The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Political Snapshot

Of Springfield 2001

In 2001 Springfield State Representative Paul Caron challenged incumbent Springfield Mayor Michael Albano, running on a reform agenda. The Albanoites defeated Caron in both the primary and the general election, dashing all hopes of avoiding the fiscal meltdown that resulted in Springfield being placed under a state control board. I recently came upon my post-primary analysis from the mayoral primary, which gives a pretty good overview of the Springfield political scene in October, 2001.

Paul Caron with talkshow host Tony Gill in 2004.

The supporters of the Albano Administration were almost giddy with relief last week as Mayor Mike Albano bested State Representative Paul Caron to win the mayoral primary. The Mayor's victory was by a surprisingly wide nine point margin, sufficient to prevent what Albano's supporters feared would be a post-primary stampede to Caron had Albano come in second.

While they would deny it now, the fact is that before the primary Albano supporters were extremely nervous about how well Albano would do. While Albano's victory hardly assures he will win in November (Springfield politics is full of examples of primary winners who lost in the home stretch) Albano's solid victory ensures that he will at least publicly be able to hold his coalition together until Election Day.

While Caron supporters would deny it, the fact is they had hoped to do much better. Caron himself had said that he needed to finish within ten points of Albano to remain viable, a goal he reached with a point to spare, but many observers felt that a much stronger showing, even an outright victory, was within reach.

The difficulty in predicting the outcome stemmed in part from the fact that there is such an overlap in the Albano and Caron camps. Most Albano supporters were also once fans of Caron, indeed many have relationships with Caron that far predate Albano's mayoralty. They were caught by surprise by Caron's late entry into the race, and are extremely uncomfortable with the rivalry that has developed.

This is after all not a race against some Republican they could gleefully revile, or a jokey campaign by someone like Brenda Branchini or the Powell's dog that they could just laugh off. This is Paulie, one of the city's most respected Democrats and an ally in many of the political struggles of the past. How many would stay loyal to Albano once they reached the privacy of the voting booth simply could not be predicted.

The results showed that they stayed onboard where it counted, especially in the sections of the city with a high percentage of minority residents. Albano and Caron split the city's eight wards equally with four apiece, which might suggest a closer final tally than actually resulted. What skewered the results so strongly in Albano's favor is that while Caron won solidly in the outer belt precincts, the inner city wards went for Albano by absurdly lopsided margins. For example, in the heavily Hispanic Ward One, Albano romped to a 1,450 to 309 vote blowout over Caron, garnerning a breathtaking 81% of the vote.

Such incredibly high margins almost look suspicious. You many recall that it was in the Hispanic communities that Albano ran up the huge victory margins in 1995 that gave him his citywide win over Charles V. Ryan. It was also in that part of the city that the scandalous lawsuit-marred election for State Rep between Chris Asselin, Nick Fyntrilakis and Righty Keough occurred a few years later. That election degenerated into a farce with allegations of a wide range of voting irregularities that included charges of dead people going to the polls. One couldn't help but wonder whether those irregularities occurred for the very first time ever in that election, or were reflective of voting fraud practices that had gone on for years.

Some critics went so far as to wonder whether Albano had actually won the 1995 election at all. I remember one public official, talking off the record, telling me at the time, "Frankly, I don't trust any returns coming out of the North End or Mason Square." That may have been just a reflection of cynicism and paranoia, neither of which is ever in short supply in Springfield politics. But if I were Caron, I would assign poll watchers to every single precinct in November.

Write On

In 1995 WHYN flooded the Pioneer Valley with these free promotional three sided pens.

Amherst Stuff

Is this a picture from a local Acid Test? No, just an ad for an Amherst play.

Amherst writer Mary Carey was in Denver the other day and took this picture of the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining.

Is that a Safeway there on the left? Who knew safety was so close at hand when they were trying to get away from Jack Nicholson!