Local pols’ primary picks for Feb. 5
If the Democratic nominee for president were being decided by city and state elected officials who represent JP, there is no telling who would win.
A recent informal survey by the Gazette of 10 local and at-large city councilors and members of the State House delegation show a 3-3 tie for first between US Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The Rassmussen Report, which conducts daily national presidential tracking polls, tells a different story nationally. According to its polling for Jan. 22, Clinton stands to pull in 42 percent of the vote, while Obama will take 31 percent.
Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to help determine whose tea leaves are the most accurate when polls open on Tues., Feb. 5.
In the Gazette’s survey, Obama’s support comes exclusively from city councilors, with 66 percent of the seven councilors contacted support him. Representing 17 percent of councilors interviewed, at-large City Councilors Stephen Murphy and John Connolly are supporting John Edwards and Clinton, respectively.
One hundred percent of JP’s state reps., Liz Malia and Jeffrey Sánchez, are throwing their weight behind Clinton.
State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and City Councilor Chuck Turner, whose district includes Egleston Square, did not respond to Gazette inquiries by deadline. Turner, who, as a member of the state Green-Rainbow Party, is the only member of City Council not registered Democrat, is rumored to be supporting the as-yet undeclared Green Party nominee.
Notwithstanding Mayor Thomas Menino’s endorsement of Clinton and Gov. Deval Patrick’s endorsement of Obama, city politicians representing JP overwhelmingly support the candidate widely seen to represent change, whereas members of JP’s state delegation say they will be voting for experience.
The country needs experience as well as change, Sánchez said. “Clinton has been a hard worker for a long time. She knows what it means to be a working mother,” he said.
“One thing that’s crucial is being able to work within the structure that exists,” Malia said.
Both Sánchez and Malia said they think Clinton the most likely among the candidates to be able to pass healthcare reform.
“We need someone who can unite and bring people together, and Hillary Clinton is the one to do it,” Sánchez said.
Connolly said he made the decision to support Clinton right after he was elected to the council in November. Progressive members of Ward 5 (Back Bay/Beacon Hill) persuaded him, he said.
“I want a more experienced voice in foreign policy issues,” he said. “I also like her stands on children’s issues, something I am very interested in myself. I also want someone who is ready to take on the Republican attack machine,” he added.
Councilor John Tobin, who represents most of JP, has not endorsed anyone new since his first choice, Sen. Joseph Biden, dropped out of the race after the Iowa caucuses.
“I haven’t even decided who I’m going to vote for,” Tobin said.
Biden, who drew about 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses, was squarely out-fund-raised by the main contenders, Tobin said.
“There is also a sense in the country, too, of wanting people who are not so entrenched,” he said.
Like many, including many Clinton supporters, Tobin credits Obama with spearheading a renewed sense of political engagement among the electorate across the country.
“The excitement that comes with him is palpable,” Tobin said.
City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents a small portion of Hyde Square, and is supporting Obama, agreed. “There is something about Barack Obama that Senator Clinton and John Edwards don’t have,” he said.
Ross said he thinks it has to do with Obama’s experience as a community organizer in Chicago. “I am in local government and I think that anyone who is going to be president has to have been on the front lines. There is nowhere closer to the front lines than community organizing,” Ross said.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s recent refusal to let California impose vehicle fuel emissions restrictions more stringent than the national standards show that special interests’ influence on Washington politics have become far too blatant and far-reaching, Ross said.
While Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich would likely push similar anti-corporate agendas, “Barack Obama is the best choice to move away from that responsibly,” he said.
At-large City Councilors Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty are also supporting Obama.
“Obama has ignited a movement reaching across cultural, political and economic boundaries in America,” Flaherty said. He praised the candidate’s platform on public education, ending gun violence and homelessness.
“I am confident in his vision,” Flaherty said. “Barack sees that it is required that government step in to end the debilitating effects of poverty.”
Yoon said he believes “Barack Obama represents the next generation of political leadership for our country.”
Obama’s message is “similar to Governor Patrick’s message, which was about inclusion and participation and actually engaging folks you disagree with,” Yoon said.
Flaherty and Ross both said their endorsement decisions were based on so-called retail politics. They have both met Obama and, like Tobin, who said in a previous interview that he had met Sen. Biden on a few occasions, said their personal impressions of their chosen candidate influenced their decision.
Likewise, Murphy met with Edwards late last summer and was “very impressed and liked what he had to say,” she said.
Murphy was out of town last week, but Communications Director Seth McCoy said Murphy believes Edwards “is the one that can win nationally. Head-to-head versus a Republican, he’s the only one who can pull off a victory.”
Everyone interviewed for this story said they were happy with all three candidates and will support the nominee in the general election. JP’s local representatives also unanimously said they are thrilled with the interest people are taking in the election, whatever its source.
“These have been painful, upsetting times in the last few years,” Malia said. “Working people are getting poorer. The current administration has made everyone afraid to talk about paying their fair share, paying taxes.”
The rich are doing great and “everyone else has suffered,” she said.
In addition to healthcare reform, higher education costs need to be curbed, she said.
“Between that and having gotten ourselves into a war with no conclusion and no real purpose, it’s brought a lot of people back out,” she said.
Sandra Storey contributed to this article