Cape Ann Dem

Welcome to the blog of one (or more) Cape Ann Democrats. This blog is intended to cover topics of interest to residents of the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts, particularly in the political arena. Among the organizations that will be covered here are the local Democratic commitees, the First Essex and Middlesex Democratic coalition, the Cape Ann Progressive Democrats, and St. Johns Episcopal Church in Gloucester.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Gloucester Political Update

With nomination papers due on Tuesday, the races for City Council, Mayor, and School Committee are moving into full swing.

Thursday's paper brought the news of one candidate dropping out. Douglas MacArthur won't be running for an at-large seat on the City Council. This leaves six candidates for the four spots, with only two incumbents among the group. Otherwise, the candidate list hasn't changed, and there are only races in three of the five council districts. At the moment, the only preliminaries will be for Ward 1 Council and for Mayor.

The School Committee race hasn't gotten much press lately. As I noted before, the progressive side of Gloucester was in search of a candidate. It got to the point a week ago that your correspondent took out papers to run. Fortunately for my sanity, we've got someone to step forward; once he's a confimed candidate, I'll let him talk about the race.

Gloucester's Sidewalk Bazaar (why does everyone pronounce it Bizarre?) was last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and there was a fair political presence mixed in with the retailers, community organizations, food stands, and entertainment on Main Street. I spent some time at the booths of the Democratic City Committee and my church. One observation: people don't talk much about politics when it is very hot. They want to get their shopping done and get out of the sun.

More importantly, the single-most important issue that came up in listening to the folks who came to our booth is health care. People believe that the system doesn't work for them. While health care reform has always been a major issue of mine, I think that we're approaching a spot where the public officials who address health care effectively have a real opportunity. More importantly, this is a real grass-roots opening to change the system. If people come together, they can really push something through. That's why I like the work going on around the ballot initiative for next fall. The petition drive that will go on this fall will start to build a coalition to address the problem, either through the legislature or through the ballot box.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Help! We need a School Committee Candidate

I’ve been posting news about the upcoming Gloucester elections for some time now as an interested observer. Now I’m trying to help make the news.

Friday’s paper brought the announcement that four-term member Michael Faherty will not be running for re-election. This means that there are two vacancies out of the six elected committee spots (the mayor is the seventh). While there are three challengers for the seats, one is running as a clear conservative, and neither of the other two has made a strong impression.

So we need a candidate, before the August 16 filing deadline. We’re recruiting, but it’s a rather thankless job.

Part of the problem is that the School Committee is not ground zero for the issues facing Gloucester schools. Because the main issue is money, the real fight is at the City Council level. For example, the recently-passed state budget contained extra money in the Chapter 70 program. Chapter 70 is the major school-aid program, but each city and town is free to use the money elsewhere, as long as minimum standards are met. Since this money was not tied down, the conservative majority on the City Council decided not to use this money on schools, but rather to substitute for what they saw as shaky revenue estimates in the original budget.

So this means that the people who really want to make a difference in the city are running for City Council, because a moderate/progressive majority there could make a real difference in the schools.

So, my wife asks me, why don’t I run? That's a scary thought, mostly because I think that a lot of other people could do a better job in elected office than I can. But who knows? Stay tuned for more.

And if you know any progressives in Gloucester who want to run for School Committee...

Door-to-door Democrats

Last Sunday’s Boston Globe North regional section contained an article talking about a project that I’ve been involved with in Gloucester for a couple of years now. The Democratic City Committee has been going door-to-door to talk with unenrolled voters about becoming Democrats.

Why are we doing this?

''We think this is absolutely essential if the Democratic Party is to regain power in Massachusetts," said city committee chairwoman Catherine Bayliss, noting that the state has been without a Democratic governor for 15 years.

Bayliss, who is also a Democratic State Committee member, said the city committee came up with its canvassing strategy after the 2002 governor's race.

''We were concerned when Gloucester went for [Mitt] Romney," she said. ''We began looking at the huge number of unenrolled voters in Gloucester." Of the city's 19,639 registered voters, 59 percent are unenrolled. Democrats account for 28 percent, Republicans 12 percent, and smaller parties a combined 1 percent.

What does it take? We get the voter lists from the city clerk’s office, organize them by neighborhood, and then send people out. We do some practice for first-time volunteers, and a follow-up for people to share the lessons that they have learned.

There’s some indication that the Democratic Party is moving towards this kind of strategy statewide. The Victory 2006 campaign will be oriented around door-to-door identification of voters in neighborhoods, with the intention of targeting the undecided voters next fall.

I think that this is absolutely the right way to be doing things. The big-budget media campaigns almost always work to the advantage of the Republicans, because they normally have more money and their message plays much better in the media environment. We have an opportunity to put a local face on politics, and create an attachment to a political party that is based on more than media ads. I know people who voted Democratic because they knew me (even if I sometimes had to tell them who the Democrat was in each race). If we can replicate that model with under 20 voters in each precinct throughout the state, the Democrats win the governor’s office again.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

More Gloucester Candidates

Three more candidates for Gloucester offices took out papers late this week, following my rundown on Wednesday.

Most importantly, Robin Hubbard announced for mayor. This would set up a preliminary election on October 4 city-wide. Hubbard is best remembered for her challenge to Mayor Tobey in 1999, and probably will have the support of the conservative leaders of the city. I suspect that Mayor Bell has been expecting this challenge, whether from Hubbard or one of the other leaders of the anti-tax, anti-government set.

In Ward 3, the previous incumbent wants his job back. City Council President Jim Destino didn't run two years ago for family reasons, only to watch one of his council rivals take the seat. While Jeff Worthley and Destino are both on the conservative side of the council politically, they are stylistically much different. With a third announced candidate, there would also be a preliminary election here.

Finally, the School Committee race got its sixth candidate (for the six seats) as Gerald Mahieu took out papers. The article in the paper presents two campaign positions: supporting the teachers and pushing to teach creationism in the middle school. OK.

More news as it develops.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Sorry, Deval, I wasn't home

Deval Patrick talks by phone with bloggers. Or at least some of us.

Lynne of Left in Lowell admits to missing out because she can't keep up with her e-mail.
Well, me too, Lynne. One of the many items that came in while I was away on my honeymoon was the invitation to talk with Patrick. Like Lynne, I intend to get back to the campaign soon and set up a conversation.

Blue Mass Group (each member) talks about their hald hour here, here, here, and here.
Sco of .08 Acres and a Donkey runs down his discussion here.

I give the Patrick campaign a lot of credit for doing this, and the candidate a lot of credit for making this part of his time. Unlike traditional media, where the campaign pretty much knows the questions going in, it's possible that one of us bloggers could pose a really challenging question based on our own knowledge or interests. (I can be every bit as technical as Charley from BMG when it comes to health care financing issues, but I don't think that would be the best use of my time with Patrick.)

I like what I'm seeing from this campaign. My instincts tell me to stay the course, and work to build the Democratic Party organization for the day after the primary. But if this is an indication that this campaign is going to do the things that need to be done to win in November, while the other Democrats take a page from the O'Brien/Harshbarger playbook, then I may be convinced to join the team.

Gloucester city candidates, latest update

The week after Independence Day has brought a lot of changes to the landscape for the fall municipal elections in Gloucester. The Gloucester Daily Times has run several stories recently.

After three decades, Khambaty to leave city politics (at-large councillor retires)
Tobey bids for political comeback (former mayor running for at-large council)
Normand seeks 20th year on committee (one school committee incumbent in...)
Gross to leave School Committee (...while another one retires)
Council chronology (headlines of stories since January on council races)

Note that the Gloucester Daily Times links survive for a week before disappearing into cyberdust.

On the School Committee side, there are 4 announced incumbents, 1 retiring incumbent, and 1 unstated incumbent, to go with a single challenger. This means potentially an empty seat if Michael Faherty decides not to run again. The School Committee has not had a happy lot in recent years, coping with severe budgetary limitations imposed by the mayor and council, and has rarely had a surplus of candidates to take on the task.

The at-large City Council race is clearly going to be the most visible in Gloucester. There are five challengers joining two incumbents for the four spots. Significantly, all five challengers supported the mayor in his recent battle with the council majority. At face value, their election would swing the council to the mayor’s position on at least this one issue. It is less clear that a solid 5-4 majority could be established on a permanent basis, in order to elect a new council president and set a new direction for the budget process.

Three ward races also have the potential to affect the balance on the council. Ward 1 will be the most crowded. With three candidates in the race, this is currently the only seat that would require a preliminary election in October. It also pits two incumbents from opposite sides of the council, as Dean Harrison steps down from his city-wide seat to run against Joe Ciolino in a race with clear philosophical differences. Jason Grow’s progressive challenge for this seat reflects the frustration many school parents have with the city’s undercommitment to education. The assumption is that Ciolino will survive the preliminary, and then face opposition that may be united by their opinions of the incumbent.

Ward 4, with Vito Calomo’s retirement, has only one candidate, Jackie Hardy, who lost to Calomo in the open race last time. She is seen as a supporter of the mayor. In Ward 5 (my own), incumbent Ed St. Peter faces a rematch from Walter Peckham. On a partisan basis, this is the only Democratic versus Republican race (Peckham’s the Democrat).

Last but not least, no challenger has appeared to run against Mayor John Bell, aside from perennial candidate Dan Ruberti. Should one arise, this would require a city-wide preliminary; otherwise only Ward 1 will vote in October. While Bell has had his critics, the progressive bloc is not strong enough to challenge him, and the conservatives seem to prefer to sit around and just vote down the mayor’s proposals rather than building ones of their own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Health Care Initiative Update

I attended the strategy meeting for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization ( last night in South Boston. I won’t say more about the details, as that’s not my place. But some general impressions are in order.

First of all, the health care ballot initiative is for real. The most critical period for the initiative is the period from September to November this fall when signatures are gathered, and the organizing is going ahead for this time period. GBIO is one of about eight partners in the ACT! Campaign (, along with Health Care for All (, Neighbor to Neighbor (, a couple of unions, and others. I’m looking at getting the local Progressive Democrats on board with the process.

Secondly, there are a lot of priorities in the health care reform, access, and affordability area. A few of these are competing priorities, but by and large they are independent of each other. For example, some of the priorities discussed last night are: restoring dental coverage to MassHealth; bringing MassHealth payments to providers up to adequate levels; subsidizing middle-class health insurance; taxing employers who don’t provide coverage; and so forth. None of these are mutually exclusive, but if you make things too complicated, you get an easy target for defeat (remember the Clinton initiative, anyone?)

My question is, what are the issues that can provide a winning majority next fall? One of the real problems with health care is that everyone has a problem with health care. Any initiative that doesn't fix the problem of the average voter is not likely to get his or her vote. So it's not enough to fix the situation of the uninsured, but rather go beyond that. To my mind, this means addressing the affordability issues. Tell the average soccer mom that her premiums are too high, and need to be made more affordable, and she'll agree with you and listen to your proposals. And while you're at it, you can address the issue of making sure the single mom on MassHealth has decent coverage with doctors who are getting paid enough for their work.

The Blue Bishop

As I mentioned a few days ago, our church (St. John’s Episcopal in Gloucester) had an interesting visitor on Sunday. Retired U.S. Representative Amo Houghton visited and gave the sermon. Houghton was one of the last moderate Republicans in Congress, representing central New York state. He is currently serving as an intern in the office of our bishop, Tom Shaw, which is certainly an interesting role for a retired congressman.

What Rep. Houghton had to say inspired me to write this. He talked about his friend, our bishop. And he made an appeal for those of us in the parish to follow the bishop’s leadership and vision. Finally, reading between the lines, I believe that he really thinks that Bishop Shaw’s leadership is needed at the national level.

In order to understand the importance of this, you’ve got to understand something of the structure of the Episcopal Church. It is a blend of the ancient traditions found in the Roman Catholic Church with the democratic impulses found in revolutionary America. Our bishops are elected by representative assemblies. Bishop Shaw, for instance, is the “Bishop of Massachusetts,” which is to say the eastern half of the state. The “presiding bishop” is elected nationally by the bishops at our General Convention and becomes the center of unity for the national church. Unlike the Roman church, this doesn’t give authority over the local bishops, but he or she does become the visible figure to the outside.

As you may know, the Episcopal Church has been affected by the tendency of all Protestant denominations to split. In recent years, the major controversy has been the election and consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, notwithstanding the fact that Robinson is openly gay. A minority of Episcopalians have been extremely vocal in their opposition, including several bishops. At the same time, there has been an extremely strong progressive movement in the church, which would clearly include Bishop Shaw. As is often the case, the moderates in the church hold the balance of power. The support of leaders like Houghton or retired Senator John Danforth (an Episcopal priest) would make the difference between a presiding bishop who can speak for the progressive plurality and one who can speak for the whole church (minus the obligatory dissidents).

The crucial point is that Tom Shaw is a blue bishop if there ever was one. He’s been a strong supporter of many progressive causes, as well as a strong supporter of rebuilding the Episcopal Church in communities that have not heard a strong progressive Christian message in recent years. As presiding bishop, he would become a natural voice for the progressive Christian values and an obvious face for the media to “balance” the right-wing Christians.

The next presiding bishop will be elected by our next General Convention, which is in Columbus, Ohio, starting June 13, 2006. Watch for more updates as it approaches (I may even try to get press credentials and blog from GC, as was recently done for the UCC meeting). And keep an eye out for Bishop Shaw.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Return of the Prodigal

This blog is back in business.

As reported elsewhere, I got married (June 18) and followed it up with 3 weeks of honeymoon/family vacation (my wife has a 12-year old son). So it's been four weeks of family priorities. I'm getting very good at "Yes, dear."

Not that you want to be bored by my vacation details, but one place we found really stands out. It's an animal conservation center (or game preserve, if you prefer) called The Wilds ( in east central Ohio. On reclaimed mining land, there's a "Jurassic Park"-like compound that hosts endangered species from Asia and Africa, along with butterflies and wild birds. If you don't have the money to see rhinos, zebras, musk oxen, antelope, or the like in their native setting, this sure beats a zoo.

Back to more blogging in a day or two. There's been some updates on the city races in Gloucester to report.

Our church, St. John's Episcopal in Gloucester, hosts one of the more unusual church interns on Sunday. Retired Congressman Amo Houghton, a moderate Republican, is an intern in Bishop Tom Shaw's office (returning the favor for the time the bishop spent in D.C.).

Friday, June 03, 2005

Who's Calling the Democrats?

I got another phone call from the Deval Patrick campaign last night. No, not one of the robo-dial calls as described in .08 Acres (and a Donkey). A real call from a campaign staffer/volunteer, following up with me as a delegate to the state convention. This was a change, as I'm used to getting phone calls from the various fundraising arms of the party (DNC, DCCC, DSCC), but it got me thinking.

How come the phone calls only come from the candidates? Think of all the people who attended the convention as a delegate. They've got to be the potential volunteers for all party activity, not just for a particular campaign. But if the only people who are calling and asking for help are the candidates, that's where those potential volunteers are going to go.

So what would you want to be called about? If you were a Democratic delegate in my district, what would you want me to ask you to do? Is it enough just to keep in touch and know that other Democrats are talking about the same issues and problems, or do we need to form concrete activities for people to get involved with?