This blog normally doesn't cover politics, but because of the great interest in who will represent us after Deborah Blumer's death, I decided to post this here. I attended the caucus as an observer, since I am registered as an independent and not a Democrat, although am a registered voter in the district.
Pam Richardson has won the endorsement of the Framingham Democratic Town Committee's caucus today in the contest to replace Rep. Deborah Blumer in the 6th Middlesex District.
Richardson defeated four other candidates seeking the party's official nod: Audrey Hall, Katie Murphy, Wes Ritchie and Tom Hanson.
"I have a campaign ready to go," she said after winning the nod on the caucus's third ballot. She plans a mailing next Friday, she has fundraisers in the works and newspaper ads ready to go.
The endorsement came after five candidates made their pitch to the 182 registered Democrats who attended the hastily put together Sunday caucus at the Cameron Middle School. The caucus was called after Blumer's unexpected death last week.
Despite the endorsement, only Rep. Blumer's name will appear on the ballot since she had been running unopposed, and Secretary of State William Galvin ruled that there wasn't enough time to print up new ballots. The Democratic Town Committee pledged to back the winner of today's caucus in a write-in effort, including paying for a district-wide mailing. A vote for Rep. Blumer on Nov. 7 will not be counted. (more below the fold...)
Richardson said she'd long planned to run for state representative, but expected to do so after Blumer retired 6 or 8 years from now. "This isn't how I envisioned this happening," she said.
The caucus format allowed for 2-minute opening and closing statements, as well as 30-second answers to five questions. A longer written questionnaire was passed out to caucus voters.
Richardson, vice chair of the Framingham School Committee and a member of the Massachusetts Association of School Committee Board of Directors, noted that she has worked on state issues affecting the town, including unfair allocation of state funding for schools and problems with funding charter schools. She pledged to be a full-time legislator if elected (she currently works as a real estate agent). She said she would support expanding health insurance to more people without coverage. She said her top three legislative priorities would be public education, the healthcare initiative and economic development.
Richardson's first "Meet the Candidate Event" is scheduled for Sunday, October 29 from 1 to 3 pm at Bella Costa Restaurant.
It's unclear whether all the other candidates will back Richardson, despite pleas from party officials. Wes Ritchie, the only one I spoke with after the vote, told me that he will be supporting Richardson. Murphy said in her written comments that "This election is bigger than I am and the Democratic seat is what is important." Hall said, "My answer will depend on the circumstances." Hall finished second in caucus voting on the final ballot, 106 votes to 73.
In her written comments, Richardson said she supports increasing the foundation budget to meet education needs of all students, supports full funding of the Mass. Prescription Advantage program until the federal program is changed and opposes slot machines at existing race tracks.
On the income tax rollback, she said "cutting the tax rate to 5.0% would shift the burden onto the property tax placing an unfair burden on the people least able to afford it," and she would vote to oppose placing an amendment banning same-sex marriages on the 2008 ballot. She opposes the death penalty, saying "I oppose discrimination."
Many town residents - including me - are unhappy with Galvin's ruling, concerned that a two and a half week campaign isn't enough time to mount an effective write-in vote or allow voters to be adequately informed. There's a danger that progressive votes could split among multiple candidates, allowing a candidate much more conservative than the majority of voters to slip in and radically alter the character of the district's representation from the past legacy of Rep. Blumer or Barbara Gray before her -- even though that clearly is how the district leans.
Anti-immigrant candidates Jim Rizoli and Nicholas Sanchez will be seeking write-in votes. In addition, "unenrolled" independent Marla Davis, who works for the Foxborough school district, has posted a message to a local town mailing list that she wants to run a write-in campaign.
There were many references to the sad circumstances of the day's event. The Blumer family attended to participate in naming Debby's successor, although they did not speak publicly about their choice. Debby's son Adam was on the Democratic Town Committe's Sixth Middlesex District Committee set up to create a process to endorse Blumer's successor.
State Sen. Karen Spilka called the election circumstances "an ugly process that we have to go through."
"It is going to be extremely difficult for anybody to win this race" because of the short time frame and need to get write-in votes, she told caucus attendees.
"We need to elect a Democrat in this race. We need to unify behind the person who is chosen today," she said, warning, "if we don't do that, there is a good strong chance [someone] with ideals very different from ours will get in. ...
"Giving Framingham a voice, that's what this is all about."
Update: The MetroWest Daily News is reporting that second-place finisher Audrey Hall will end her campaign and support Pam Richardson. "It’s really important that we keep Framingham Democratic and united," she told the News. However, local businessman Tom Hanson of Hanson's Farms, who was eliminated in the first round of balloting, says he will continue to run.