Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Another Battle for the Senate...& Iowa...

We have some pretty big Massachusetts political news bubbling up from the streets of Springfield, but first a quick word on Iowa.  Willard Mitt Romney should have stayed away.  Yes, he won by eight votes, but unlike the polls that raised up and slapped down anti-Romneys before, the effective tie Rick Santorum secured means Romney will be spending valuable time and money batting him away for weeks to come.  Santorum has a heavy lift garnering money and supporters, but with Michele Bachmann out and Rick Perry effectively so, Romney will have to slog through a probable South Carolina loss and a possible a Florida defeat, too.  By Michigan, he should be alright, but he will be damaged and he will still not be the best candidate to lead a fractured GOP into the general election.  

Nevertheless, Democrats should remain nimble.  They have spent a great deal of time sharpening their spears for Romney, but they should at least prepare for the unlikely possibility of a Santorum challenge, if for no other reason that he could be a possible Vice-Presidential nominee.

Councilor Melvin Edwards (Facebook)
Now onto the local political fun.  WMassP&I has confirmed that Springfield Ward 3 City Councilor Melvin Edwards will challenge James Welch in September's Democratic Primary.  Sources close to councilor say he will make a formal announcement within a couple of weeks.  Edwards was elected in 2009 in the city's first Ward elections in decades and was unopposed in November's municipal elections.  He was sworn in Monday for another two year term.

Although Edwards's ward in 2009 featured meek turnout, he won with 62% of the vote.  Since joining the council Edwards has usually been among the more fiscally vigilant bloc of the council.  His ward, which includes the South End and Six Corners sustained heavy damage from the June tornado.  Indeed, Edwards himself recounted his own harrowing experience during the twister at a council meeting following the storm.  Edwards was among the early supporters of at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera's bid for council president which many saw as an attempt to smooth over their otherwise less than ducky relationship.  Edwards has on more than one occasion sparred with Ferrera often to the latter's embarrassment.

The opportunity for Edwards to challenge Welch came about from redistricting.  Seeking to avoid the embarrassing violations of the Voting Rights Act during redistricting after the 2000 census, Beacon Hill's redistricting committee significantly rebuilt Welch's district to make it minority-majority.  Agawam was dropped from the district, while several minority portions of Springfield extending as far as Indian Orchard were brought in.  Minority communities in Chicopee were also drawn into the district.  Whiter parts of Springfield, particularly in Forest Park were deposited into Gale Candaras' District as well.

Rep. Ben Swan (Facebook)
According to other City Hall sources, Edwards had been planning to mount a challenge against Representative Ben Swan, an invincible fixture of Springfield's African-American community for decades.  Over the last ten years Swan has faced several challenges and has turned back all of them from young up and comer Lorenzo Gaines to the oft-criticized Chelan Brown.  Edwards's challenge to Swan may have met a similar fate, but redistricting scrambled the edges of Swan's district ejecting Edwards's precinct while preserving its historic heart in Mason Square.

While Edwards certainly faces long odds against Welch, he does face some advantages.  First of all Welch is only a freshman senator, which entails less incumbent strength than usual.  Second the change in the district's complexion complicates Welch's reelection.  Forget for a moment that the district is minority majority.  Thousands of people who were not in Welch's district before are now his constituents.  To them, he is not an incumbent.  Finally, since Linda Melconian retired from the same seat in 2004, Springfield has not had a Senator from the city itself.  That could play well to residents who may want representation closer to home.  

Sen. Jim Welch (Facebook)
In the same vein, the district is now Springfield heavy.  Under the old map, Springfield was split about 50/50 between Welch and Candaras' districts.  With each senate district containing about 150,000 people (incidentally Springfield's historical population over the last thirty years), Springfield was about equally weighted by its neighbors.  For Welch's district, which already included many of Springfield's lower turnout minority communities, this weighted the influence to Agawam and West Springfield.  Now with Agawam gone, the tables are turned and the district overwhelmingly consists of Springfield residents.

Edwards has also been known for gleaning considerable crossover support.  Among his prominent supporters during the 2009 campaign was conservative Bill Dusty.  Although Edwards had the benefit of a nonpartisan municipal election in that race, he could draw upon that appeal to draw in unaffiliated conservatives in a primary election, which will almost assuredly be a more important election than the general.

Ultimately the biggest X factor is what will turnout be.  The Primary this year is bizarrely on a Thursday to avoid a conflict with a holiday.  Why legislators did not simply move the date to another Tuesday is not clear, but with poor turnout on normal primary days, a Thursday election may throw off supporters from either side, but especially Edwards's.  However, with enough organization and enthusiasm could counter those additional hurdles.  If he can secure that ground game and sufficient financial support we could be in for a hell of a race.


Anonymous said...

Melvin has no real shot...he was planning to run against Ben as you state and then Ben knowingly re-districted him out of his district...What has Melvin done on the council to make him think he is ready for the State Senate? Has he written one piece of legislation in his life? He was eager to get to Boston before even completing one term as a ward councilor.

Also take a closer look at turnout it is really skewed towards West Springfield...

It will be interesting though to see who supports who...also don't be surprised if more people get into this race...

Matt S. said...

Your point about writing legislation is meaningless. Edwards like virtually every other councilor has proposed legislation, but it all has to be vetted and rewritten by the council's assigned city solicitor. A very similar procedure exists on Beacon Hill. What legislation did any of the State House delegation write before they were elected? None. Many people who have never served in office run for such seats and win.

As for turnout? The biggest drag will be a lack of any higher profile races. With Chicopee in the mix there is no reason to think West Springfield has any handle on that district ad infinitum.

Anonymous said...

Writing legislation is not meaningless at all. Neither is knowing the process. Melvin does not.

What legislation has Melvin proposed. He just wants to run for office...he was so set to run for rep against Swan...that would have been ok...but Senate is a big step...Candaras and Welch oth were reps for at least a term before they went to the Senate.

To answer your question about who in the delegation wrote legislation before they were elected an answer is Jim Welch. Jim Welch worked for then State Rep Buoniconti as an aide and wrote legislation and learned the process firsthand. So you're wrong to say none.

Matt S. said...

An unholy amount of things the Massachusetts legislature is never read nor written by a startling majority of both bodies. Moreover, there is no breaking in that the House does that the Senate does not do.

This post is a news announcement, not an endorsement and we fully plan to speak Sen. Welch and assist the people in deciding on the issues not spurious declarations of preparedness. Further Mr. Anonymous, we have entertained your odd and sudden defense of Sen. Welch (and attack on Councilor Edwards) in contravention of our policy of not publishing anonymous comments. No further ones shall be entertained, unless you include your name. If you do include your name, we will publish any comment, unless it is violent or bigoted (which none have been so far, we admit).

Mo Turner said...

Matt, nice scoop. Should be an interesting race.