Monday, October 26, 2009

Thoughts on the first (and only?) Mass. special election Senate debate

I was able to listen to most of the Democratic U.S. Special Election Senate debate via WBZ 1030 tonight and then, later, switched to NECN online, which I realized it was webstreaming [I would later try to pick up WBZ-TV's webstream but it wasn't working for me at work, for whatever reason].
First, all the candidates seemed pretty similar as far as views go.
Rep. Mike Capuano danced a bit on the driver's licenses for illegal aliens and Alan Khazei was the only one to express support for single-payer health care. Otherwise, they are always exactly alike.
Capuano seemed angry, often raising his voice, and not in the good way - showing populist sentiments - but in a bad way, seemingly talking down to people.
If I had a $1 for every time Steve Pagliuca said, "I agree with Mike ..." I could be a co-owner of the Celtics with him. He didn't do anything to hurt his cause but he didn't do anything to help it either.
Khazei was articulate and had a grasp of many of the issues. Some will say he needs to not dominate the debates by talking too much but I don't know.
Martha Coakley seemed relatively solid but stammered on a few issues. She was also the only candidate to acknowledge, during the Afghanistan discussion, that a Mass. soldier had died in the country today. That was a nice touch. While discussing public policy, you know, there are real human beings getting blown away [interestingly, or not so, all four were against more troops being sent to Afghanistan the same night that their future colleague in the Senate, John Kerry, was actually arguing for more troops]. It seems like it is Coakley's to lose.
One of the things that was annoying is the shortness of the debate, about an hour, which limited the question times on the major public policy issues of the day to a few seconds. This was just unacceptable. In addition, the moderator, Peter Meade, the former program director at WBZ radio, constantly interrupted the candidates when they should have been at least allowed a few seconds warning to wrap it up.
The big losers were the voters because the rumor is that this will be the only televised debate. There should be more of them maybe even, as Khazei challenged, one a week until Election Day.
After the debate, Jim Braude had a roundtable of guests discussing the results of the debate. Included in the mix was Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral for Khazei, a spokesman for Pagliuca, Republican Ralph Martin II backing Coakley (a Dem), and Marjorie Clapprood backing, of all people, Capuano, the same person she faced off with in the bloody 8th primary of 1998. Maybe she is hoping for another special election for the 8th so she can jump into that one again from her home in Sharon (which is still outside the district).
It was actually shocking to hear Clapprood spout off that the gender of the Senate candidate didn't matter. This from a woman who has used this as a crutch to gain (or attempt to gain) higher office, again and again. She has guilted people into voting for a woman when that woman didn't even live in the district and had no business being in the Congressional race in the first place. But I'm a woman, she roared back in 1998, there are no women from Massachusetts in the Congress. Blah, blah blah as she helped to derail the campaign of Sue Tracy, a competent, smart woman who actually lived in the district.
So, those are some thoughts.

Other reaction: Here is some of the other reactions from a few political reporters.
Jon Keller on WBZ-TV said Khazei came across best, with Coakley doing what she needed to do. He was slightly critical of both Capuano and Pagliuca. Keller was also on Dan Rea's show for a few minutes and was Tweeting with people and reading their comments in a Webcast.
Over on 7, Hiller said Coakley was the big winner and Capuano was the big loser.
David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix has a long post up here: ["Senate Debate, First Impressions"]. "Clear winner in the debate: Scott Brown," he wrote in the opening lines.

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