Today is Wednesday, September 4: it is the last day you can register to vote in Boston and be eligible to participate in the upcoming preliminary election, to be held on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.
Now that the hotly contested 2018 Democratic primary is behind us, there is little politics left to practice in Boston this year. State Senators Sal DiDomenico, Mike Rush, Nick Collins, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Joe Boncore & William Brownsberger face no Republican opposition in November. State Representatives Adrian Madaro, Dan Ryan, Aaron Michlewitz, Russell Holmes, Chynah Tyler, Jay Livingstone, Ed Coppinger, Liz Malia, Dan Cullinane, Dan Hunt, Angelo Scaccia, Kevin Honan, and Michael Moran likewise will appear on the general election ballot unopposed.
I could not attend Ward 13’s caucus, held on Monday, February 26, due to a professional commitment. Work also prevented me from attending Ward 17 on Tuesday, February 27. Ward 11’s caucus was to be held only a few days later, though – on Saturday, March 3 – so I eagerly anticipated the upcoming weekend. I planned to run for delegate to the convention and had also volunteered to cook breakfast for the morning’s caucus attendees. On March 1, the Thursday before the caucus, I had an interesting and productive meeting with Christopher A. Iannella, Jr. of Jamaica Plain: attorney, Governor’s Councillor for the 4th District, son of Christopher A. Iannella, Sr. and brother of Richard Iannella, former Register of Probate and Boston City Councillor. We discussed my law school prospects and he broke down some of the several Democrat primary fields now taking shape in Boston. He was especially perceptive when it came to the District Attorney race, predicting the entry of an assistant DA. Iannella proved prescient when, only a few days later, Greg Henning of Dorchester, ADA in charge of the gang unit, declared his candidacy for Suffolk County District Attorney.
On Saturday, February 10 at 10am, Ward 4 (Back Bay/South End/Fenway) held its caucus at the South End branch of the Boston Public Library, located on the corner of Tremont St and West Newton St, embedded amidst orderly acres of red and brown brick townhouses. I arrived to find a number of individuals gathering signatures outside the library’s front entrance, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. I had my clipboard and a nomination sheet for Clerk of Court Maura Hennigan. Since hers is a county-wide office, it is relatively easy to find qualified signatories: any Democrat residing in Boston, Winthrop, Chelsea or Revere is eligible to nominate. Also gathering signatures that morning were Jeff Ross, Chair of Ward 9 (South End/Roxbury) and Democratic State Committeeman for the 2nd Suffolk District; and Marie Turley, Chair of Ward 11 and Democratic State Committeewoman for the same. Encouraged by the presence of friends, I began to gather signatures, but not before being introduced to a new #bospoli colleague, from Dorchester’s Ward 13, who, after spending some time away from Boston politics, has recently made a return to the fray.
Now that caucus season has come to an end, I am happy to report to my several readers a scanty few of my many observations. I attended Democratic caucuses in eight of Boston’s 22 wards throughout February and early March, and was pleased to see old friends and make new acquaintances. With a more active Massachusetts Democratic Party primary in 2018 than in many previous election years, the caucuses were well-attended. Where elections were necessary to select delegates, they were contested. Especially dramatic to watch were the discrete but open efforts taking place to elect certain “slates” of delegates: some committed to a particular candidate for statewide office; others consisting of ward committee members; and several being headed by Boston’s community organizer in chief – The Honorable Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Dorchester’s Ward 17.
In February and March of 2018, Massachusetts Democrats will meet in towns and wards across the state to elect delegates to the 2018 Democratic State Convention. Sometimes a sleepy affair, in years with competitive statewide races (for Governor or another of the Commonwealth’s several Constitutional Offices), the Convention is a critical hurdle for candidates hoping to appear on the Democratic Party’s September primary ballot. In order to do so, a candidate must receive the support of at least 15% of the delegates attending that year’s convention, usually held in June. In 2014, Governor Deval Patrick’s last year in office, there were initially five Democrat candidates seeking to succeed him. They were: Joe Avellone, Don Berwick, Martha Coakley, Steve Grossman, and Juliette Kayyem. Only three of five made it past the convention.
As the September preliminary election approaches, one indication of a competitive race is the “sign war” that may break out between leading candidates and their supporters. The war, which involves the placement of window & yard signs, as well as larger, 4’x8′ billboards, is an attempt to saturate a voting district with so many examples of a candidate’s brand that an indelible image is left in the minds of local residents, along with the information that image contains.
The most critical part of the brand is the candidate’s name: a good brand will create positive associations with that name, using colors, words, or graphic elements (which may be emphasized enough to become a logo). The only other element that almost certainly must be included is the office the candidate is seeking. While design decisions may best be left to professionals, an amateur can make a respectable showing in this department by using inexpensive computer programs and avoiding the errors of her competitors.
With the Puerto Rican parade kicking off this Sunday (if you plan to march with Marty, please assemble at the Hynes Convention Center at 10:30 AM), I thought it appropriate to expound on the grand old political tradition that is the municipal parade. The word itself is derived from the Latin verb Paro, parare (to prepare), and was transferred into English via a French noun meaning “show” or “display,” with a definite martial connotation. Besides being a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, a parade can serve more than one purpose for an active political campaign.
On Monday, June 26th, 3 months before the September preliminary election, I mailed thank-you notes to the voters I met while gathering signatures for Mayor Marty Walsh. After checking the 33 signatures on my sheet against a list of registered voters, I was able to confirm 26 voters as being registered at the address listed on the sheet, or about a 78% confirmation rate.
Tuesday was the last day of the signature gathering period, and I spent part of the afternoon gathering signatures for Annissa Essaibi-George, who is running for a second term as one of our four At-Large, or city-wide, City Councillors. She was elected in 2015 after also having run in 2013, the year Marty Walsh was elected Mayor of Boston. That year, 19 candidates made the At-Large ballot, necessitating a preliminary election. In September, Annissa placed 7th, well enough to advance to the general. In November, she finished 5th: not well enough to win, but a strong enough showing to position her for a successful re-match two years later. Like Marty, Annissa is from Dorchester. She has taught in the Boston Public Schools and has operated her own business, Stitch House, a knitting supply and service center in Dorchester’s Savin Hill neighborhood.