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The Horse Race

Author: Steve Koczela; Jennifer Smith; Stephanie Murray; Libby Gormley

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Steve Koczela of The MassINC Polling Group, reporter Jennifer Smith, Stephanie Murray of Politico, and #MApoli guests deliver weekly updates on every twist, turn, poll, and scoop you need to know on the Massachusetts mayoral, congressional, and statewide races worth watching.

THE HORSE RACE: Steve Koczela, host; Jennifer Smith, host; Stephanie Murray, host; Libby Gormley, producer; Maureen McInerney, graphic designer.
115 Episodes
11/13/19-- Massachusetts elected officials -- both current and former -- just can't seem to resist the pull of the Presidency. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is running for the Democratic nomination for president, sources tell CNN. He's scheduled to officially announce on Friday. That will bring the tally to 3 Bay Staters who've competed in the 2020 race.Perhaps these candidates feel emboldened by their history governing in in what's perceived a progressive state, but when it comes to fair and accurate representation, Massachusetts is in desperate need of some progress. According to a new MassINC study, the demographic and partisan makeup of the Massachusetts state legislature vastly underrepresents its electorate. In order to achieve balance, the legislature would need an additional 31 members of color, 47 female members, and 16 Republican members. Ben Forman, co-author of the report and research director at MassINC, stopped by the podcast to provide an in-depth look at what the report covers. One of the stumbling blocks preventing equal representation is Massachusetts' lack of electoral competition. In fact, it ranks as the least competitive of all fifty states. One solution the report proposes is public financing, which requires candidates or parties to accept public funding in exchange for a promise to limit how much they spend and receive in donations. This is a measure, Forman says, Massachusetts voters "like." "They passed it by a very large majority, and the legislature didn't want to do it. Well, 20 years later, I think there's more awareness that that has had a cost in terms of female representation and people of color."Low voter turnout is another symptom of Massachusetts' current system, and the report calls for synchronizing state and local elections to reduce election overload. The current system that requires voters to hit the polls frequently was designed to suppress voices of color, says Forman. "We moved municipal elections to off years, I think, intentionally, to lower turnout because people were concerned about too many people of color coming out to vote and changing communities. That's the history that we should acknowledge and call out."
11/6/19-- Communities scattered throughout Massachusetts held elections on Tuesday. One of those communities was Boston, whose newly elected City Council makes history as its most diverse yet, with 7 people of color and 8 women making up the majority of the 13-person council. The fourth-highest vote-getter among the at-large candidates, Julia Mejia, won her seat by a margin of only 10 votes, prompting fifth-place finisher Alejandra St. Guillen to call for a recount. Stephanie Murray noted, “10 votes could be a couple of absentee ballots; it could be a broken voting machine; it could also be one of those ballots where you vote for too many candidates and then your ballot gets thrown out altogether.”Last month, reports revealed a Super PAC with close ties to Governor Charlie Baker raising money for local candidates across the Commonwealth. The Massachusetts Majority Super PAC raised $1 million, and funded candidates like Monica Medeiros for Mayor of Melrose and Jennifer Nassour for Boston City Council, both these and other candidates supported by the PAC were endorsed by Baker. Boston Business Journal digital editor Gintautus Dumcius reported on this PAC, telling The Horse Race that it really got going in May 2019, when the split between then-recently elected MassGOP chairman Jim Lyons and Baker began to widen. Speaking about the MassGOP, Dumcius said, “Now that there is a top Trump person in charge in Jim Lyons, we’ve seen that break grow and grow, and it seems like this super PAC is trying to fill the gaps. The 2012 Right to Repair ballot question passed into law the following year, and now, the coalition that proposed it is returning with a potential ballot question for 2020 that would update the current law. WBUR reports the law would include a provision mandating that, beginning in model year 2022, manufacturers that sell cars in Massachusetts be outfit them with a “standardized and open access platform” that would make data about the car’s performance available to the car owner as well as dealerships and independent repair shops. Conor Yunits is a spokesman for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, and he says the proposed bill would make drivers vulnerable to breaches of privacy. Yunits told The Horse Race if the bill were to pass, “That really exposes information to hackers, criminals, bad actors, foreign companies, anyone that’s looking to get real-time location data and other information on people that are driving their vehicles.”
10/30/19-- Happy Halloween, #mapoli, and welcome to the Headless Horse Race. Steve and Stephanie are donning their witch hats and digging into the latest news in the Commonwealth. We begin with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley's endorsement of the former head of the Massachusetts Alliance for Business Leadership Jesse Mermell in the District 4 House race. Pressley’s endorsements have been the subject of national headlines, Stephanie points out. It wasn’t so long ago that Pressley was the recipient of a mere fraction of the high-profile endorsements that went to her competitor Mike Capuano, whom she beat handily. Does Pressley herself, then, illustrate that endorsements aren’t all that powerful? Legislators today heard from the business community on how they think transportation should be funded. CommonWealth reports, before a legislative debate on transportation commences tomorrow, Jim Rooney, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, presented support for additional revenues. That included increasing ride-share fees, launching a transportation climate initiative, and even raising the gas tax. Couple that with Transportation for Massachusetts’ discussion today on what they believe are the right funding methods, and it’s clear that movement on transportation funding is coming. We’ll be talking about it as it takes shape, so stay tuned.And in local news, Stephanie’s been following an attempted progressive takeover of Boston’s Ward 18. The Progressive West Roxbury/Roslindale group is recruiting progressive candidates to run together as a slate, with the goal of making Ward members more representative demographically. Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu is voicing support for this, and if progressives were to take over Ward 18, it’d be a significant boon for a potential Wu mayoral campaign.The first guest on the pod today is Newton City Councilor and District 4 congressional candidate Jake Auchincloss. His platform includes a focus on transportation, insisting that, "the next Congressman from the Massachusetts 4th needs to bring back federal funding for Massachusetts transportation," and build more collaboration between state and local agencies with the help of those dollars.Friend of the pod and CommonWealth Magazine reporter Andy Metzger drops by the bunker next to dispel wisdom alongside horse puns. House Speaker Robert DeLeo is seeking another term, he announced this week. In the past, he led the way to end term limits, but later pushed to get them abolished so that he could continue his position. He's already the longest continually serving Speaker, but according to Andy, not all House members take issue with his long-held leadership. "I think that members who are kind of backbenchers have been tired of Speaker DeLeo's style of leadership for quite some time, but members who chair committees or hold leadership posts, at least, they say they're not."
10/23/19-- On today's episode of The Horse Race, Jenn and Steve tackle news on the local, state, and national stage. Beginning with local, Jenn provides updates on the Boston City Council forum that took place last night, noting that one of the biggest points of daylight among the candidates were their responses to Operation Clean Sweep that took place back in August.Upon the release of a WBUR poll that the MassINC Polling Group conducted, Steve takes us through the most notable results. The poll surveyed registered Massachusetts voters on a variety of topics, and some of the biggest takeaways were Commonwealth citizens mirroring the country in terms of their feelings on impeachment. Elizabeth Warren has a significant lead over her competitors in the presidential primary among Bay State voters, but her proposal for Medicare for All is less popular among Democratic voters in the state than a plan that would include a public option.Also sounding off on the topic of health care is our guest Colin Young, reporter for the State House News Service. Colin covered Governor Charlie Baker's proposed bill that would require providers to increase spending on addiction services, behavioral health, primary care, and geriatric services, and he joins the Horse Race hosts to break down what the new bill would mean for health care consumers.
Episode 103: Wu Train Plan

Episode 103: Wu Train Plan


10/16/19--Steve and Stephanie have returned to the bunker after last week's live show at WeWork in Back Bay. Our guests, Attorney General Maura Healey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III had a lot to talk about, and today the hosts go over what stuck out to them.Then, Boston City Councillor At-Large Michelle Wu stops by to talk about her big ideas, the most recent being her call to abolish the BPDA. Is this the answer to Boston's housing crisis, climate battle, and transportation tension?Finally, we hear from Allyson Perron from the American Heart Association. She explains that while the AHA applauds Governor Baker's 4-month ban on vaping products after a rash of related illnesses and even deaths countrywide, there needs to be a more comprehensive, more permanent solution.
10/11/2019 -- We're doing it live! Thanks to our lovely hosts, WeWork on 31 St. James Ave. in Back Bay, Steve, Jenn, and Stephanie got to run through the state (and national) headlines in person with the fine company of Horse Race listeners. But it wouldn't be a Horse Race without a lineup of special guests. First up was state Attorney General Maura Healey. She spoke about her activist approach to litigation, her partnership with other state AGs, and of course, the ongoing drama between her cohort of attorneys general and the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma who make OxyContin. Then, it's time for the three hosts to turn to the most pressing issue on our nation's collective mind: impeachment. Jennifer, our legal analyst, leads the discussion. Stephanie shares the local angle, pointing out the members of the Massachusetts delegation who were the first to call for impeachment, and who were the last. And Steve runs the polling numbers on voters' positions on impeachment. We know they've changed, but how and why?Finally, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III joins the hosts to shed some light on his decision to run for Senate. He responds to the criticism some have made that his running diverts precious resources from other critical races across the country, and emphasizes a need for structural changes to filibuster and gerrymandering.
10/2/19-- With so much happening on the state and national level, Stephanie and Jenn tackle a little bit of everything on this week's show. An impeachment inquiry into President Trump has officially begun, and as Stephanie points out, there's a local angle there. Rep. Richard Neal from Massachusetts' 1st District came out in favor of impeachment , becoming one of the last members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to do so.After last week's results of the Boston City Council preliminary election were revealed, MassINC Polling Group Research Director took a look at the elections data and produced comprehensive maps showing the geographic strengths and weaknesses of the candidates. He breaks it all down and predicts how the candidates moving forward will fare in the general come November.Next, the hosts are joined by Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title who, to put it mildly, has been having a busy month. Governor Baker put forth a four-month statewide ban on all vaping products after a concerning number of vaping-related illnesses and deaths broke out. Baker said the ban will provide time to investigate the root of these effects, which is currently unknown. While the ban was placed in the name of safety, Title argues that a hasty move like this is in itself harmful, as consumers are likely to seek out the products they want on the illicit market.Finally, Boston Globe reporter Milton Valencia visits the bunker once again to lay out what exactly is going on at the Boston Zoning Board. With bribery scandals abound, Milton puts into perspective how serious this particular controversy is, in light of those that have hit the city of Boston in recent months.
Episode 100: The 100th Lap

Episode 100: The 100th Lap


9/25/19--Welcome, one and all, to the 100th Episode Jubilee! This week features old friends of the pod as well as a brand-new visitor to the bunker.First, Jamie Belsito is a first-time visitor to The Horse Race, making her case for why she's right for the 6th District House seat. She argues Seth Moulton has been too busy running for president and gunning for Nancy Pelosi to show up for his district.Then, BFF of the pod and State House News reporter Katie Lannan drops by to break down the contents of the recently unveiled education funding bill and contextualize its importance. After all, the state legislature has tried and failed for many years to put together a comprehensive overhaul of the education funding formula.Last but most certainly not least, we hear from co-founder and former host of The Horse Race, Lauren Dezenski. She gives Steve the 4-11 on what she's up to now and what she misses most about the old days.
9/18/19-- Fresh off the Massachusetts Democratic Convention, Steve and Stephanie have much to discuss. Stephanie covered the convention in Springfield for Politico, and there were a few things in particular that stood out to her. Namely, as pundits in Massachusetts and nationwide speculate on the implications of the potential Markey-Kennedy Senate matchup, there's someone already calling out the sitting Senator. Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Brookline labor attorney and official candidate running for Markey's seat is "doing the work for" Kennedy, Stephanie says. On stage at the convention, she called to get corporate money out of Washington, a not-so-subtle jab at Markey.Back on Beacon Hill, there's news coming from the Secretary of State's office, after Bill Galvin came out in support of an initiative petition that would effectively overhaul our primary elections system. Chris Lisinski of the State House News Service drops by to explain the situation, pointing out that while the proposed ballot question fell short of the Attorney General's constitutional review, that doesn't necessarily signal the end. If the lead sponsor successfully challenges the AG's decision, Massachusetts voters will be choosing whether to get rid of partisan primaries as we know them and instead install a system wherein the top two candidates in a race advance regardless of party.Finally, reporting from The Horse Race Western Mass bureau is Rich Parr, who's witnessed concerted effort from disparate communities throughout the region who've joined forces to advocate for better, more expansive transit. Sen. Eric Lesser spoke at a forum last week where he emphasized the connection between a lack of transportation and a lack of economic opportunity. Meanwhile, pilot programs spell potential for Western Mass's transit future. This is all while Boston-area transit has remained relatively untouched by state lawmakers after a summer of chaos.
Episode 98: Is Fare Fair?

Episode 98: Is Fare Fair?


9/11/19-- A new week brings new polls to discuss. Last week, Steve and Stephanie spoke to the Chief Growth Officer at Change Research, which had published a poll finding Joe Kennedy III with a 17-point lead ahead of Ed Markey in the Senate race. Since then a Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll found Kennedy up by 14 points, confirming the substance of a poll that many considered to be an outlier. Steve explains why Kennedy is showing strength early on. Plus, WBUR released a poll this morning, this one on what their audience would like to hear candidates discuss. Jenn and Steve are then joined by Ben Forman, MassINC Research Director who co-authored a study on fare equity in Massachusetts. As Ben explains, the wealthiest people in Massachusetts end up paying the least amount of money in transit fares, thus exacerbating the income inequality problem that is so pervasive in Massachusetts.Later, good friend of the pod State Sen. Becca Rausch sits down to explain her recently filed bill that would standardize immunizations requirements in Massachusetts.
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