Tuesday, September 16 is primary day here in Massachusetts -- for state offices, at least. In a heavily Democratic state like MA, primary day is basically election day. The same was true when I lived in Washington, DC. Once Fenty secured the Democratic nomination for mayor, he more or less sailed into office.
This is the first election cycle I'll vote in up here with any real knowledge of the community and the political cast of characters at hand. Last year I voted in MA as a very, very new resident. This time around I feel much savvier as a Somerville voter, and there's one race in particular I've been following closely -- that of Carl Sciortino versus Bob Trane for my state rep.
Carl is the only openly gay male legislator in the State House. Bob is a longtime alderman in my town. Carl had some trouble getting back on the ballot and is now running a write-in campaign. Bob is running is sideshow version of the "change" campaign.
I have to say as much as I now understand the importance of primary day in largely one-party places, I'm still getting used to the idea that one Democrat would challenge another for re-election when the two don't seem to be all that different on the issues and when the incumbent hasn't done anything wrong worth challenging.
Guess I forgot about power.
For the past four years, Carl Sciortino has advocated strongly for the communities he serves, channeling state funding for education, after school programs, senior housing, and the extension of one of the train lines into Somerville/Medford that has been many, many years in the making, to name a few of his accomplishments.
Meanwhile, Carl has also been a strong defender of marriage equality in the state and is currently the lead sponsor of a bill to add gender identity protections to Massachusetts' existing non-discrimination laws (an omission to the original non-discrimination laws passed ten years ago that certain advocates of incrementalism would have us forget).
He seems to be well-liked in the community and has had no major gaffes, ethics scandals or the like that I've come across to warrant his now standing in the cross hairs of an unlikely political opponent -- a longtime alderman in one of the communities Carl represents, someone who was just re-elected to his current position last fall -- the one and only Bob Trane.
Trane's campaign mailers read something like this:
- Bob Trane is a lifelong resident of the community.
- Bob Trane isn't owned by anybody.
- Bob Trane will bring change to Beacon Hill.
- Bob Trane doesn't play politics as usual.
In the world of "call-and-response" communications, these messages are Bob's calls. The implied responses?
- Carl Sciortino is an outsider and a transplant.
- Carl Sciortino is owned by "special interest" groups.
- Carl Sciortino is part of the establishment.
- Carl Sciortino does what he's told.
All of which is a bunch of hooey.
Carl went to college in the area and decided to put down roots because he cares about the community and its residents a great deal. Carl is associated with groups of organized folks who have good reason to get together to advance a political cause. He's endorsed by the likes of teachers, nurses, neighborhood associations, environmentalists, LGBT people and more. We're not talking Viacom or Big Oil here. Carl's been in the House for just four years (during which time he's accomplished a considerable amount, I might add). If that makes you a part of the establishment, then perhaps we should change our election cycles to every three months!
Carl's been an advocate for the communities he represents and has the accomplishments to prove it.
Clearly Trane is trying to capitalize, albeit obliquely, on the Obama-driven season of "change", believing (as does John McCain) that if you package whatever junk you're selling in a shiny CHANGE wrapper and put a smile on your face, you're giving people the real thing. The residents of Somerville and Medford are smarter than that.
The worst part about Trane's campaign, however, is the insinuation that Carl isn't "local" enough to be a state rep. Will someone please tell me what that means. From my understanding, Carl has lived in the area for 10 or so years. Given his age that's roughly a third of his life. After being elected, he moved from Somerville to Medford to be in the town that covers more of his district. He's made no insinuations of shifting careers or positions anytime soon, unlike Trane, who apparently likes to run for office each year.
And then there's the charge that because Carl works on issues that matter to all Bay Staters -- like health care reform, marriage equality, the environment, educational testing and more -- that he's somehow not paying enough attention to the issues at home. Well, being a state rep implies responsibilities beyond your own backyard. That's how legislatures work. Personally I like the idea of having a state rep who is responsible for making my whole state better. And, yes, I'm proud that the one openly gay man serving in the MA legislature right now is my rep.
Trane might "support" marriage equality. He might even support transgender protections. He doesn't say much about positions he might take. From the tone of his campaign, you'd think he believes that government shouldn't have a say in these matters to begin with. Too bad that's not that world we live in. I want a rep who understands the impact government can and should have on issues that matter to those of us whose lives are affected not just by the quality of the drinking water in our own neighborhoods but by the use of policy to shape our very personal lives.
As an openly gay man and a staunch defender of the LGBT community, Carl is an open door to LGBT people in the state -- in his district and beyond. And there's nothing wrong or undemocratic about that. To me, local is just as much defined by geography as it is by self. I'm a resident of Somerville. I want a rep who brings resources and good policy to my community. But I'm also a gay man in a state and country that regulates my life based on whom I'm attracted to. I want a rep who understands that and values that, too.
So spare us, Bob Trane, your local credentials. Show me one way that Carl Sciortino has short-changed Somerville and Medford on the bread-and-butter issues you give singular credence to, and I'll give him a second thought. Tell me that you understand your role as a state representative to extend beyond making sure my telephone wires stay connected, and I might give you a second thought, as well.
Primary Day in Massachusetts is Tuesday, September 16. If you live in Massachusetts, make sure you vote! Click here to find out your voter information.