Authorities point to Attorney General Tom Reilly as the de facto Democrat nominee for governor to go against the well-heeled Kerry Healey now toiling as Mitt Romney’s understudy. Reilly knows the first rule of good campaigning: He has a pile of cash to plow into media buys.
But Reilly has had a rough couple of weeks. A while ago he was embroiled in a teenage drunken driving crash resulting in the fatalities of two teenage sisters. He happens to be friends with the family and sought to have the records kept from the media. Through some shoddy reporting, this was depicted as him wanting to squash the investigation. As is the case anytime the media makes a mistake, the correction to the front page story gets buried somewhere else in the paper.
Who among us would not seek to help a family friend in a time of incredible grief? On this one it seems Reilly deserves a hall pass. He showed his human side.
On his latest move, however, old Tom comes off as both politically cynical and politically inept. His lieutenant governor selection looks to be a blunder of epic proportions. On the verge of picking well-heeled, albeit self-made democrat Christopher Gabrieli, Reilly veered in the exact opposite direction. He took the advice of Boston Mayor “Mumbles” Menino of all people and selected State Rep. Marie St. Fleur.
From rich white guy to poor black woman in one fell swoop. Indeed, the papers suggest he did this about face in all of about 24 hours. As such, it does not appear that Reilly did the appropriate vetting of his candidate, which happens to be incredibly stupid. With all his campaign cash, he hasn’t got a consultant on board to whom he will listen about such stuff? Everyone said this was Reilly’s decision, which should worry the electorate quite a bit.
No sooner had the campaign posters been printed than it came to be known that 43-year-old St. Fleur owes $40,000 on student loans and another $12,000 and change in three delinquent tax debts in the last four years.
Reilly undoubtedly saw a homerun in contrasting the affluent Healey to his hardscrabble upbringing in Springfield and St. Fleur’s in Dorchester as a Haitian immigrant. Indeed, Reilly hammered away at the notion that their upbringings will allow them to understand the concerns of “regular, ordinary people of Massachusetts,” which is a not so subtle slap at the wealthy Ms. Healey.
While class warfare has become quite popular in Democratic rhetoric, the bet here is that St. Fleur’s selection will backfire. The ordinary people of Massachusetts pay their bills. The ordinary people of Massachusetts pay their taxes, albeit grudgingly. The ordinary people of Massachusetts do not seek government backed loans only to default on them.
Apologists will undoubtedly opine about how difficult it has been for Ms. St. Fleur and how all of this is understandable. It is not understandable to the ordinary people of Massachusetts. While they may not like a “rule,” the ordinary people of Massachusetts play by them, and seek through statewide referendum to change said rules.
That the Democrat majority in the Legislature has ignored the specific requests of several citizen petitions enacted over the years galls the ordinary people of Massachusetts. Having an individual who defaulted on such obligations as the bearer of standards seems to be more than even the ordinary people of Massachusetts will swallow.
If only we, the people of Massachusetts, could figure out that democrats having veto proof majorities in both chambers neuters a governor, we might be able to get back to two-party rule. As it is, it would appear that the more Reilly acts, the better the chances of keeping the governor’s office in Republican control, as he is the best thing going for Kerry Healey at the moment.
Editor’s note: This column was intended to be published Feb. 3, before the Democratic caucus. It was delayed by an editorial glitch.
Mr. Woollacott is president and founder of Renaissance Group International Inc., a market research and consulting firm focusing on the information technology market. Contact him directly at email@example.com.