Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five Candidates Race for the Ted Kennedy Senate Seat

We have ourselves a horse race in the special election here in Massachusetts to replace Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate. Five candidates have qualified for the race. Four Democrats are racing for the next 6 weeks to a primary election on December 8, the winner of which will face the one Republican in a general election 6 weeks later on January 19.

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is the odds-on favorite in early polling (everyone remembers voting her in as AG a couple of years back). As the only woman in the race, she is looking to Emily’s List to make her the 16th woman it has helped the Democratic Party elect to the U.S. Senate. Her reluctant stance on the federal economic stimulus and the health care public option (she says she's in favor, but ...) makes her the most conservative candidate in the race. Martha represents the Max Baucus wing of the Democratic Party.

Congressman Mike Capuano is the other party establishment candidate in the race. He’s running as the liberal’s liberal and the workingman’s workingman. He’s touting the largess he has brought back to his Congressional District (by counting the massive cost overruns on the Big Dig project, I suspect) and his service as Barney Frank’s first lieutenant on the House Financial Services Committee (how’d that work out for us?). Mike represents the Nancy Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party.

City Year Cofounder Alan Khazei is the dark horse in the race. The youngest candidate at age 48, he has never held elective office but has spent his life in public service since starting the much-admired City Year youth service program in 1988 (the signature red jackets are well known around the Metro-Boston area). As such he has perhaps the best claim to the Ted Kennedy mantle. Alan represents the Obama wing and Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

Businessman Steve Pagliuca is the trojan horse in the race. He made $400 million at Bain Capital and as a coowner of the Boston Celtics NBA basketball team and is said to be willing to spend $20 million of that on the race. He’ll have some big name political consultants and the most TV ad time, but with the bailouts this is probably not the year for a businessman. I look for him to top out at 10% to 15% and finish in fourth place out of the money. Steve represents the big business wing of the Democratic Party (if you didn’t know it had one, think back to Ted’s father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr.).

State Senator Scott Brown is the Republican stalking horse in the race. He currently serves as one of only five Republicans in the Massachusetts State Senate. With no competition on December 8, he goes straight to the January 19 general election. He appeared semi-nude in the June 1982 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine after winning its “America’s Sexiest Man” contest. His daughter Alya went two rounds on American Idol in 2006. Scott represents the “not your father’s Republican” wing of the party.

The RNC would dig up Abe Lincoln if they could to win Ted Kennedy’s seat from the Democrats, so you’ll know if Scott has any chance by whether the Republican Party floods his campaign with money in December. But they won’t risk their high hopes for November 2010 by making a fight out of a losing cause in January. If Scott has an empty stocking at Christmas, you’ll know he has no chance.

My money is on the dark horse candidate Alan Khazei. Many Massachusetts political insiders have made the mistake of writing him off as a long shot. A long shot has little or no chance of winning. A dark horse hasn’t run before so no one has enough information to compute the true odds. I have seen Alan and his campaign staff and volunteers out on the campaign trail, and he is no long shot. He is the candidate to watch.

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