||One of the nation's top political analysts, Stuart Rothenberg, dissects politics at the congressional and statewide levels.|
A Crowded Field In Massaschusetts's 8th C.D.
Lots of uncertainty as Sept. 15 primary approaches
A GOP governor in Hawaii?
Massachusetts 8 The political zoo that goes by the name of the race for the Democratic congressional nomination in the 8th C.D. is nearing its end as the Sept. 15 primary approaches. And while virtually all of the combatants are comfortable with the "liberal" label, there are differences in style and even a few differences in issues. That, along with the seat's unique history, is drawing extensive national attention.
The 8th C.D. includes working-class cities like Somerville, black areas like Roxbury, impoverished Chelsea and Cambridge, the home of Harvard and MIT and the prototype of Ivy League, Massachusetts liberalism.
Observers generally put former Boston mayor Ray Flynn, former state representative Marjorie Clapprood, Somerville mayor Michael Capuano and former state senator George Bachrach, who ran for the Democratic nomination in this seat more than a decade ago, in the top tier. Wealthy businessman Chris Gabrieli and former state Rep. Susan Tracy can't be ignored -- Gabrieli because of his money and Tracy because of her base and committed following -- but have had problems getting traction, while wealthy activist John O'Connor, and Boston city councilmen Charles Yancey and Tom Keane, hope to prove the local handicappers wrong.
Flynn, who served as U.S. envoy to the Vatican, was in the gubernatorial race but switched over to the 8th C.D. contest. Liberal groups are fearful that the former mayor, who is both an economic populist and the only pro-life candidate in the primary, will win the nomination because pro-choice voters will split their votes among a number of the more outspoken liberals -- particularly Clapprood, Tracy and Bachrach. But the former mayor has received his share of bad publicity, and some insiders argue that he is more a candidate of the past than of the future.
Clapprood is well known as a radio and television talk personality, in addition to being a former legislator. Outgoing and uncompromisingly liberal, she is good with sound-bites and can talk to both "Merlot liberals" and blue-collar voters. Clapprood's endorsement by the Lesbian and Gay Political Alliance of Massachusetts was a blow to Tracy, the only openly gay candidate in the race, and it has played right into Clapprood's argument that she is the only candidate who can "stop Flynn."
Capuano, who is serving his fifth term, has a politically important base in the city of Somerville, and he should appeal to Italian Democrats throughout the district. Bachrach has emphasized his liberalism and longtime public service. Gabrieli and O'Connor have personal financial resources, with O'Connor emphasizing his environmental efforts and Gabrielli separating himself from the other candidates by positioning himself more as a "new Democrat."
Local political observers agree that the large number of candidates in the race is a recipe for political uncertainty. Voters in the 8th have become accustomed to big name representation -- having sent the likes of Tip O'Neill and John and Joe Kennedy to Washington -- but it is hard to believe that any of the contenders in this race will rise to the level of House speaker or president. One of the top tier hopefuls, however, will make it to Washington.
A GOP governor in Hawaii?
With the exception of a few years following statehood, Hawaii has been as loyally Democratic as almost any state in the union. The state has not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since Hiram Fong in 1970, and no Republican has been elected governor since William Quinn in 1959.
But this year, Republican Linda Lingle, the mayor of Maui County, has emerged as a serious contender for the governorship. A political moderate who has served on the county council and is in her second term as mayor, Lingle faces a primary challenge from former Honolulu mayor Frank Fasi. Fasi is no longer the serious contender that he once was, and he ran for governor as an Independent four years ago. In that contest, he placed second behind Gov. Ben Cayetano (D) but ahead of Republican Pat Saiki, a former congresswoman who was expected to be a serious competitor for the governorship.
GOP insiders have lined up behind Lingle, and they believe they have a real chance this year of knocking off Cayetano, a former state legislator. That's because the state's economy still has not rebounded from the recession of the early 1990s. Even worse for the state, the Asian economic crisis has hit the Aloha State hard.
But Democratic insiders are also worried that the state's voters are finally fed up with Hawaii's reputation for cronyism. State voters, who have simply followed the guidance of the state's labor unions and Democratic political organization may now be ready to try something different, and Lingle is about as different as you can get in this state.
Cayetano has avoided a primary from Jeremy Harris, the current mayor of Honolulu, and Democrats hope that even though the state's voters are dissatisfied and ready for a change, they will conclude that many of the state's problems are not the fault of Cayetano. If that happens, voters may stick with the party they have supported for the past 30 years. If not, Lingle just may do what other Republicans have been unable to accomplish.