Thursday, February 02, 2006

"...I can't get over how quickly justice was served..."

In 1978, Gary Trudeau ran a Doonesbury sequence in which Joanie's classmate from Law School, Woodrow, joined the staff of the House ethics committee, and it turned out that he was hired at a salary that was too high. This was rectified, at which point his reaction was "...I can't get over how quickly justice was served."

Well, there's been just a splendid case of karmic justice going on in Massachusetts this week. If you're a big supporter of state Attorney General Tom Reilly, I suppose it hasn't been much fun, but for everyone else, there's been the kind of reward for naked cynical political opportunism that most of us really enjoy seeing. And it's happened at an outstanding rate, basically a sitcom rate, where someone does something wrong, and gets his comeuppance in the span of 22 1/2 minutes.

A little background, for those outside the state. Massachusetts is one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country. The entire 11 member congressional delegation is Democratic, the Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature, the court system is reliably liberal, etc. The major newspaper in the state is the Boston Globe. But in one of the strangest political phenomena of the recent past, the Republican party has held the Governor's office for 16 years, winning four consecutive elections. This has come as a result of a couple of strong Republican candidates, uniformly weak Democratic candidates, and, just perhaps, a fear in some corners of the populace that there needs to be some kind of restraint on the legislature that a Democratic Governor would not exert.

In any event, 2006 is a gubernatorial election year in Massachusetts. The incumbent, Mitt Romney, would be favored (though probably not strongly, the demographics of the state being what they are) if he were running for re-election, but he isn't. So the presumptive Republican nominee is Lt. Governor Kerry Healey. The landscape appeared to be set up to give the Democratic nomination to state Attorney General Tom Reilly. Reilly, who has recently come under fire for phone calls he made, on behalf of a friend and campaign contributor, to a district attorney that may or may not have impeded the investigation into a drunk driving accident, is facing former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary.

Healey, the presumptive Republican candidate, is a woman. Patrick, the primary opponent, is black.

On Tuesday, Reilly shocked the establishment when he chose Massachusetts state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, to run for Lt. Governor as his running mate. (This is not binding on the Democratic convention - the Governor and Lt. Governor candidates are chosen independently.) It was a blatantly cynical ploy, to derive demographic benefit against the black competitor, by choosing a black, and against the female competitor, by choosing a woman. The Boston Globe story on Reilly's choice called her "a rising star in Massachusetts state politics," despite the fact that the vast majority of the Massachusetts population had never heard of Marie St. Fleur before Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, it was front-page news in both papers that St. Fleur "has had three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, including an April 2005 federal tax lien of $12,711 against her and her husband...she also owes $40,000 in delinquent federally backed student loans." Over the course of the day, it turns out that both she and her husband are driving illegally, as their drivers licenses cannot be renewed until they pay the excise tax that they've not paid.

And today, she's withdrawn. Reilly's cynical political opportunism backfired so completely, and so thoroughly, that his chosen running mate lasted fewer than 48 hours. There's a real satisfaction in that for anyone who isn't a big Reilly fan...

Technorati tags: Massachusetts, Governor, Reilly, St.Fleur



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