Ross Defeats Smulowitz 15,893 to 9,819

Ross Wins!

Lack of Democratic Support and Divisive Primary Costs Smulowitz

Richard Ross defeated progressive newcomer Peter Smulowitz by a decisive margin.

In the best of circumstances this was going to be a tough election for Democrats to win. The sourthern part of the district is heavily Republican. Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley here by margins of 4-1 in many places. Had the Democracts been behind Smulowitz – it would have been possible to win with a lot of hard work.

Election Results
Ross Smulowitz
Needham 2717 2495
Natick 806 986
Millis 1553 987
Franklin 736 287
Sherborn 712 615
Wrentham 1897 308
Norfolk 1480 419
Plainville 896 208
N. Attle. 2249 612
Attleboro 1067 516
Wellesley 585 733
Wayland 1195 1747

But in the aftermath of a divisive primary, Lida Harkins, a deafeated Democratic incumbent refused to endorse Smulowitz and the entire Needham Democratic establishment followed suit. By failing to support Smulowitz, the Massachusetts Democratic party virtually handed the Senate seat to Ross. It seems they would rather see an incumbent Republican take the seat than an independent progressive candidate.

Ross won all of the towns in the southern part of the district by wide margins, all Republican areas. To win Smulowitz needed to carry the Democratic towns in the Northern part of the district, like Needham, Wellesley, Natick and Wayland, by wide margins. He won three of them by narrow margins.

Most surprising, Ross won Needham, a very Democratic area. Had Harkins and the Needham selectment supported Smulowitz the result in Needham would surely have been very different. For the most part, Needham Democrats stayed home. Turnout was low. Democratic voters were turned off by political infighting and pettiness.

The results of this failure will be far reaching for the Democratic Party statewide.

First, they have handed the national Republicans tomorrow’s big story. This Senate seat, formerly held by new congressional super-star Scott Brown, went Red again, and by a wider margin. They will spin this story as Massachusetts is making a sharp turn to the right, and repudiating President Obama.

Those in the area know the truth is much different – this is all about local political infighting, and bruised egos. But the national story will gloss over all that.

Second, the Massachusetts Democratic Party has shown it really doesn’t care about its progressive voters. Democrats in the district chose a new direction for the Democratic party here – rejecting a long term incumbent – tainted by questionable campaign contributions – in favor of a new more progressive candidate. And the Democratic Party rejected the choice of its members here. Smulowitz got almost zero support from the state party, and its leaders. All the support was from a statewide grassroots network of progressive activists.

The question for the party now – where will these activists go? Will they really turn out for incumbent party Democrats who have abandoned them? Massachusetts progressives are looking at a state party who is cutting local aid to schools, and promoting casinos and slot machines. We have three speakers in a row indicted and a bunch more legislators jailed in the last few years.

Maybe the Democratic Party just doesn’t care. “Where are the progressives going to go after all?” Said one progressive activist:

“We’re the ones who always come out to help win elections. They count on us to work for their candidates. We were out here all week trying to make this happen. And when we really needed them, they didn’t do anything. I’ll always be a progressive, I’m just not sure if the Democratic Party still represents me.”

Governor Deval Patrick is deeply unpopular in the state right now, but he’s counting on a base of 35% of Democrats who will vote for him over Cahill or Baker no matter what – true hardcore progressives. But his lack of support for Smulowitz has alienated the kinds of key activists he is going to need to turn out Democratic voters in November. They will probably focus their energies exclusively on true progressive candidates now.

Who Benefits?

  • The state Republican Party. They have momentum now, and a national story. It’s going to be much easier to raise money from out of state, and to energize Republican activists.
  • Progressive Democrats like Mac D’Alessandro, who is challenging Rep. Lynch, Charles Rudnick, challenging incumbent Democratic State Sen. Cindy Creem.
  • John O’Leary, Republican running against Selectmen Denise Garlick and Jerry Wasserman. None of the Needham selectmen endorsed Smulowitz. Payback may have been a bitch to Smulowitz now, but the progressive Smulowitz supporters in Needham may now decide not to come out for them. Divisions among Needham Democrats will benefit Republican candidates here.
  • Grace Ross and Jill Stein. Progressives are looking for alternatives. They have some, and are going to be more willing to seriously consider them.

It’s gearing up to be a perfect storm for the Democratic Party in November. Shortsightedness and pettiness now are sowing seeds for the rest of the year.

Update: People have been asking, can anyone still pull papers to challenge Ross in November?

The filing deadline has passed, so no new candidates can enter. But candidates who have already pulled papers can run in November – and there are only three who have active papers – Ross, Harkins and Smulowitz. Ross of course will run again. Harkins has said she will not run again, and Smulowitz is taking some time to think about it. There are efforts by Harkins and Smulowitz supporters to convince their candidate to run again. They have until May 25th to decide.

Update: The Needham Times today asked Lida Harkins who she voted for:

“I’m not telling you that,” Harkins said when the News Service asked her.

Asked if she wanted Smulowitz to lose, Harkins replied, “I really never said that. I said that I was chair of the Democratic Town Committee and that I wasn’t going to endorse a Republican, and I’ve been busy working on other Democratic races.”

I wonder what key Democratic races were happening yesterday that the Needham Democratic Town Committee chairwoman should have been working on? Stay Classy!

30 Comments

  • Almond
    May 12, 2010 - 11:30 am | Permalink

    Reading along; appreciate your comments; I am mulling over what I want to put out there in public forum, but wanted to say your reporting and analysis is the most accurate and relevant on this race. Thanks man.

  • Almond
    May 12, 2010 - 7:30 am | Permalink

    Reading along; appreciate your comments; I am mulling over what I want to put out there in public forum, but wanted to say your reporting and analysis is the most accurate and relevant on this race. Thanks man.

  • PAUL
    May 12, 2010 - 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Good analysis. Only disagree with your statement “Most surprising, Ross won Needham”

    Ross won Needham by 2717 to 2495.

    Scott Brown only lost Needham by 8,147 to 8,161.

  • PAUL
    May 12, 2010 - 11:57 am | Permalink

    Good analysis. Only disagree with your statement “Most surprising, Ross won Needham”

    Ross won Needham by 2717 to 2495.

    Scott Brown only lost Needham by 8,147 to 8,161.

  • foxfire
    May 12, 2010 - 7:44 pm | Permalink

    On what do you base your comment “Smulowitz got zero support from the State Party”? Walsh and his troops were out in the district daily, running phone banks, knocking on doors, and soliciting by email. That looks like support to me. It’s true that many of the sitting Reps and Senators didn’t help, but I suppose after Peter showed up at the State Committee and essentially tarnished them with the same broad corruption brush, why would they? But to suggest that the Party apparatus did not work on hard on Peter’s campaign is just false. There was just no way to overcome a significant turnout for Ross in N. Attleboro and other southern towns. And the Needham part of the story actually follows conventional wisdom– negative campaigning keeps people home.

    • May 12, 2010 - 9:53 pm | Permalink

      I may have gotten some of this a little wrong and I take your point. I’ve heard from some people that John Walsh was indeed out there working hard on this campaign. And I’ve heard about efforts from different Democratic committees around the state that did get their members out to do calling for Smulowitz.

      But my main point stands. Smulowitz didn’t get a “Democratic Unity Event”. DiDomenico, who was running against a no name, no money, no web site symbolic challenger got a unity event attended by Governor Patrick, Lt. Gov. Murray, Sen. Pres. Therese Murray, and a ton of legislators. Patrick gave a long and impassioned speech endorsing DiDomenico.

      What did Smulowitz hear? Crickets.

      I’ve heard the argument that maybe Patrick was told to stay away because an appearance by Patrick would have hurt him. That is baloney. I don’t have positive confirmation from Smulowitz about this – but I really doubt it.

      Smulowitz was not running as a centrist conservative Dem who was trying to steal a few conservative votes from Ross. He was running as a progressive appealing to the left side of Dem. voters. The kind of people who would have been turned off by a Patrick endorsement were going to vote for Ross no matter what.

      An endorsement by Therese Murray would have gone a long way too. She is Senate President – and Smuly was running for senate. A statement by her saying that she was looking forward to working with him would have helped him.

      I’ve heard the argument that a unity event could not happen because it would have needed Lida’s support in the Needham Democratic Town Committee. Again baloney. They could have held it without her – and if not, Patrick and Murray could have showed up in Needham for a photo op and written an endorsement and mailed it to Smulowitz. That didn’t happen.

      No amount of spin is going to convince the thousands of progressive supporters who gave their time and money over the last several weeks that this is “normal”

      I’ve spoken to a bunch of them and bottom line they are pissed off. Maybe it was just due to some disorganization in the party, maybe it was an oversight or an accident. But either way – the perception among these activists is real – by accident or on purpose the party failed them.

  • foxfire
    May 12, 2010 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

    On what do you base your comment “Smulowitz got zero support from the State Party”? Walsh and his troops were out in the district daily, running phone banks, knocking on doors, and soliciting by email. That looks like support to me. It’s true that many of the sitting Reps and Senators didn’t help, but I suppose after Peter showed up at the State Committee and essentially tarnished them with the same broad corruption brush, why would they? But to suggest that the Party apparatus did not work on hard on Peter’s campaign is just false. There was just no way to overcome a significant turnout for Ross in N. Attleboro and other southern towns. And the Needham part of the story actually follows conventional wisdom– negative campaigning keeps people home.

    • May 12, 2010 - 5:53 pm | Permalink

      I may have gotten some of this a little wrong and I take your point. I’ve heard from some people that John Walsh was indeed out there working hard on this campaign. And I’ve heard about efforts from different Democratic committees around the state that did get their members out to do calling for Smulowitz.

      But my main point stands. Smulowitz didn’t get a “Democratic Unity Event”. DiDomenico, who was running against a no name, no money, no web site symbolic challenger got a unity event attended by Governor Patrick, Lt. Gov. Murray, Sen. Pres. Therese Murray, and a ton of legislators. Patrick gave a long and impassioned speech endorsing DiDomenico.

      What did Smulowitz hear? Crickets.

      I’ve heard the argument that maybe Patrick was told to stay away because an appearance by Patrick would have hurt him. That is baloney. I don’t have positive confirmation from Smulowitz about this – but I really doubt it.

      Smulowitz was not running as a centrist conservative Dem who was trying to steal a few conservative votes from Ross. He was running as a progressive appealing to the left side of Dem. voters. The kind of people who would have been turned off by a Patrick endorsement were going to vote for Ross no matter what.

      An endorsement by Therese Murray would have gone a long way too. She is Senate President – and Smuly was running for senate. A statement by her saying that she was looking forward to working with him would have helped him.

      I’ve heard the argument that a unity event could not happen because it would have needed Lida’s support in the Needham Democratic Town Committee. Again baloney. They could have held it without her – and if not, Patrick and Murray could have showed up in Needham for a photo op and written an endorsement and mailed it to Smulowitz. That didn’t happen.

      No amount of spin is going to convince the thousands of progressive supporters who gave their time and money over the last several weeks that this is “normal”

      I’ve spoken to a bunch of them and bottom line they are pissed off. Maybe it was just due to some disorganization in the party, maybe it was an oversight or an accident. But either way – the perception among these activists is real – by accident or on purpose the party failed them.

  • peaches
    May 13, 2010 - 3:05 am | Permalink

    A 6000 vote loss can’t be laid at the feet of the Needham Democrats. There weren’t even that many Needham voters this time around. That’s just ridiculous.

  • peaches
    May 12, 2010 - 11:05 pm | Permalink

    A 6000 vote loss can’t be laid at the feet of the Needham Democrats. There weren’t even that many Needham voters this time around. That’s just ridiculous.

  • foxfire
    May 13, 2010 - 6:44 pm | Permalink

    It is truly sad that the so-called Progressives are pissed about the loss, or that they feel the Party failed them. But the bottom line is that any election victory or loss needs to first be laid at the feet of the candidates in the race. Instead of blaming the Governor or the “Centrists” or Harkins supporters or some other outside forces, they should first look to their own candidate who they supported so unabashedly. At best, he clearly was unable to make his case in the Southern part of the district (where he lost N Attleboro nearly 4 to 1). At worst, it was his own decisions, to go negative and do so in such a scorched earth way, that kept so many voters home. You can argue that is argument was legitimate, and it’s been argued here before that it wasn’t truthful, but in the end, Peter himself made the choice to take that tactic. As a Progressive myself, I don’t think those kinds of tactics represent Democratic values. That’s why I (and so many other Democrats who WEREN’T affiliated with the Harkins campaign or the Party established) did not vote for Peter. While casting about fo someone to blame, the so-called Progressives should take a good hard look at living up to their own values.

    • Almond
      May 13, 2010 - 9:17 pm | Permalink

      “The Progressives” don’t have a party structure and a committee and resources and a chair. It IS of relevance and interest–how a Town Committee chair conducts herself vis-a-vis the candidate from that Committee.

      “THe Progressives” do not speak with one voice; neither do “The Democrats”. But the Chair of the Committee does have a bullypulpit and she used it to undermine the democratic candidate: at best, by keeping entirely out of it. At worst: by actively continuing to agitate her supporters, exaggerate and amplify her grievances, not so subtly lending her support to the Republican candidate, talking supporters out of voting for Smulowitz.

      That’s a big thumbs down for Harkins. Smulowitz got his thumbs down from the voters and so be it.

      What will be her strategy, as Democratic Town Committee chair, when this race goes to Round 2 in November? Will she stay out of the race then? Will she continue to shadow-campaign for Ross? Will she lend Smulowitz support (if he runs)?

      • foxfire
        May 14, 2010 - 3:39 pm | Permalink

        You really don’t seem to understand how Town Committees work in general, or the Needham DTC specifically, if you think that Lida has any kind of “bully pulpit” as Chair. Needham Democrats, as free thinking voters and activists (who, as Democrats don’t belong to an organized party) made their own choices. Even the Executive Cmte was split– some voted for Peter, some worked for him, some stayed home. I am not aware of Lida “continuing to agitiate” or for that matter even speaking to anyone about their vote or their support for or against Peter. Perhaps the quote in the press were ill-chosen or bitter, but that’s a long way from “agitating.” If you have any facts to back up your opinions of what happened in Needham or elsewhere in the District, I’d love to see them.

      • Almond
        May 14, 2010 - 8:27 pm | Permalink

        Hey foxfire, you’re probably right that I do not have a clear understanding of how these things work. I haven’t been much a part of the DTC. Right now I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of the DTC, it’s so dysfunctional. It doesn’t seem very welcoming, either.

        I didn’t intend to imply that people were told how to vote by Lida. Still, you know as well as I do that her position is one of leadership. She has powerful networks, and different behavior and words from her could have softened the blow and changed minds. Many people were withholding their votes out of anger on her behalf (I’m sure you were doing it out of disgust with Smulowitz’s choice of words (“pocketed cash”) pure and simple, and it had nothing to do with your relationship with Lida, so you don’t need to reply with that). Like the lady who was quoted in the Needham Times about how “she loves Lida” and that’s why she couldn’t vote for Peter. If the story had been out there that Lida was no longer angry, just keeping mum, this would have made things different for some voters (no, not all of them, probably not you, no need to reply with that comment either).

        I know Lida is not a stupid person, and I know that she understands the power of her influence, and that what she says to some people gets around, and what she doesn’t say has meaning too.

        As for facts to share with you–How can I provide you with the whisper record and the transcripts of the worried/anxious phone conversations?

  • foxfire
    May 13, 2010 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

    It is truly sad that the so-called Progressives are pissed about the loss, or that they feel the Party failed them. But the bottom line is that any election victory or loss needs to first be laid at the feet of the candidates in the race. Instead of blaming the Governor or the “Centrists” or Harkins supporters or some other outside forces, they should first look to their own candidate who they supported so unabashedly. At best, he clearly was unable to make his case in the Southern part of the district (where he lost N Attleboro nearly 4 to 1). At worst, it was his own decisions, to go negative and do so in such a scorched earth way, that kept so many voters home. You can argue that is argument was legitimate, and it’s been argued here before that it wasn’t truthful, but in the end, Peter himself made the choice to take that tactic. As a Progressive myself, I don’t think those kinds of tactics represent Democratic values. That’s why I (and so many other Democrats who WEREN’T affiliated with the Harkins campaign or the Party established) did not vote for Peter. While casting about fo someone to blame, the so-called Progressives should take a good hard look at living up to their own values.

    • Almond
      May 13, 2010 - 5:17 pm | Permalink

      “The Progressives” don’t have a party structure and a committee and resources and a chair. It IS of relevance and interest–how a Town Committee chair conducts herself vis-a-vis the candidate from that Committee.

      “THe Progressives” do not speak with one voice; neither do “The Democrats”. But the Chair of the Committee does have a bullypulpit and she used it to undermine the democratic candidate: at best, by keeping entirely out of it. At worst: by actively continuing to agitate her supporters, exaggerate and amplify her grievances, not so subtly lending her support to the Republican candidate, talking supporters out of voting for Smulowitz.

      That’s a big thumbs down for Harkins. Smulowitz got his thumbs down from the voters and so be it.

      What will be her strategy, as Democratic Town Committee chair, when this race goes to Round 2 in November? Will she stay out of the race then? Will she continue to shadow-campaign for Ross? Will she lend Smulowitz support (if he runs)?

      • foxfire
        May 14, 2010 - 11:39 am | Permalink

        You really don’t seem to understand how Town Committees work in general, or the Needham DTC specifically, if you think that Lida has any kind of “bully pulpit” as Chair. Needham Democrats, as free thinking voters and activists (who, as Democrats don’t belong to an organized party) made their own choices. Even the Executive Cmte was split– some voted for Peter, some worked for him, some stayed home. I am not aware of Lida “continuing to agitiate” or for that matter even speaking to anyone about their vote or their support for or against Peter. Perhaps the quote in the press were ill-chosen or bitter, but that’s a long way from “agitating.” If you have any facts to back up your opinions of what happened in Needham or elsewhere in the District, I’d love to see them.

      • Almond
        May 14, 2010 - 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Hey foxfire, you’re probably right that I do not have a clear understanding of how these things work. I haven’t been much a part of the DTC. Right now I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of the DTC, it’s so dysfunctional. It doesn’t seem very welcoming, either.

        I didn’t intend to imply that people were told how to vote by Lida. Still, you know as well as I do that her position is one of leadership. She has powerful networks, and different behavior and words from her could have softened the blow and changed minds. Many people were withholding their votes out of anger on her behalf (I’m sure you were doing it out of disgust with Smulowitz’s choice of words (“pocketed cash”) pure and simple, and it had nothing to do with your relationship with Lida, so you don’t need to reply with that). Like the lady who was quoted in the Needham Times about how “she loves Lida” and that’s why she couldn’t vote for Peter. If the story had been out there that Lida was no longer angry, just keeping mum, this would have made things different for some voters (no, not all of them, probably not you, no need to reply with that comment either).

        I know Lida is not a stupid person, and I know that she understands the power of her influence, and that what she says to some people gets around, and what she doesn’t say has meaning too.

        As for facts to share with you–How can I provide you with the whisper record and the transcripts of the worried/anxious phone conversations?

  • sylvia
    May 26, 2010 - 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Who writes this site? Your coverage has been so ridiculous and slanted throughout this entire race it is absolutely disgusting. Many people are turned off. Does Peter work there? To suggest Lida is not classy is ludicrous. Get a copy of all Peters fliers (were they classy?), get a tape of him speaking about everything, get an e-mail of him saying how the fliers were a mistake and he never should have sent them and then of him speaking to the press and saying he stands by everything they say, get an interview from one of the many people who saw him sign into Needham town meeting (of which is he an elected member)like he was attending and then saw him walk out the front door. He is a liar and was a poor candidate. You need to do some real reporting and stop being so one sided.

  • sylvia
    May 26, 2010 - 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Who writes this site? Your coverage has been so ridiculous and slanted throughout this entire race it is absolutely disgusting. Many people are turned off. Does Peter work there? To suggest Lida is not classy is ludicrous. Get a copy of all Peters fliers (were they classy?), get a tape of him speaking about everything, get an e-mail of him saying how the fliers were a mistake and he never should have sent them and then of him speaking to the press and saying he stands by everything they say, get an interview from one of the many people who saw him sign into Needham town meeting (of which is he an elected member)like he was attending and then saw him walk out the front door. He is a liar and was a poor candidate. You need to do some real reporting and stop being so one sided.

  • sylvia
    May 27, 2010 - 12:50 am | Permalink

    Does Harmony write for you?

    • May 27, 2010 - 8:05 am | Permalink

      When you asked earlier if Peter worked here I thought you were just joking. Now that you’ve asked about Harmony also I can see that maybe you’re serious.

      No one mentioned in any article writes for this blog.

      But you can write for us if you like. If you want to lay out your case in support of Lida, I’ll post it with your name.

  • sylvia
    May 26, 2010 - 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Does Harmony write for you?

    • May 27, 2010 - 4:05 am | Permalink

      When you asked earlier if Peter worked here I thought you were just joking. Now that you’ve asked about Harmony also I can see that maybe you’re serious.

      No one mentioned in any article writes for this blog.

      But you can write for us if you like. If you want to lay out your case in support of Lida, I’ll post it with your name.

  • sylvia
    May 28, 2010 - 3:46 am | Permalink

    I do not believe you that you have no relationship with Peter. It is comical that you deny it.

  • sylvia
    May 27, 2010 - 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I do not believe you that you have no relationship with Peter. It is comical that you deny it.

  • sylvia
    May 28, 2010 - 10:14 am | Permalink

    You are full of it

  • sylvia
    May 28, 2010 - 6:14 am | Permalink

    You are full of it

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