Monday, November 24, 2008

Freudian Slip at PolitickerMA

I got my first chuckle this morning out of this unfortunate typo in this morning's "Wake Up Call" email from PolitickerMA. Here's the screen capture from my gmail account. See if you can spot the mistake:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Off to Vote for "Obaba"

Future Democrat driving to the polls in a zero-emissions vehicle.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Not quite ready for Batman yet, so this year he's a Bat Toddler.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

29th Middlesex Unofficial Results

Here are the unofficial results for the 29th Middlesex district election -- all write ins.

  Watertown Cambridge Total %
Steve Corbett 298 20 318 5.8%
Julia Fahey 1555 563 2118 38.8%
Jon Hecht 2152 854 3006 55.1%
Josh Weisbuch 9 1 10 0.2%

Jon Hecht wins both communities convincingly -- by a wide enough margin that a recount should not be necessary. I hope to have some more to say about this shortly.

It also looks like the Republicans could not scrounge up 150 votes to get a challenger on the ballot for the general, so unless someone wants to wage an even bigger sticker campaign, Jon will be our next State Representative (in General Court).

Congratulations to Jon!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What Might a County Caucus Look Like?

Now that Middlesex County Register of Probate John Buonomo has stepped down from office in the face of theft charges, it is worth spending a little time discussing what might happen if Buonomo wins the primary, but then withdraws his name from the General Election ballot. I like to think that I have a little bit of knowledge about the process, having gone through it earlier in the year after Rachel Kaprielian resigned from her position as state representative to become our new Registrar of Motor Vehicles.

As the newspapers are reporting, it is too late for Buonomo to withdraw his name from the primary ballot. Since his is the only name that will appear and this race is so low-profile, it is not inconceivable that he will get more votes than any write-in challenger. WBUR this morning was reporting that should he win the primary, Buonomo would withdraw his name from the general election. Democrats throughout the county would then be able to fill the ballot line via a caucus, as provided for in Mass General Laws chapter 53, sections 49 and 14. Now, I am not a lawyer, and my eyes glaze over each time I try to scan through that text, so if I'm mistaken someone should correct me. As I understand it, each community in Middlesex would get a number of delegate seats to the caucus according to this formula from MGL chapter 53, section 14:

Each ward and town committee in the wards and towns compromising such a district within the limits of more than one municipality shall, as occasions arise, choose from its members delegates to fill vacancies as hereinbefore provided, in such manner as it may determine by its rules and regulations, to a number not exceeding one for each five hundred votes, or fraction thereof, cast in its ward or town for the candidate of the party for governor at the last state election, and shall forthwith notify the state secretary of the delegates so chosen.
So, each town and ward gets to select as many as 1 delegate for each 500 votes (rounded up) that Deval Patrick got in 2006 in that locality. My back-of-the-envelope math (using Deval votes from here) shows the breakdown thusly:

City/TownDeval VotesDelegatesCity/TownDeval VotesDelegates
Natick7,55016North Reading2,5736

Note, however, that the cities in the above list which have ward committees (starred in the above list) will have their delegates calculated by ward, not by the city total. The count listed there is a minimum because the rounding by ward may produce more delegates. For example, in a fictional city with 2 ward committees where Deval Patrick received 1020 votes, if the ward split was 710/310, the city would receive three delegates (two for ward 1, one for ward 2). If the split, however, was 510/510, the city would get four (two from each ward) thanks to the ward-based formula.

How are these delegates chosen and how do they come to their decision? On that, the law is generally silent, so the Democratic Party rules for caucuses apply. Now, not all provisions for those caucuses can be enforced -- particularly the requirement about giving proper notice. Here are the important points:
  • Anyone registered with the Democratic party as of Dec 31st, 2007 was eligible to serve as a delegate to the caucus, but only members of the Democratic Town Committee could vote on who would become a delegate
  • Delegates selected by committees must be gender balanced
  • The selection of delegates must be done within the jurisdiction of the Town/Ward
  • 10% of eligible delegates at the caucus constitutes a quorum
  • Ballotting at the caucus continues until one candidate gets 50% of the vote plus one
  • The caucus is subject to the open meeting law
Of course, given the scope of this potential caucus, more formalized rules for this specific process may be forthcoming from the Party.

Keep in mind that all this must happen between the time Buonomo withdraws from the ballot -- no sooner than the morning of September 17th, the day after the election -- and September 25th at 5PM, the Secretary of State's deadline to fill vacancies.

Now, when I think about what this means to me personally, as the chair of a Democratic Town Committee, I'm wondering exactly how many people I'd be able to convince to show up on one or two days notice to pick delegates for a caucus that would decide such a low-profile position. My guess is very few. We may be able to fill our slate of delegates, but barring anyone from Watertown running, I imagine that we won't send as many as we're allotted. My hunch is that this will be true in communities throughout the county.

So, what does this mean for the election? Well, in one sense, it's a safety valve in the case that Buonomo manages to win. In another way, it represents a strategic choice for activists. What should we be rooting for? Is it better to let Buonomo win and trigger the caucus, or is it better to spend energy trying to beat him with a write-in? Given the estimated number of delegates, Tom Concannon of Newton is poised to do well in any caucus. A Cambridge or Somerville candidate also has the potential to get a large number of votes. Just on a geographic basis, it seems to me that in the caucus process a candidate from inside 128 would have the advantage over someone from Lowell or Framingham, but it would all depend on what communities managed to pull delegates together in the short time available.

In all, I'm probably rooting for the caucus to happen, if only because I think it would be fascinating. Personally for me, it would mean more hassle, but if it leads to any sort of formalizing or reform of the caucus-to-fill-vacancies process, I'm in favor of it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Open Letter to my Belmont Neighbors

Dear Belmont Neighbors,

I can understand why you all rejected a Prop 2 1/2 override this month that would pay for road repairs. No one, after all, likes to pay higher taxes.

That said, you quite possibly have the worst roads in the Commonwealth. Yesterday, driving to work, I did not even realize that I had a flat tire until I got to Route 2. I have grown so used to the bumping and shaking and noises while driving your roads daily that it was only after I got on the highway and the shaking didn't stop that I figured out something was wrong.

It's not my place to tell you folks how to run your town, but if you drive through your town as I do, I have to imagine that the amount you're paying on tires, alignment, etc has to be more than any tax increase spread over the next ten years.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Becoming an Insider

About two years ago, David from Blue Mass Group accused me of being a poltical insider in part because I was attending that year's Democratic State Convention. To me, this was quite laughable since the reason I was even able to attend the convention was that I had just organized a coup, defeating the candidate of real party insiders in his hometown caucus.

Two years later, things are very different. In March I was elected the chair of my Democratic Town Committee. Since then, I've lobbied on behalf of others for political appointments, I've been inside the proverbial smoke-filled room, my local paper has even used the dreaded I-word to describe me. I'm afraid that David is finally right. I have become a party insider.

I can even pinpoint the moment the transformation occurred. It wasn't when I became chair of the town committee, though that certainly contributed. Still, there are plenty of members and even chairs of town and ward committees who would still consider themselves party outsiders. It wasn't even when I was calling town councilors, trying to smooth the way for the committee's picks for election commissioner. That was as much me trying to avoid having to find more volunteers to put forward as it was advocating for specific people.

No, the moment I became a party insider, at least in my own mind, was May 21st, 2008, at roughly one or two o'clock in the afternoon. It was then that I received a phone call from my now-former State Rep, Rachel Kaprielian, who informed me that she was leaving to become the new Registrar of Motor Vehicles. This news was so unexpected that I could scarcely process it. At first I thought she was telling me that she was going down to the RMV to renew her drivers license or something and I couldn't figure out why I needed to know that. Eventually it became clear that she was resigning her seat at the state house to head up the RMV and that due to the timing of her appointment and the fact that she was unopposed in the Democratic primary, the Democratic Town Committee would have the opportunity to hold a caucus and replace her on the ballot with the candidate of our choice. As chair, it was my responsibility to guide this process.

The fact that the DTC had any sort of legal power was almost as much of a surprise as Rachel's abrupt resignation -- and not just to me, but to most of the other people I talked to over the next two weeks as well. In fact, the first time I called the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office to try and figure out what our responsibilities were, even they had never heard of the caucus option. This, unfortunately, left me in sort of a limbo for about a day and a half -- a long time in the age of instant communication. In the meantime, I was getting calls and emails from reporters, DTC members, potential candidates, and other interested parties and all I could tell them was that I would let them know the details as soon as I found them out myself. The only thing that was clear in the early going was that we'd have an unfathomably short turnaround time on this.

With the help of state party officials, state election officials and my crack legal team, we pieced together how the process was supposed to happen and who was responsible for all of the moving parts. Since the 29th Middlesex contains all but one precinct of Watertown and all of Ward 9 in Cambridge, our town committee and their ward committee were each responsible for picking delegates to a caucus that would be called by the state party in proportion to the vote that the Democratic candidate received in the last gubernatorial election. All of a sudden, I was glad I did all that GOTV work for Deval -- it turned out that Watertown got 18 delegates and Cambridge got seven. The caucus would be empowered to replace Rachel's name on the ballot. If the caucus failed to meet or failed to nominate someone, the primary ballot would remain blank and whoever got the most write-in votes over 150 would become the Democratic nominee. All this had to be completed by 72 weekday hours after the last day to withdraw names from the ballot, June 4th at 5PM.

The exact method of choosing delegates to this caucus is not specifically outlined in party rules or bylaws. We were instructed to use the method of selecting delegates to the senate district caucuses where Democratic State Committee members are chosen (another arcane process) as a guideline. Those rules allowed only town and ward committee members to vote for delegates, though 20-year and associate members are permitted to participate in that selection. This posed a slight problem since our records of associate memberships were sketchy and there was a challenge to our official list of 20-year members, forcing me to spend an evening sorting through forty years of town committee election results. These rules also required that we hold the delegate selection meetings within the jurisdiction of our town and ward committees, which ruled out having a joint meeting between Watertown and Cambridge (unless we wanted to conduct it in Mount Auburn Cemetery).

Watertown picked our delegates at our next DTC meeting, though I didn't really intend for that to happen. The plan was to lay out the process we were going to follow at our meeting so that everyone knew the rules we were playing by. Then candidates would have three or four days to line up who they wanted to be delegates and have time to lobby individual DTC members.

It didn't work out that way, though. Early on in the packed DTC meeting it became apparent that the majority of members did not feel comfortable putting someone on the ballot, which would essentially anoint Rachel's successor without a general vote. Nearly all those in attendance spoke against replacing Rachel's name, and we passed a near-unanimous motion (none opposed, two abstentions) declaring that the DTC wanted to leave the ballot blank. We spent the bulk of the meeting after that motion trying to figure out the best way to achieve that goal. Since the quorum requirements at the caucus where a potential replacement would be named were so low (10%, or three attendees), we could not afford to boycott the caucus by not selecting anyone to attend. Instead what we did was elect delegates with the instructions that they try to ensure that no name is placed on the ballot and that they would only be seated on condition that Cambridge Ward 9 also selected delegates.

The discussion at our meeting was so one-sided that most of us assumed that the Cambridge delegation would make the same decision and that there wouldn't be a caucus at all. After all, our delegates would only be seated if Cambridge picked theirs, and Watertown had enough of a majority of delegates that we would have the votes to get the outcome we wanted. On Saturday, however, the Cambridge Ward 9 Committee decided to select delegates and so the caucus was on.

The caucus was held June 3rd in the Watertown Town Hall, with State Senator Steve Tolman as chair. Originally I had thought that the caucus would be a quick affair, with the Watertown delegation making a motion to adjourn shortly after the meeting opened. After calling around to some of the Cambridge delegation, however, I changed my mind. Several of the delegates from Cambridge felt that they were shut out of the process and that Watertown had decided what was going to happen regardless of what they thought. This was a fair criticism, though I think it was more of a consequence of the process -- we couldn't have a joint meeting to select delegates and we couldn't expect Cambridge to know anything about Watertown politics (and vice versa). I thought that at least we owed it to the Cambridge delegation to explain why we thought the way we did, even if we disagreed on what we should do. So, I told my committee's delegates that we should allow a debate, even though we had the votes to end the meeting before it began.

This was not necessarily a popular decision with my committee. The danger was that if the Cambridge delegates were to open nominations and nominate a candidate, we could potentially end up in a situation where someone had to win. I was accused of being naive, and threatened (in jest) with being strung up from the town hall chandeliers if someone ended up on the ballot. Luckily for me, things worked out pretty much how I planned. We had a short debate -- about 45 minutes -- on the merits of naming someone to the ballot or not, and at the end the caucus voted 19 to 6 to leave the ballot blank.

Personally, I was glad it worked out the way it did. Even though I'm now officially an insider, that doesn't mean I have to act like a party boss. Not to be overconfident, but the 29th Middlesex is a strong Democratic district. To put someone on the ballot unopposed in the Democratic primary and potentially unopposed (depending on whether someone wins the Republican, Green or Working Families party primaries as a write-in) in the general is basically appointing someone to the State House for at least two years and then giving them the power of incumbency for any challenges in 2010. It just did not seem necessary to do this, at least to me. It would have been different if this were a general election with a Republican opponent on the ballot, but the stakes seem lower since this is a primary and we have a number of good potential candidates.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

I hope all you fellow dads have a happy Father's Day today!

Gosh, it got dusty in here!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday Today

I just got back from casting my Super Tuesday primary ballot. There was no line, no wait at my polling place, though the poll workers said there had been a pretty steady stream of people. There was no presence for any candidate, but there was a fun moment when a police officer was walking with a little boy (we vote at a middle school) down the hallway in the other direction saying "Well, if you do well in school, sure you could grow up to be president. Do you like talking to people? If you're going to be a politician, you're going to have to talk to a lot of people."

It's probably too late for any endorsements to have any effect, and in all honesty, they probably wouldn't have any effect anyway, but I voted for Barack Obama. I had had a hard time picking between the candidates early on in the election cycle, but I suppose I knew that I'd eventually settle on Obama. Other people have made the case for him better than I could, so I'll just say that in the end, it's because I'm still a Deval Patrick supporter. Because of Deval I went from someone who follows politics to someone who is involved in politics. My hope is that through the Obama campaign, thousands of other people across the country like me will have that switch turned on and become active. I will happily vote for Senator Clinton in the general should she win the nomination, after all the differences in policy between the candidates are so minute, but I don't think that she has the ability to be a transformative force in American politics -- if only because we've seen what a Clinton administration looks like already.

Plus, as an added bonus, I'd like to think that I'm canceling out Sal DiMasi's vote.

There are two other races on the ballot here in Watertown. The Democratic State Committee holds its elections at the same time as the the Presidential election, and in the Second Suffolk & Middlesex state senate district, the Democratic State Committeewoman seat is open. I wrote in our state Representative, Rachel Kaprielian for that position. She currently holds that seat, but due to the change in date for the primary missed the deadline to get her name on the
ballot. Rachel has been active on the State Committee and I think it's important that we don't lose her progressive voice setting the direction of the Democratic party.

In addition, 35 members of the Watertown Democratic Town committee are up for reelection. I'm a member of the slate of candidates and we're running unopposed. My dream is that I'll get more votes in Watertown than Mitt Romney, but my guess is that most people who pull a Democratic ballot will end up skipping the right side of the ballot (I know I did in 2004).

Update from Mrs. sco at the home front:

The Clinton campaign has been calling every five minutes. Finally I
picked up and said we already voted. They asked if we voted for Hillary and I said I didn't know who you voted for. I don't know why. I mean, we've made those calls. I guess I just didn't feel like telling her anything useful because I was annoyed at all the calls.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Superbowl Pregame Baby Blogging

He doesn't have any Patriots gear, but he's wearing his baby football overalls as he eats his first Super Bowl crackers.

Go Pats!

Update 10:07PM: Crap.

Friday, February 01, 2008

.08 Acres Turns Three

Three years ago today, I made my first post to this blog, which detailed how Mitt Romney's Commonwealth PAC was dumping money into early primary states. As of now, all he has to show in the states he worked so hard in is a single win in his birth state of Michigan. He may yet win the GOP nomination, but that's a pretty poor track record for over three years of campaign work.

In some ways, you could describe this blog the same way -- three years of work and not much to show for it. This blog-year started off with the birth of our son, the defeat of the marriage ban, about half-dozen special elections, and ended with a four-month hiatus and me pretty much ignoring my New Year resolutions.

The blog has undergone a few cosmetic changes as well. I've added categories to every post and now have a sidebar with some more dynamic content. Still, I've noticed that this year I had fewer posts where I was able to do the kind of detailed analysis that I had done on issues in previous years and once again I failed to blog about my experiences working on a local campaign.

If anyone is still reading the blog, here are some of my favorite posts from the past year:

For trips further down the .08 Acre memory lane, check out my second blogiversary and first blogiversary posts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Last Day to Register for Presidential Primary

Today is the last day to register to be eligible to vote in the Feburary 5th Presidential Primary. You can download the mail-in form here (it must be postmarked today!) or travel down to your city/town hall and register there. I've been told that most town clerks will be open late tonight for the deadline. The Boston Globe reported yesterday that people are registering in big numbers in advance of the primary, moreso than in previous years. I imagine it's because the presidential race might actually still be in dispute by the time Massachusetts holds its primary this time around, since we've moved it up to February with the rest of the states. I remember four years ago John Kerry had it all but sewn up by the time we voted here. I nearly didn't make the trek out to my polling place because I didn't think it was worth it.

This year, I'll have an added incentive to get out, though, because I'm going to be on the ballot here in Watertown! I will be on the slate for the Watertown Democratic Town Committee, along with thirty-five other Watertown Democrats. We are unopposed, but we still need to beat the write-ins, so if you live in Watertown, please consider voting for our candidates!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mitt Takes Michigan

It looks like our former Governor Mitt Romney has emerged victorious in the Michigan GOP primary. This was widely seen as a must-win for him given his previous losses (at great expense, I might add) in Iowa and New Hampshire, and the fact that Michigan is one of Mitt's many home states. Romney has the personal fortune to keep him going if he had lost, but three high-profile losses would probably have defined him as someone no one trusts and no one would vote for.

As much as I would have enjoyed the Romney schadenfreude, it's probably better for Democrats that he managed to win (and convincingly so). The longer the GOP field is fractured, the more money they'll spend, but more importantly, Romney's victory should slow John McCain's momentum from his New Hampshire victory. Though I think he's past his expiration date, McCain is really the only Republican who can challenge the eventual Democratic nominee on foreign policy experience. He's also the only Republican with any sort of crossover appeal -- I admit that I myself nearly got swept up in McCainimania back in 2000 when I attended a McCain rally on Wall Street of all places. I'm not sure that McCain has enough money to compete everywhere on Super-Duper Tuesday on anything other than name recognition, and with the field still uncertain, there's a chance that Rudy Giuliani's strategy of skipping the first several contests could actually work out for him.

I tuned in to a few minutes of Mitt's victory speech -- just as much as I could stand. I noted that he made the claim that Washington lobbyists are now scared because he represents change. I had to laugh out loud. I'm sure that these lobbyists are really upset today.

Update: I noticed from the exit polls that Mitt Romney won the self-described liberal vote 33% to McCain's 30%. Maybe this had an effect, after all.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend Baby Blogging

Testing out his newest teeth