Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Fifth of Massachusetts...

Good day once again friends. I am happy to report that my historic bouts of non-posting are not all due to laziness. Until yesterday, my computer refused to work and so here I am back.

As some may or not be aware, Martin Meehan accepted a job as Chancellor of UMASS Lowell. As a result, Meehan has resigned his seat in the United States House of Representatives. This past Tuesday, primaries were held for both the Republican and Democratic tickets. Democrat Niki Tsongas, wife of the late senator Paul Tsongas, won her party's nomination, while Jim Ogonowski, a former US Air Force Colonel has won the Republican nomination. The election is scheduled for October 16, 2007.

Tsongas is heavily favored to win, however, nobody is willing to call the election just yet. Both candidates have viewpoints and credentials that do mesh with what Bay Staters expect from their Representatives-in-Congress. Both, however, are also using strategies that do not make much sense.

Ogonowski, as reported in today's Lowell Sun, has pounced on Tsongas' self-description as a "Washington Insider." This in and of itself is a tired, though surprisingly still effective tool in winning election. Such a plan is unlikely to work in the Massachusetts' fifth, however. Cong. Meehan had been in office and therefore in Washington, for fourteen years. Well before retiring, he had been an insider. Indeed, Tsongas' connections are not exactly fresh (her husband left the Senate in the early 80's). Whatever connections she does have will only benefit those in her district specifically, and the entire Commonwealth and nation as a whole.

Tsongas for her part has attempted to make the election about President Bush. While always fun to attack somebody for associations with Bush, it helps if the person actually has them. We will not see the President traipsing through Lowell or Lawrence or Methuen on behalf of Ogonowski anytime soon. Ogonowski's only connection to Bush is their mutual belief that any pull-out from Iraq would be bad. A silly position, indeed, but not enough to equate him to Bush. Ogonowski at least acknowledges the war was a mistake unlike the Denier-in-Chief.

Beyond Iraq, the two do not differ significantly as is the case with Republicans and Democrats in Massachusetts. They both favor sound environmental/energy policy and a return to fiscal discipline. How exactly they may stray apart, but only slightly and no more than Democrats and Republicans (and Conservative Democrats) do on Beacon Hill.

Democrats do have reason to worry, however. While Republicans are on the retreat nationally, they may be poised for a resurgence here. They will not be overtaking the statehouse or even ending the Democrats' super majority anytime soon. However, were Ogonowski successful, he could stand do embolden Republicans in other races in the state and thus the dominoes fall. Even a good showing could encourage the GOP in Mass.

On a separate note, Ogonowski's victory would have a slight personal significance as he would be the first American of Polish extraction elected to Congress from Massachusetts (to my knowledge). Certainly, an ethnic camaraderie is not reason to vote for or endorse a candidates. Still, certain "ceilings" do remain.

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