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The Horse Race

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

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Your weekly look at politics, policy, and elections in Massachusetts.

THE HORSE RACE: Steve Koczela, host; Jennifer Smith, host; Libby Gormley, producer; Maureen McInerney, graphic designer.
191 Episodes
5/12/21--Listeners, The Horse Race is taking a step back for a few weeks as we prepare to bring you a brand-new series this summer! So be sure to stay on the lookout for that, and in the meantime, we leave you with this last episode where Steve and Jenn are joined by the founding members of The Horse Race -- original cohost Lauren Dezenski and original producer Hannah Chanatry. The four reminisce on the nearly four years since the podcast began and the many guests, segments, live shows, and horse puns that came along with it. Enjoy, and we'll be back in your ears soon!
5/5/21-- It's a bittersweet day here in the virtual bunker because it is Stephanie Murray's last appearance as co-host of The Horse Race! She is taking a new role at Politico as author of The Morning Score, a national weekly newsletter. Stick around to the end of the episode to hear how Stephanie has scene the political landscape change in her years on the #mapoli beat. But to begin, we're talking about a persistent debate among Massachusetts officials about whether to make vaccines mandatory for public workers. Many Democratic officials and public figures say yes. Governor Baker's stance is a hard no. Later in the show we're joined by Miles Howard, a freelance journalist who recently published a column in the Boston Globe posing the idea of turning empty office space into desperately needed affordable housing in Boston. He explains how it might work, what's standing in the way, and whether we can predict a return to offices or the continuation of widespread remote work. Finally, Jenn and Steve grill Stephanie on her time covering Massachusetts politics and engage in a #mapoli lightning round digging up her favorite moments as a reporter and, more importantly, a proud Bay Stater.
4/28/21--This week on The Horse Race, we bring you some bittersweet news. Our very own, extremely talented, reporter and co-host extraordinaire, Stephanie Murray, will be joining us for just one more episode of The Horse Race! She has been promoted to a national position for Politico, so keep an eye out for her as the new author of The Morning Score. In other big #mapoli news, Massachusetts is making big reopening moves. New reopening guidelines include, effective May 29th,(dependent on public health and vaccination data) gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors; May 10th will bring the opening of amusement parks and water parks at 50% capacity; and on August 1st other industries will be permitted to open such as nightclubs, saunas, and ball pits (?). Jenn has been closely following the Boston mayoral race and analyzes the newest development, or lack thereof. State senator Nick Collins announced he will not be running for mayor of Boston. Many had speculated he might jump into the race, but his official decision not to run means in all likelihood, the race for Boston mayor will for the first time in history not include a white man. Steve sounds off on Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin's deflection on the question of whether he'll run for re-election. Galvin has been in office since 1995, and his response to the State House News Service that he "enjoy[s]" his job indicates he might run for an eighth term. -- New data from the 2020 Census is out this week. Some states’ Congressional seats will change as a result, but Massachusetts will keep its same nine. Stephanie Murray explains what the data tells us about our districts and provides national context as well. -- In the wake of devastating mass shootings this year, a Massachusetts reporter looked into why the commonwealth's rates of gun deaths are the lowest in the country. Sarah Betancourt's Guardian article details the work of John Rosenthal, co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence, an organization that is in part responsible for the low gun death rates. She stopped by The Horse Race to tell us what gun restrictions contribute to our state's performance and explains in what other ways Massachusetts is in fact contributing to the gun violence epidemic.
4/21/21--This week, there's good news surrounding the vaccine in Massachusetts. Saturday marked a happy milestone in that the state surpassed 2 million residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In national news, all eyes were on Minneapolis Tuesday night when a verdict came down on the Derek Chauvin trial. Chauvin was convicted on all charges in the death of George Floyd. Massachusetts political figures have since been responding to the decision, including the six Boston mayoral candidates during a forum Tuesday night. Jenn and Stephanie parse the candidates' responses during the forum to issues including racism, police accountability, the Boston Planning and Development Agency, affordable housing, and education. Later, the hosts are joined by Boston Globe reporter Matt Stout, who wrote about a puzzling development upon an election that occurred more than a year ago. He explains why a former write-in candidate for the Republican state committeewoman is suing the Secretary of State's office.
4/14/21-- This week, there is a lot of #bospoli news to discuss, and it begins with the Boston Police Department. Acting Mayor Kim Janey on Tuesday named the executive director of Boston’s first Office of Police Accountability and Transparency. This comes as the department is reeling from two major scandals. Jenn and Stephanie discuss where things stand now, and what the future may hold the BPD. Next, Steve Koczela has new data from a poll conducted by The MassINC Polling Group and sponsored by WBUR and The Dorchester Reporter. The poll asked Boston residents who they're voting for in the mayoral election, what issues are most important to them, and what they'd like to be done about the lack of affordable housing in the city. Finally, we are joined by Nicole Calabrese, the leader of a ballot committee urging Wakefield residents to vote "no" on the question of whether to keep Wakefield Public Schools' current logo. The logo, which depicts an Indigenous person, has drawn debate for years. And recently, the rhetoric surrounding it has gotten so vitriolic as to polarize the town. Calabrese explains how things got so bad and what will happen next. Full transcript here:
4/7/21-- This week, Steve, Jennifer, and Stephanie discuss the #bospoli news that Acting Mayor of Boston Kim Janey is in fact running for full-term mayor. She made the announcement Tuesday morning, alongside the release of a campaign ad that speaks to Boston's long history of white male leaders as well as her promises to address issues such as housing and income inequality. She will have been mayor for eight months by the time the election rolls around, giving her a significant incumbency advantage over her peers also running for the office. -- And speaking of running for office, former state senator and once-co-host of The Horse Race Ben Downing stopped by the virtual bunker to discuss his officially campaign for Governor. The Democrat also recently released his climate plan that he says goes further than the recently passed legislation under the Baker administration. -- Finally, Stephanie asks pollster Steve and law scholar Jennifer about the recent Supreme Court decision that allows the use of auto-dialers to cell phones. The move significantly shifts the polling landscape and is a resolution that has come after a decade of litigation and millions of dollars spent. Full transcript here:
3/31/21--After weeks of COVID cases on the decline in Massachusetts, data show that they are on the uptick. Not just here in the Bay State, but in states across the nation. This week CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said she felt a sense of "impending doom" and stressed the necessity for people to "hold on a little while longer." In #mapoli news, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz has said she's "seriously considering" a run for governor in 2022, which brings Steve to take a look at the most recent approval ratings for Governor Baker out from Suffolk University and the Boston Globe. He explains the context behind the governor's high ratings. -- We're joined this week by two guests. Ally Jarmanning, senior reporter for WBUR, covered the recently published report out of Suffolk County that found not prosecuting low-level crimes led to less crime overall. Then, State Director at Climate XChange for Massachusetts Tim Cronin stops by to break down the landmark climate bill that was just passed into law late last week.
3/24/21-- It's a momentous day in Boston as the city swore in its first non-white non-male mayor in Kim Janey. Stephanie Murray says it's "hard to overstate" just how historic the moment is, as Janey takes on the new role in a ceremony including Ayanna Pressley and Kimberly Budd who are Massachusetts history-makers as well. Later, Stephanie and Steve are joined by outgoing mayor of Lynn, Tom McGee. McGee is one of eight Massachusetts mayors who won't be seeking re-election this year. The news comes as we enter the second year of the pandemic. McGee says the past three years have felt like 25. While he has no plans for the future, he's certain that stepping away from the mayor's office will not mean discontinuing his passion -- working to make change for the better of his community. Full transcript here:
Full transcript: 3/17/21-- Happy St. Paddy's Day, listeners! All three co-hosts are back in the virtual bunker, and there's a whole lot to discuss. The Baker administration announced Wednesday the timeline for all remaining groups to receive the vaccine. In not so pleasant news, the Orange Line derailed. Steve brings up the grim award the MBTA carries for ranking high on a list of transit systems with the most derailments. We're joined this week by Danielle Allen, a Harvard professor who has announced she is exploring a run for Governor. She explains what she sees as the divided nature of the commonwealth and discusses her views on transit, the economy, and education. Later, MassINC Polling Group Research Director Maeve Duggan stops by to break down the results of the latest MPG poll of parents of K-12 students in Massachusetts. According to the data, parents are split over whether the state should focus on getting all kids back into school full-time or work on improving remote school.
3/10/21--This week, Jenn and Stephanie discuss the Baker administration's announcement of a new vaccine preregistration system. The centralized tool allows people to preregister for a vaccine appointment in any of the state's seven mass vaccination sites. Jenn is also keeping an eye on the continued tensions in state leadership, where, after a year of Governor Baker operating under a state of emergency, she describes an "active effort by a few state legislators to hem in Baker’s emergency power." We're joined this International Women's Week by two excellent reporters. The first is CommonWealth Magazine's Sarah Betancourt, who broke a story surrounding a 2017 provision designed to increase women's access to birth control by allowing them to receive a 12-month supply all at once. Sarah discovered that very few people knew this provision existed, and when some women had tried to take advantage of it, they were often met with obstacles. Later, Melissa Hanson of MassLIVE has been covering schools' reactions the announcement that Massachusetts elementary schools are to return to in-person learning on April 5. She details the Worcester Public School district's attempt to get a waiver to delay the full-time in-person transition.
Episode 171: COVID 101

Episode 171: COVID 101


3/3/21--Stephanie and Jenn regroup in the virtual pod bunker, starting the episode with a quick recap of a special election. Jeff Turco pulled off a victory in the 19th Suffolk district Democratic primary to replace Bob DeLeo. Stephanie breaks down the contributing factors to Turco's win, including the fallout from allegations of sexual misconduct aimed at then-candidate Tino Capobianco. Later, the hosts are joined by a pair of student journalists who covered the COVID outbreak and breakdown at UMass Amherst at the beginning of the spring semester. Cassie McGrath and Will Katcher describe a scene in which thousands of students were welcomed back to campus without preparations in place prevent and/or treat a massive spike in COVID-19 cases. The fallout has left many students with a bad taste in their mouths and the university with an image to clean up.
2/24/21-- A year ago this week marks one of the last weeks before a state of emergency was declared in Massachusetts and self-isolation began. In that time, schools throughout the state have implemented remote learning for at least a portion, if not most of that time when the school year was in session. Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeff Riley on Tuesday called for elementary school students to return to in-person learning five days a week in April. Jenn and Stephanie discuss the implications for both students and teachers, who, as a category are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The hosts also discuss the new entry to the Boston mayoral race: state Senator and Boston Medical Center emergency room doctor Jon Santiago. Finally, guests Tori Bedford of GBH and Lisa Kashinsky of the Boston Herald stop by the virtual bunker to share their coverage of the race to replace former House Speaker Bob DeLeo in the 19th Suffolk District. Allegations of sexual misconduct were made against candidate Valentino Capobianco on Tuesday, as reported by Tori. She and Lisa break down the ramifications of these allegations and the future of the race.
2/17/21-- The vaccine rollout continues here in Massachusetts, and while this week bring some good news -- the state now ranks 10th in the country in vaccinations per capita. Still, officials across the state are criticizing Charlie Baker's administration for its vaccine rollout thus far for a few reasons. It got off to a notoriously sluggish start, and the disparities in vaccination rates between racial groups indicate massive inequity in distribution, to name just two. Jennifer and Stephanie dig into the details of these issues and break down which officials had what to say about the Baker administration's rollout thus far. Later, Sean Cotter of the Boston Herald drops by to discuss U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling stepping down from his post to make way for a Democratic appointee now that the Biden administration has begun. Cotter discusses what kind of legacy Lelling leaves behind, and what Massachusetts residents can expect to see change with the installation of a new top prosecutor.
2/10/20-- This week on The Horse Race, Jenn and Stephanie bring you something a little different than the usual programming. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sat through a Senate confirmation hearing last week as President Biden’s pick for Labor Secretary. It looks very likely that he will be confirmed. If that happens and the mayor leaves office before March 5, normally the rules say we would have to have a special election. But given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic and a mayoral election year already, the Boston City Council discussed a proposal to scrap the special election. They sent a home rule petition cancelling the potential special up to the mayor, and so far it has not yet been filed in the legislature. The terms say that Council President Kim Janey would be acting mayor until the winner of the regularly scheduled November election is sworn in immediately after certification of the votes. Joining Jenn and Stephanie to talk about the city charter more broadly, special elections, the history of the home rule petition, and the run-up to the Boston municipal election is a panel of Boston experts-- City Councillor Lydia Edwards, Jon Hillman of Rivera Consulting, and Bill Forry, editor and publisher of the Dorchester Reporter.
2/3/21-- Steve, Jennifer, and Stephanie are back in the virtual bunker, each with a different opinion on this week's snowfall. Vaccine rollout rolls on throughout the country, but unfortunately, Massachusetts doesn’t rank too highly in terms of distribution. Steve points to a comparison conducted by NPR which finds the Bay State ranking 37th for efficiency (proportion of doses administered to doses received) and 39th for percent of overall population that’s gotten at least one dose. There are also big disparities in terms of who’s getting the vaccine. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley called the distribution so far “vaccine redlining,” according to the Boston Herald, which pulled a statistic from the state Department of Public Health last week that found "Black people account for less than 3% of those who have received at least one vaccine dose in Massachusetts, while Hispanics were at 3.3%” Steve also relays reporting from the Boston Globe that found many of the people who showed up and were first in line at a vaccination site in a Roxbury were white. Roxbury is a predominantly Black neighborhood. This is happening across the country, Steve points out. “The share of people who are getting vaccinations does not correspond with the racial makeup of that area’s population.” -- Later, state Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Beth Huang of the Massachusetts Voter Table stop by to discuss this year's redistricting effort. Beth is a member of the Drawing Democracy Coalition which has asked the Massachusetts Senate President and House Speaker to appoint a Joint Committee on Redistricting that is racially and geographically representative. -- A new poll out from Gallup asked Massachusetts high schoolers about their experience learning during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly to Steve, who has conducted surveys on Massachusetts parents of K-12 students, remote and hybrid learning has had the worst impacts on students. Kids partaking in these models of learning are far less likely to say they learn a lot every day, as compared to kids learning in person full time. Social and emotional health has also declined among students learning at least part-time remote.
1/27/21-- It's a new week back in The Horse Race virtual bunker, but Jenn's laser focus on Boston matters has not wavered one bit. Be sure to tune in a couple weeks from now for a special episode covering the Boston City Charter, including a look at this year's special election debacle after Mayor Walsh left his post to join the Biden administration, leaving it open before his term ends. This week, the Massachusetts vaccine rollout continues to receive criticism from various groups. Teachers pushed back on the Baker administration's decision to bump teachers back in the vaccine queue. Meanwhile, people trying to register newly eligible adults 75 and older for a vaccine appointment are reporting long wait times, difficulty navigating the website, and not enough vaccination location options. -- Boston Globe Senior Opinion writer Kimberly Atkins stops by to break down what she expects to see from the Massachusetts delegation under the new Biden administration. She anticipates seeing representatives and senators from the Bay State "being the forward face of a lot of policy and politics in the year ahead." She discusses the possibility of filibuster elimination, but says, ultimately, "What most people in Massachusetts and beyond are concerned about is, can Congress get stuff done? They don’t need to eliminate the filibuster to do their jobs.”
1/21/2021-- This week, we bring you an all-transit episode of The Horse Race. This is also the first episode under the new Biden administration, and we plan to publish an episode exploring what the new administration means for Massachusetts in the very near future. For now, we jump into the news that state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack is departing to serve on the Federal Highway Administration. The development drew responses of praise and criticism on Pollack's job performance. Our guest and Executive Director of TransitMatters Jarred Johnson struck a balance between the two. On Thursday morning when the news broke, he tweeted that Pollack is, "one of the smartest and most talented transportation advocates this Commonwealth has ever seen," but also said, "You cannot change things from the inside when the inside is run by people who fundamentally disagree with your line of thinking." He stops by The Horse Race to provide his take on the legacy Pollack leaves behind, beginning with the hope transportation advocates had when "one of their own" stepped into executive office, and the disappointment they ultimately felt when the transformative actions they sought didn't happen. Later, MassINC Polling Group Research Director comes back on the pod to share new data on Gateway City transportation habits. The survey Rich conducted shows the biggest obstacle to transit ridership is, no surprise, fear of contracting COVID-19. But as more and more people get vaccinated, presumably more people will start feeling more comfortable riding public transportation. And even though ridership is down now, a majority of Gateway City residents support major changes to public transit. Once the severity of the pandemic has subsided, such proposed changes could help make public transit options more attractive than driving. A majority of respondents said driving is their primary mode of transportation, citing reasons of safety, efficiency, reliability, and convenience.
1/13/21--The U.S. House Representatives moves to impeach President Donald Trump today. This comes after last week’s insurrection on the Capitol by rioters who were incited by Trump who has for months been spreading false claims of voter fraud during the presidential election that he lost. State governments are preparing for the potential of more violent acts upon state capitols as we ramp up to Inauguration Day for President-elect Joe Biden. For Massachusetts’ part, Governor Baker has said there are currently no known threats with respect to any public buildings in the state. One Massachusetts native headed to join up with Biden’s administration is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. The announcement ends speculation on whether he would run for another mayoral term and cracks the race wide open. Stephanie says she’s heard of at least a dozen potential candidates. Thats in addition to the two who’ve already announced their bid - City Councillors Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell. One of those on Stephanie’s shortlist of potential contenders is today’s guest, State Rep. and Boston Medical Center emergency room doctor Jon Santiago. The 9th Suffolk district lawmaker was recently vaccinated against COVID-19. He says he’s excited about the potential of the vaccine, and he aims to raise awareness to the public about the safety of the vaccine, especially among communities of color. He describes the nationwide rollout of the vaccine thus far as “overpromised and underdelivered.” “We have to get to herd immunity of 70-85 percent. We’re nowhere near that.” He says taking innovative approaches to getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible “is the only way we’re going to get out of this thing.” — New data out today from The MassINC Polling Group illustrates how Massachusetts voters think about state budget priorities and state revenue sources. Steve coordinated the poll and sheds light on its major highlights, perhaps the major one being that voters have a long list of budget priorities for the state legislature. Voters support funding of emergency services related to COVID, especially testing and vaccinations. This option got the most support with 63% saying they strongly supported it. Emergency paid sick time also received broad support, as did housing assistance, and funding to preserve public transportation. A striking division splits the priorities of white voters from those of Black and Latino voters in some areas. For example, Black and Latino voters more often placed high priority on increasing opportunities for homeownership for low-income residents, providing aid to cities and towns, access to affordable childcare, and increasing state contracts with women- and minority-owned businesses. But there are also major areas of agreement. Lowering the cost of healthcare is a priority for both white and non-white voters, as is K-12 education and increasing healthcare access.
1/7/21-- Steve, Jenn, and Stephanie are back in The Horse Race bunker, this time to rehash the unsettling events that took place Wednesday in D.C. when pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building during a process to ratify President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory. This comes after months of President Trump spouting false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election in which he lost. Rioters were propelled to mob the capitol after a Trump rally that day during which he egged on his crowd. Stephanie called it “a stunning end to the Trump presidency,” but she also pointed out that a resounding sentiment circulating yesterday was that this attack wasn’t exactly surprising to anyone paying attention to what's been spoken about in partisan media and on social media. She spoke with members of the Massachusetts delegation of Congress, all of whom had strong words for the attackers on the capitol and for Trump himself. All members have since called for impeachment or the invocation of the 25th Amendment to strip Trump of his presidential power. Jenn and Steve weigh in on the health of our democracy at this point in time as well as the glaring difference between the mild police treatment of the largely white compared to that of Black Lives Matter protesters this summer that was markedly more aggressive. Later in the show, we play an interview with State House News Service Reporter Katie Lannan that was recorded Wednesday before the insurrection played out in earnest. Katie explains what got accomplished on the last night of the Massachusetts legislative session Tuesday, and what is yet to be decided.
12/30/20-- Farewell, 2020! Can't say we'll miss you, but as you can tell from this week's episode, there were some fun moments after all. Please enjoy this end-of-year blooper reel, and we'll be back with new episodes on Massachusetts politics, policy, and elections in 2021!
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