestingly, failing to achieve major party status is sometimes seen as a boon to the success of the Massachusetts Libertarians. Unlike their fellow major-minor party cohorts, the Green Party and the United Independent Party, Libertarians are currently classified as a designation and subject to PAC laws, which allows them to take advantage of lower filing fees and much less stringent ballot access requirements in a state with arguably some of the harsher laws in the country. This comes with an equally hefty cost however as Libertarians lose the ability to have instant ballot access going into presidential years, as well as their names scrubbed from the quick enrollment ballots at the Registry of Motor Vehicles- something that many individuals in Massachusetts use to enroll as first time voters.

Other than the race for the presidency, the Republicans, Democrats, and Green-Rainbows will also have elections for both state and local committee seats on the ballot. In 2015 Massachusetts became the 21st state to allow online voter enrollment and Massachusetts residents have until Feb. 10 to register to vote in the March 1st elections.

Sanders in ’16?

Sanders in ’16?

Vermont’s self-identified “democratic socialist” Senator announced in Iowa on Sunday that he’s considering seeking the seat of the bully pulpit. Such a move would be the first time since the 1920 campaign of Eugene V. Debs where an openly socialist candidate with elected experience would have pitched a bid to pursue the highest office in America.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at The New Populism Conference.
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at The New Populism Conference.

The infamous Vermont firebrand, famous for going after the Koch Brothers, Wall Street, and the “billionaire class”, is now serving his 2nd term in the Senate. Originally an outspoken agitator for socialism and active third party member, he started off under the small Liberty Union party label, a socialist party based out of Vermont, where he mounted a number of runs for statewide office in the 70s with minimal success. At the turn of the decade, he absolved himself of party labels set his sights on the mayoralty of Burlington. There he was elected, numerous times, and proceeded to work his way through the ranks, becoming the state’s lone congressman, and later one of its two senators.

While Hillary Clinton has yet to officially declare her candidacy for the Presidency, the tea leaves read that she’s a candidate in every aspect except name only. To date, no serious candidate has materialized to challenge the would be political heavyweight, with many seeing 2016 as “her time” to be the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer. However, a sizable contingency remains skeptical of her ability to deliver the mantle of commander-in-chief to the Democratic Party, as well as a general concern with policies she would enact once in office, leaving ample room for a candidate like Sanders to make a splash.

As a Democrat, early polling shows Sanders as a long-shot, but his placement could very easily change. With a recent dissatisfaction with Clinton, a general unease with policies in the Obama administration, and an increasing disdain for both parties in Washington, he could very well play a role similar to that of Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, or Howard Dean in 2004, and directly appeal to those disenfranchised with the current political system. Furthermore, those who feel Clinton isn’t progressive enough could find a home in a candidate Sanders, which could antagonize Clinton up until the convention.

For Bernie, he’s looking to do much more than just shake up the race- he’s looking to win. Last Sunday, at the “Politics on Tap” conference in Washington D.C., Sanders made it clear he’s looking to do more than be a spoiler. “If I run, I will run to win”, he said. Such a statement implies that Sanders is seriously looking to run within the constructs of the Democratic Party, and such a decision would definitely not be without merit.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

While various news reports will continue to claim that Sanders could mount a bid as a Democrat, an independent, or both, the truth of the matter is it’s not really that simple. The American political system is a complex puzzle, constructed from the various states and their individual laws governing the electoral system. As a result, Sanders would be forced to decide between one of the two options if he aims to make a realistic attempt, as each state has different thresholds for what it takes to be on the November ballot, and some incorporate “sore loser” laws. For example, Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian Party’s 2012 nominee for president, was kept off of the ballot in Michigan, as he appeared on it as a candidate for the Republican presidential primary earlier in that year.

To further complicate issues, America hasn’t had an independent president since the days of Washington, and there’s a legitimate reason for this. For an independent Sanders, he would start off with the immediate disadvantage of having to organize an effective electoral apparatus in each state, and would most likely have to rely purely on grassroots support. Such problems have plagued numerous candidates in the past, bogging them down with legal battles and signature petitions. An independent Sanders could utilize preexisting ballot lines, such as those of the Peace and Freedom Party, Socialist Party, or Green Party, but, once again, it ultimately comes down to the decision of such individual state parties.

Photo originally from the the Huffington Post.
Photo originally from the the Huffington Post.

It is unclear of the ultimate extent that an independent Sanders would have on the November race, but it’s accepted that a Sanders run would be a challenge from the left, which would easily siphon hard numbers and funding from Clinton, assuming she’s the Democratic nominee. Furthermore, a Sanders challenge could possibly force Clinton to make a leftward shift on her positions, which could shake her appeal to more independent voters.

This also isn’t the first time that Sanders has flirted with the idea of running for President. Earlier this year, Sanders proposed the notion that he was mulling a run, and was met with harsh criticism from another third party icon of the American left. Ralph Nader, five time presidential candidate and face of American leftist politics, blasted Sanders on his perceived lack of correspondence and unwillingness to work with him in encouraging progressive policies, calling him a “lone ranger”.

In all of Sander’s ambiguity, it can be hard to pin down what he’s ultimately going to do, but what is for certain is that regardless of the path he takes, he’s going to be the first shake-up of many on the road to 2016.

MassGOP Meets in 2014: Bustling and Bedlam in the Back Bay

The Massachusetts Republican Party held it’s State Convention this past Saturday at Boston University’s Agannis Arena, mobilizing the party’s small, but devout, membership for the upcoming state elections.

Governor's Councilwoman Jennie Caissie energizes the convention.
Governor’s Councilwoman Jennie Caissie energizes the convention.

Roughly 2,500 delegates crammed into the Arena to hear the Party brass give energetic speeches, set goals for the future, and support candidates they want to see represent them in their fight against the Democratic Party’s tight grip on state government.

Prominent faces from years past, such as former Governor William Weld and former Senator David Locke, joined a cast of new faces to tell the stories and tales of a time past. But it wasn’t all business with no play. To keep spirits high and guests interested, participants were also treated to live entertainment, a variety of booths representing the different organizations within the party, and the opportunity to socialize with one another over a drink.

While the convention process was organized and straightforward, with most of the formal festivities, such as the appointment of convention officials and the endorsing of otherwise unopposed statewide candidates, being primarily ceremonial, there were two instances for the various camps of the Republican Party to make their presences known.

Mark Fisher addresses the convention.
Mark Fisher addresses the convention.

Charlie Baker, former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim and the Party’s 2010 nominee for governor, and Mark Fisher, a small businessman based out of Auburn were both the stars of the afternoon, as they both sought the endorsement of the convention for the gubernatorial nomination. Both candidates accepted former State Representative and candidate for Treasurer, Karyn Polito, to join their respective tickets as a running-mate, but otherwise had very different opinions on how they would govern, as well as where they would want the party to go.

Fisher, a relative unknown to the political process, represented the conservative wing of the party, and saw the future success of the party to be in reaffirming it’s conservative message and denouncing the dangers of liberalism, starting with upholding the conservative party platform, whereas Charlie Baker represented the big tent faction of the party, and preached a message of transparency, frugality, and of a more open and diverse Republican Party.

Charlie Baker greets a supporter.
Charlie Baker greets a supporter.

The other challenge was between Hopkinton Selectman Brian Herr and Malden resident Frank Addivinola. Their race could also be viewed as representative of the big tent and small tent divide the party is currently facing. However, unlike Baker and Fisher, Herr and Addivinola never got to openly compete for convention support, as Addivinola failed to file the proper paperwork to be called and recognized by the convention. Normal convention rules dictate that if a candidate fails to achieve 15% of delegate support, they will not be allowed to appear on the primary ballot. However, in the case of Herr and Addivinola, the race for Senate is a Federal office, which is governed by separate legal guidelines for listing candidates, and while Addivinola was declared ineligible to vie for the endorsement of the convention, he is still campaigning to appear on the ballot going into the primary.

The Caution of A Conservative

Dave Kopacz, President of the Massachusetts Republican Assembly, a conservative organization within the party which fashions itself as the “Republican wing of the Republican Party” that has endorsed both Fisher and Addivinola, expressed concern over the general direction the convention had taken. “The convention overall was skewed to a favorite” he said, referencing how the speakers were openly supporting or promoting a Baker and Polito ticket going into November, as well as more subtle instances, such as Mark Fisher being one of the few speakers to not have introduction music.

Mark Fisher appearing on the big screen during his speech.
Mark Fisher appearing on the big screen during his speech.

In a party where the leadership is advocating big tent principles and positions that would be perceived as being moderate, and sometimes even liberal, in order to remain politically competitive, conservative candidates have been cast aside as losing causes, and receive minimal support. For Kopacz, as well as the organization he’s involved with, candidates such as Fisher and Addivinola represent an opportunity for the socially conservative and Tea Party wings of the Republican Party to gather prominence, much like they have in other states across the country, and try to prove the opposite. When asked about his intentions in a situation where there would be no conservative alternative on the ballot to Charlie Baker, Kopacz said he wouldn’t put his efforts towards the Baker and Polito ticket, and would instead focus on supporting “lower tier Republican candidates” as best as he could.

Another participant waiting for the results was Scott MacDonald, a Billerica delegate whom also helped manage the Young Americans for Liberty booth. “The Convention went as planned” he said, referring to the straightforward direction and otherwise unsurprising tone of the day.

Asked if he thought Fisher would make it out of the Convention, MacDonald was unsure, but said that it was possible. “There were a lot of [Fisher] votes on the floor.” he said, “so it’s hard to guess what will happen.” His delegation reflected that uncertainty, he explained, saying that the Billerica caucus went with a three way split with a third supporting Baker, a third Fisher, and a third undecided. However, at the end of the day, MacDonald still planned to support Baker “absolutely” if he wins.

Former Governor William Weld, a significant face of Moderate Massachusetts Republicanism.
Former Governor William Weld, a significant face of Massachusetts Moderate Republicanism.

But a majority of delegates and participants were still optimistic of the day’s events. Delegate Brad Wyatt, a candidate for State Representative, and sitting school community member based out West Boylston, was one of those such delegates.

Wyatt looked forward to the future, irregardless of how the convention results closed and saw the day’s festivities, as well as it’s participants, as a reason to remain upbeat. “It’s so good to see so many people remain active in the Republican Party” he said, referencing the influx of youth and unorthodox supporters that joined, courtesy of the libertarian influence brought on by Ron and Rand Paul over the last few years. “There’s a lot of youth here, and we need new energy” Wyatt said. “And at the end of the day, the Republicans have better solutions.”

While not influenced by any wing or figure in the party, one such energetic youth was Joseph Szafarowicz, the 23 year old Selectman and Chairman of the Charlton delegation. Never one to not speak his mind, Szafarowicz, new to the convention process, said found it to be “dull”, but found the crop of candidates that had come out of it to be the complete opposite. “Come November, I like our chances.” Szafarowicz said, adding “I like Baker a lot and think that he will do a great job in the corner office. I’m glad we were able to support Baker as much as we did [and] I think it will do well to unify the party.”

Delegates in Discord

As the night drew to a close, the convention did not go “as planned” like delegate MacDonald assumed. Much to the disappointment of many in the Baker camp, the nomination process ran into a wall during the tallying of the votes. Fisher preformed stronger than expected, retaining a small, but steady, stream of support in most districts, and besting Baker outright in the First Bristol and Plymouth district, and the Fourth Middlesex, which put him one vote shy of the requirement needed to gain ballot access. In response, the convention had to convene to analyze the results, as well as the credentials of those who voted.

Baker accepting the nomination. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe staff.
Baker accepting the nomination. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wiggs/Boston Globe staff.

The process was well-guarded, with whatever known outside of the State Committee meeting as hearsay, but after close to hour of analyzing the results, it was ruled that the amount of blank votes cast, or votes cast for either no one in particular, or names of those not nominated beforehand, would be included. Upon their inclusion, it was deemed that Fisher fell shy of meeting the requirement of reaching the ballot by six votes. As of the start of the week, the final, and official, tally of the convention is currently listed as Charlie Baker having amassed the support of 2,095 delegates, or 82.708%, Mark Fisher with 374 delegates, or 14.765%, and 64 delegates casting a “blank” vote.

Fisher, however, isn’t finished with the race yet. Disappointed with the convention results, he is looking to challenge the final tallies and sue the State Committee, if need be. The nature in how the results were determined have left many in the Fisher camp anxious and looking for answers, and the official Facebook page of the Mark Fisher campaign has opened up a legal fund for pursuing the results further.

While a majority of the Republican races will be uncontested, the primaries of all major parties will be conducted on September 9th, and the general election on November 4th.
All photos and quotes are original unless otherwise noted.