Decision day comes for voters

November 3, 2006
By

JOHN RUCH

Next Tuesday, voters will finally decide the wild state Senate race, choose a new governor and answer three significant ballot questions.

Republican Samiyah Diaz and Democratic incumbent Dianne Wilkerson face off for the 2nd Suffolk District state Senate seat in the Nov. 7 election, following a dramatic write-in campaign in the primary election.

The race has been bruising for Wilkerson, with its focus on her long list of past and present legal problems. Those include a conviction for failure to file federal income taxes, various campaign finance reporting allegations and a civil judgment against her for back condo fees, among other problems.

Wilkerson has called the problems “personal” or “personality” issues that have no place in campaigns. Instead, she has touted her nearly 15 years of experience in winning battles for reproductive rights, gay marriage, the former Boston State Hospital redevelopment and many other issues.

Diaz, a South End law student, has described herself as essentially the same social progressive as Wilkerson, but without the legal baggage. She has called on Wilkerson to resign due to her various scandals.

However, there are political differences between the candidates. As a Republican, Diaz supports the controversial state income tax rollback from 5.3 to 5 percent, and proposes approving more charter schools, which some see as luring support away from Boston Public Schools.

Wilkerson has a large advantage in terms of campaign funds, since Diaz has only about a third as much money. According to campaign finance reports filed Monday, Diaz had about $8,300 on hand. Wilkerson had about $23,000.

Overall, Diaz has raised about $20,000 in the race and spent about $12,000. By comparison, Sonia Chang-Díaz, Wilkerson’s toughest challenger in the Democratic primary, raised about $74,000 and spent about $69,000—and still lost.

Wilkerson has spent about $136,000 in what is already one of the state’s most expensive Senate races.

There are also differences in where the campaign finances came from. Diaz drew much more support from the Republican State Committee than she did locally, with only one significant contribution from a Jamaica Plain resident. Meanwhile, Wilkerson had several local contributors.

The expenses of both campaigns included some unitemized reimbursements to various people.

Wilkerson’s massive campaign debt lingering from previous years fell to about $65,000, thanks to the removal of more than $53,000 in reimbursements owed personally to Wilkerson. However, the campaign finance report does not explain what happened to that debt. No payment for it is listed under the campaign’s expenses or reimbursements. In any case, Wilkerson is still owed another personal reimbursement to the tune of $43,000.

Ballot questions
Question 1 on the ballot has drawn the hottest controversy. It would allow many food stores, including groceries and convenience stores, to sell bottled wine. Right now, only package and specialty stores can sell it.

Proponents—including the Jackson Square Stop & Shop—say it will save consumers money by increasing competition and choice. Opponents—including JP’s Blanchards Wine & Spirits—say it will make booze more accessible to underage drinkers at places that aren’t as good at checking IDs, resulting in increased alcoholism and car wrecks. Obviously, wine sales profits are the elephant in the room in the arguments of both sides.

Question 2 would create “fusion voting” or “cross-endorsement,” a once-popular practice that would allow a candidate to be endorsed by multiple political parties and appear multiple times on the voting ballot. The idea is that a minor political party could endorse a mainstream candidate more likely to win. For example, the Green Party could decide not to run its own candidate and endorse Democrat Al Gore instead.

In theory, the two major parties could also endorse each other’s candidates if they wanted to.

Fusion voting is popular in New York State, where the minor Working Families and Conservative parties have strongly impacted some Democratic and Republican campaigns with their endorsements.

Underlying the ballot question is an effort to found a Working Families Party in Massachusetts. A candidate for auditor this year is running under that party banner. JP resident Gibrán Rivera is one of the main party organizers.

A little-noticed part of the ballot question would also make it easier for third parties to get on the ballot.

Proponents say fusion voting is a way to support more grassroots politics and force major candidates to pay attention to them. Theoretically, candidates would seek out third-party endorsements to ensure a victory.

But fusion voting has been criticized by many third parties, including Greens and Libertarians, for marginalizing them even further in favor of the mainstream two-party system. Critics say fusion voting is designed specifically to build and publicize the Working Families Party, which many see as tightly allied with the Democrats.

It also seems unlikely that fusion voting would have as much election-swinging impact in Massachusetts, where Democratic control is so dominant that most candidates run unopposed or only against other Democrats.

Question 3 would allow people who operate state-subsidized child-care services in their homes to collectively bargain with state agencies. In short, they would be able to form a union, but they would not have the right to strike. There has been no organized opposition to the proposal.

Other races
The gubernatorial race is surely the most attention-getting on the ballot. Deval Patrick, the Democratic nominee, swept Jamaica Plain in the primary by a landslide. The other candidates include Republican Kerry Healey, the current lieutenant governor; independent Christy Mihos; and Green-Rainbow candidate Grace Ross.

Their running mates for the lieutenant governor post include Reed Hillman (Healey), Tim Murray (Patrick), Martina Robinson (Ross) and John Sullivan (Mihos).

Republican Kevin Chase is challenging Democratic incumbent Edward Kennedy for one of the state’s two US Senate seats.

Democratic US Rep. Mike Capuano, whose 8th Congressional District covers most of JP, is being challenged by perennial Socialist Workers Party candidate Laura Garza.

In the 9th Congressional District, which includes a small part of Forest Hills/Jamaica Hills/Woodbourne, Democratic incumbent Stephen Lynch is being challenged by perennial Republican candidate Jack E. Robinson.

Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Larry Frisoli are facing off for the state attorney general position. Incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, is being challenged by Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein. Incumbent state Treasurer Tim Cahill is running against Green-Rainbow candidate James O’Keefe. And Joe DeNucci, the Democratic incumbent, is being challenged by Working Families Party candidate Rand Wilson for state auditor.

Other races have candidates running unopposed. They include local state Reps. Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez; and JP resident Maura Hennigan, who is running for Suffolk County clerk of criminal courts. Also uncontested for re-election are Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley and Register of Deeds Mickey Roache.