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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; Stephanie Murray, host; Libby Gormley, producer; Maureen McInerney, graphic designer.
162 Episodes
10/22/20--With the 2020 election just days away, Jenn, Steve, and Stephanie have a lot to discuss. And that starts with a much needed recap of this week's cringe-inducing episode of The Bachelorette. In even more unsettling news, the Trump administration has been administering an onslaught of attacks upon Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and the media. "It just doesn't make any sense, does it?" Steve asks. Jenn thinks that while it doesn’t make sense to undermine health authorities’ guidance during a pandemic, the rhetoric makes sense for this administration whose stance has been consistent since the pandemic began, and the newest statements are “sadly predictable.” The administration attempting to discredit health experts is especially worrying now, as we are already experiencing national surges in cases, and the upcoming fall and winter might bring the highest number of cases yet. -- A statewide ban on evictions and foreclosures came to an end this Saturday, the fallout of which Jennifer Smith has been keeping a close eye on. As housing courts open up, Jenn says what government officials have been trying to remind everyone of is that the end of the moratorium "does not mean people can immediately kick you out of the house." Still, it's an open question whether housing courts will be able to handle eviction cases if in fact a swell of them begins to appear, and “whether measures gov will put in place will be enough to stem that tide," Jenn says. “We just don’t know how bad it’s going to be right now.” -- Early voting is in full swing in states across the country including Massachusetts. And MassINC Polling Group Research Director Rich Parr has been following data on early voting as it comes in from around the state. His first impressions are that, first of all, a lot of people are voting early. As of Tuesday, over a million people have returned their ballots and thus officially voted early for this election. “If you compare it to 2016, overall it’s almost 30% of all the ballots cast in the 2016 election have already been cast in 2020.” Much like Rich’s findings in early voting data for the primary election this year, early voting is strongly concentrated in “a lot of the wealthier suburbs, kind of in the metro west part of the Boston area.” Rich names Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Sudbury, Natick and Wellesley, for example, or “well-off” towns with high levels of education as measured by the percentage of people who have a bachelor’s degree in the town. With weeks to go before Election Day, Jenn points out, “People who are voting multiple weeks before election day are kind of voting on a slightly different race, theoretically.” Rich notes that while late-breaking news stories shifted polling percentages around quite a bit in the weeks leading up to Election Day in 2016, 2020 has been a different story. Biden’s maintained a rough average of an 8 to 10-point national lead over Trump for a while. “The character of this race has been much more stable than what we saw in 2016," he says.
10/14/20-- While Stephanie Murray could not make it on The Horse Race this week, she did not fail to bring us the content that really matters. By this of course we mean her Bachelorette recap complete with a #MApoli connection. The bachelor Stephanie had her eye on was, "Certified Harvard Guy" Bennet Jordan. She ran his name through the FEC database and nothing came up, but because he’s 36 - 37 years old, it means he likely crossed paths with a number of familiar #MApoli faces who were at Harvard University the same time as him. Can you figure out who they were? And in *actual* #MApoli news, state budget season is a few months late this year due to COVID-19. Governor Charlie Baker submitted his annual budget in which he pulled from the emergency fund to cover the anticipated loss of revenue for this year. Jenn Smith notes, “There might be some interesting implications / kind of agonizing, frustrating implications if you start thinking a year out. What do you do if we have another year of this kind of loss in revenue?” Of course, Baker's proposal has yet to undergo a probably lengthy process of workshopping by the legislature before it is finalized. Also happening this week are Senate hearings of Supreme Court Justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett. So far, Jenn says, the process has been "interesting but predictable." Senate Democrats are pushing Barrett for answers on how she might rule on Roe v. Wade, the Affordable Care Act, and whether she'll recuse herself in the event of an election result dispute. Barrett has mostly refused to come down one way or another on any of these topics, taking the conventional route of vowing not to enter the Supreme Court with an agenda, and rather stick to the rule of law and decide cases as they come. -- A new Suffolk University / Boston Globe poll shows Joe Biden with a 10-point lead on Donald Trump in New Hampshire. This is notable for a couple reasons, one of which brings us back to 2016. During that election season, a conspiracy theory claiming hordes of Massachusetts voters illegally cast votes in New Hampshire for Hillary Clinton gained an outsize amount of attention. The theory was perpetuated by the president who claimed he would've secured the popular vote if not for the "voter fraud" in New Hampshire. The theory was unsurprisingly debunked, but, as Steve points out, with a much wider margin being shown so far in 2020, such conspiracy theories likely won't be given as much weight. Instead, Steve says, they'll be called out for what they are -- "quackery." -- GBH News Reporter Paul Singer stops by The Horse Race to discuss his recent coverage of Boston's failure to comply with ordinances on hiring diversity. As of 2017, most large public and private construction projects in the city are mandated to employ 51% Boston residents, 40% people of color and 12% women. Time and again, however, builders have not met these standards. Singer explains that some subcontractors have shown "terrible performance" on hiring residents, people of color, and women. But, he says, "None of them ever get punished for it, and they still get rehired for the next job, so there’s no real consequence for blowing it off.” -- New measures to improve police accountability and transparency are in the works in Boston. Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner William Gross said Tuesday they plan to implement all recommendations from the city’s police reform task force that includes replacing the city’s community oversight panel with an independent office with expanded powers. Sarah Betancourt of CommonWealth Magazine reported on this and joins The Horse Race hosts to talk about it. Along with the new independent oversight office, Walsh and Gross committed to adopting an expansion of the body cam program, greater enforcement of use of force policies, improving data collection, a new diversity unit, and better access for anyone who wants to get body cam footage.
10/8/20--Only a week has passed since Steve, Jenn, and Stephanie gathered in the virtual pod studio, but so much has changed. Of course, President Trump's positive COVID-19 test rocked the country and world, and the administration's ever-changing reports on the timeline of Trump's infection have left Americans wondering when he was officially infected and who else (besides the at least 34 staffers who've been identified as COVID-positive) might have the contagion. This fate is not entirely surprising, as Trump and his administration have repeatedly flouted guidance put forth by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the CDC, and the WHO, often refusing to wear masks and social distance. As Steve puts it, "It comes down to the contempt that they showed for the science behind it, contempt for truth, contempt for verifiable, scientific facts, the things that we all know about how to avoid the virus.” It seems to Steve that the White House mentality has almost become "an article of faith," that the thinking goes something like, "'We have to pretend that this thing isn’t happening. We have to pretend that it doesn’t exist. And, what’s more, if you think it does and you’re going to wear a mask and act responsibly, then there’s something defective about you.’” Republican candidate for U.S. Senate stops by The Horse Race to talk about why he's running against incumbent Ed Markey. He says he is "concerned about the tone of our politics," and feels that Markey is more focused on "polarization and posturing than getting things done for the American people." In a state made up of voters who, for the most part, oppose Donald Trump, O'Connor says he wants to remain upfront about who he's voting for, and that's Trump. “I’m not wearing a MAGA hat, but I’m voting for the president," for reasons that he describes as economics, community safety, and foreign policy. "The economic growth that we’ve experienced as of the end of 2019 was great. It was historic in that it extended to the bottom 20% of earners for the first time in about 40 years," O'Connor says. O'Connor also believes that if Amy Coney-Barrett is approved as a Supreme Court justice, the Senate should move ahead with her confirmation. "I don't like what happened with Merrick Garland," he says, referring to 2016 when Republican senators in February blocked the Obama-nominated Garland from being confirmed before the 2016 election in November. O'Connor would like to set up a mandatory retirement age for justices to prevent unforeseen events that can't be planned for. Finally, we look ahead to 2022 with news of an upcoming challenge to Gus Bickford, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. BIckford, a white man, will be contending with Bob Massie who has officially announced his candidacy, and likely with Mike Lake, who has not yet officially announced. Unless another candidate jumps in, the race will consist of three white men. Steve points to data collected exclusively at The Horse Race Data Analytics Headquarters showing that if either challenger were to win, they would be the second Michael or second Robert to hold this position. “The leader at the top of the party doesn’t exactly reflect the changing makeup of the Democratic party," Stephanie says. Recent wins for the Democratic party in Massachusetts have largely been made by women and people of color.
10/1/20-- After the most chaotic and uncomfortable presidential debate the country has ever seen, Jennifer, Steve, and Stephanie gather in the virtual bunker to share their thoughts and reflect on the reactions of #mapoli members. Jennifer said, “The president gave a lot of troubling answers on a lot of topics that are extremely consequential and dodged a lot of important questions.” Perhaps the most egregious was his refusal to openly condemn white supremacy. Trump launched into “an uninterrupted rambling attack on the integrity of mail-in voting.” But, like Jenn says, it didn’t end there. “He wasn’t just attacking mail-in voting but one thing that a lot of people, I think reasonably, read into his comments about asking his supporters to watch people at the polls for fraud is that that also seems like an effort to get people to intimidate voters.” Stephanie wasn’t surprised by this performance, saying, “If you’ve paid attention to his style over the past four years, a lot of this was pretty predictable.” The tone of the debate did not match the gravity of the situation we’re living in. “It was frustrating to me that the organization in the debate was just these three men all interrupting each other and laughing nervously when things are just going so wrong.” As the Commission on Presidential Debates announced they would put in place stronger regulations for the next Presidential debate to limit candidates running away with their responses and ignoring set guidelines, Steve wonders, what actually can be done? Well, hopefully something. Anything. “Yesterday was shameful all around, and it should not happen again,” Steve said. Journalist Bill Shaner, author of the Worcester Sucks and I Love It blog stopped by The Horse Race to give the lowdown on what's happening in Central Massachusetts. An organization called Defund WPD is asking the Worcester City Council and and the Worcester City Manage to create a public database of police conduct records. Bill explains, the group initially formed to put pressure on Worcester to lower the police department's budget. "They lost that battle really hard," he says. "Worcester City Council and City Manager sort of callously dismissed them.” Now, the group is still putting on pressure on the police department and the city. New polling out of UMass Lowell shows how voters in three swing states are leaning five weeks before the presidential election. In New Hampshire, Biden's got a comfortable lead over Trump, while the candidates are locked in a dead heat in North Carolina, and Trump is ahead of Biden in Texas by a three-point margin.
9/24/20-- This month has proven to be a sad one for the courts both here in Massachusetts and nationally, with the passing of Justice Ralph Gants, and more recently, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Jenn, Steve, and Stephanie discuss the commonality between Governor Charlie Baker and President Donald Trump -- appointing a significant number of justices. In Boston news, city councilor Andrea Campbell put an end to speculation today when she made the announcement that she is in fact running for mayor. That makes two female candidates running for the position. Mayor Marty Walsh has not yet declared whether he'll run for re-election. Dorchester expert Jenn Smith gives her take on how Campbell will likely position herself in the race if Walsh is to seek re-election. As Americans wonder what will happen to the vacant Supreme Court Justice seat, many are concerned if a conservative justice is confirmed before the election, reproductive rights may be in jeopardy. Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of NARAL Pro Choice Massachusetts joins the show to talk about what's at stake for Massachusetts if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and she explains the renewed push by pro-choice activists around passing the ROE Act.
9/17/20-- This week brought news that Ralph Gants, the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court died suddenly at the age of 65. Gants was an advocate for racial justice, whose call for Harvard to explore racial inequities in the Massachusetts criminal justice system resulted in the publication of a report just last week. As Stephanie and Jenn note, Governor Baker will appoint two justices to the bench this year, as Justice Barbara Lenk plans to retire in December. Once the appointments have been made, Baker will have been responsible for putting up every justice on the Supreme Court bench. The Boston Globe reports that the only other governor to have appointed an entire slate of justices was John Hancock, the first and third governor of Massachusetts. In municipal news, Michelle Wu has officially announced her run for Boston Mayor, and Steve is armed with polling numbers illustrating Wu's favorability stacked against sitting Mayor Marty Walsh. Wu's popularity is lower than Walsh's, but Steve predicts younger voters could be extremely influential in this election, and their role could take shape in a similar fashion that unfolded in Ayanna Pressley's 2018 bid for Congress against incumbent Mike Capuano. Steve explains, younger people learned about Ayanna Pressley, became likely voters, and ultimately became her supporters. Meanwhile on Beacon Hill, the legislative session continues beyond its traditional July 31st end date after legislators moved to extend it through the end of 2020. Even with extra time dedicated passing major legislation on health care, transportation, housing and more, lawmakers have yet to make notable progress just yet. BFF of the pod and State House News Service reporter Katie Lannan stops by the show and explains that even though major developments haven't been made yet, because the legislative session continues, "the hope is still alive" on several of these big-name bills. Over in Western Massachusetts, Springfield City Councilors are making moves to the State House. Councilors Orlando Ramos and Adam Gomez are headed to the State House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, after winning their Democratic primary elections. Matt Szafranski, editor-in-chief of the Western Massachusetts Politics and Insight blog, says Springfield City Council is "now a viable political launchpad." Plus, Matt provides insight into the 2nd Hampden-Hampshire district, where a rematch is underway between sitting state Senator John Velis and challenger Republican John Cain.
9/9/20--The primary election is over in Massachusetts, and that usually means most of the drama has come to a close, as the most competitive races are done. But on Monday, an announcement from an unlikely source arose regarding a certain 2021 competition. The Boston Globe reported Boston Mayor Marty Walsh saying City Councilor Michelle Wu called him to let him know she would be running for Mayor in the 2021 election. Wu herself has not yet confirmed, but Boston may very well be in for a busy election season. When Stephanie Murray spoke to City Councilor Julia Mejia about the news, Mejia predicted 5-6 mayoral candidates and 20 at-large candidates. While we're still waiting on confirmation from Wu, Jennifer Smith points to her past two runs for City Council wherein she came out in the top two--indicating strong support from Boston voters. On the other hand, it's been more than 70 years since a mayor of Boston was ousted. As with Wu's run, there hasn't been confirmation that Mayor Walsh will run for re-election, the battle for Wu will be uphill. And speaking of uphill battles, the MassGOP has its sights set on a few Congressional Districts in Massachusetts that they think may be vulnerable to swing Republican in the upcoming general election. Stephanie Murray says the MassGOP is eyeing the Massachusetts 4th and 9th districts, hoping the Democratic nominee Jake Auchincloss will fall to Julie Hall. Hall is attempting to paint Auchincloss as a socialist, though that message may have limited sticking power as Auchincloss was the moderate option among his progressive opponents for MA04. The Massachusetts 9th, which has a reputation of leaning the farthest right of all the state's congressional districts, will feature Republican Helen Brady facing off against incumbent Bill Keating.
9/3/20-- Tuesday was primary election day in Massachusetts, and history was made as more than 1.5 million ballots were cast, making this the busiest state primary election in 30 years, in terms of raw votes. The U.S. Senate race was itself historic, in that challenger Joe Kennedy III was defeated by incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, making JKIII the first Kennedy in the political dynasty to lose an election in Massachusetts. The outcome of the race aligned well with what recent polling suggested. Markey performed well in areas populated by white, affluent voters with high levels of education. Kennedy scored big in areas of low-income and minority voters. In fact, Jennifer Smith took a look at the results within majority Black communities in Boston, and found Markey “got pretty overwhelmed.” “On cursory examination, I couldn’t find a precinct of mostly Black residents that Markey actually won in Boston,” Jenn said. Steve, Jenn, and Stephanie run through the remaining Congressional District races. MA01 elected another incumbent, Rep. Richard Neal, who bested challenger Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse by 18 percentage points. In MA02, Rep. Jim McGovern (special guest on today’s episode) remained unchallenged by a fellow Democrat. In the third Congressional District, Rep. Lori Trahan also went unopposed, quite differently from MA04, where a crowded field of candidates narrowed down to two front-runners—Jesse Mermell and Jake Auchincloss—but the race is still too close to call. Rep. Katherine Clark ran unopposed in the Massachusetts 5th, and In MA06, incumbent Rep. Seth Moulton claimed victory over challengers Jamie Zahlaway Belsito and Angus McQuilken. Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Bill Keating both ran unopposed in the 7th and 9th districts respectively, and challenger Robbie Goldstein was defeated by incumbent Rep. Stephen Lynch in the Massachusetts 8th. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern stopped by The Horse Race to discuss his reactions to the primary results. His initial thoughts on the U.S. Senate race was that it was “fascinating,” and that Markey and Kennedy were “two really quality candidates.” McGovern said that primary challenges “are not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of us were uncomfortable with the Markey/Kennedy race because we liked them both, but Joe Kennedy felt he had a case to make.” Though Massachusetts did not share the bleak fate of New York in suffering weekslong delays in determining primary results, McGovern urges voters to have a plan for voting in the general election to limit mishaps as the USPS is sure to receive unprecedented numbers of mail-in ballots. “I never thought that was going to be a concern until Donald trump and his Postmaster General Mr. [Louis] DeJoy decided to screw around with the postal service.” As news of foreign interference in the 2020 election comes to the forefront, McGovern is unsurprised, calling Trump “corrupt” and emulating authoritarian leaders. The congressman would like to see more oversight on the executive branch, and while he said there are measures Congress can put in place to enforce oversight, voters can make a difference too. “There’s no substitute for electing people who have a spine.”
8/27/20--It's the final episode before the Sept. 1 primary election here in Massachusetts, and Steve, Stephanie, Jenn, and a special guest have a lot to talk about. They begin with the Democratic primary race for U.S. Senate. Horse Race co-host and Politico Massachusetts Playbook author Stephanie Murray has been covering it exhaustively. What stuck out to her in her coverage is that this race does not fall in line with the stereotypical narratives you tend to hear about primary races involving a long-time incumbent and younger challenger. “In the most basic sense, Joe Kennedy is the insurgent outsider," Murray says. But, it's the sitting incumbent, Ed Markey, who's gotten outspoken support from younger, progressive voters. Plus, Kennedy's has establishment support (read: Speaker Pelosi endorsement), and, Murray says, "he's an expert at raising money," a description usually attributed to the incumbent. The same could be said about the Republicans vying for the Senate seat, Steve Koczela says. The contest between Shiva Ayyadurai and Kevin O'Connor does not mirror the tension of the MassGOP, which is split between Trump loyalism and a more moderate Republicanism that Governor Charlie Baker represents. Both these contestants fall into the Trump brand of Republicanism, Steve explains. Where they differ is in their tone and rhetoric. Jennifer Smith runs through the interesting state legislative primaries happening in the hub that could pave a new future of Boston politics, and MassINC Polling Group Research Director and The Horse Race's Western Mass Bureau Chief Rich Parr provides insight into the 5th Hampden District primary where three candidates vie for the seat vacated by House Rep. Aaron Vega.
Episode 145: Run DMC

Episode 145: Run DMC


8/20/20--It's the final day of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention. Joe Biden is officially the Democratic nominee for President, and guests this week join us to discuss the highs and lows. First though, co-host and Politico Massachusetts Playbook author Stephanie Murray gives us the rundown on the U.S. congressional races heating up here in Massachusetts. In the Massachusetts 1st Congressional District where Congressman Richard Neal and Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse debated publicly for the first time this week. Stephanie provides an overview of the accusations swirling around Morse and the College Democrats of Massachusetts. Challenger Robbie Goldstein faces off against incumbent Rep. Stephen Lynch in the 8th, and Congressman Seth Moulton is looking to defend his seat in the 6th district against Jamie Zahlaway Belsito and Angus McQuilken. Wilnelia Rivera, President of Rivera Consulting, Katherine Adam, Vice President of Denterlein, and Alex Goldstein, CEO of Ninety West stopped by The Horse Race to offer their takes on the DNC as well as Democrats' response to the coronavirus crisis and its fallout on individuals' health and finances. Rivera, who co-authored a chapter of the new book "TURNOUT! Mobilizing Voters in an Emergency" with Adam, said Democrats' strategy of targeting centrist voters is a flawed one. "If you actually look at what’s been happening since 2016 is that the partisan divide in this country has expanded and what that has done is actually shrunk that middle of independent voters." Goldstein, who is behind the Faces of COVID Twitter account, sharing the stories of those who lost their lives to COVID-19, says it's important candidates show empathy and an understanding of the moment we're living in. "Putting all the specific policy issues aside, 175,000 people are dead in this country because of a mismanaged public policy response to a pandemic."
8/13/20-- After much anticipation, Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden has officially announced his 2020 running mate: California Senator Kamala Harris. This is a historic selection in a number of ways. Harris is the first Black woman to be on a major party’s presidential ticket. And because Biden has said if he is elected in 2020 he would not run for a second term, Harris would be well-placed for a 2024 presidential run if events run that course. And, because there’s ALWAYS a Massachusetts connection, the announcement puts an end to speculation over who might fill Elizabeth Warren’s Senate seat if she were to become the Vice President. (Still much speculation to come if she’s selected for a cabinet position, though.) Across the commonwealth, schools are deciding how to start the academic year. Different districts are choosing different plans. Some are beginning with all-remote learning, some with all in-person, and others with a hybrid approach. Steve mentions one thing to keep an eye on is the economic impact of school reopenings. One sentiment he's been hearing is, "I will not be able to keep my job if I’m also expected to be home and if I’m expected to be supervising [my kids'] learning.” As the primary election approaches and anxieties remain around voting in-person, a new survey from The MassINC Polling Group finds about 4 in 10 Massachusetts voters plan to vote by mail. Among those voters choosing the mail-in option, a stunning 85% of them plan to vote for Biden, with just 9% of them planning to vote for Trump. Election night this year is going to look different from every other election night in recent history, with tallies coming in later than we've come to expect. In Massachusetts, given this data split, we could see Biden's votes racking up much more slowly than Trump's come election night. Sports teams are facing a hurdle as Major League Baseball is postponing scheduled games in response to the latest COVID-19 outbreak among its players. Meanwhile, basketball and hockey are happening, but in bubbles. MassINC Polling Group Research Director and Vice Admiral of Horse Race sports correspondents Maeve Duggan stops by to give her take on the future of sports in the age of coronavirus. Maeve points to polling done by Seton Hall earlier this spring that found, for the most part, sports fans are not comfortable attending games in person until a vaccine is available. Plus, a series of Harris polls released this summer found a majority of Americans (58%) don't even think the MLB should be playing right now. Maeve directs us to Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle, who said, “Sports are like the reward of a functioning society." To that, Maeve says, "Do we have a functioning society right now? I think many would argue no."
8/6/20-- It’s another week back in the virtual bunker for Jennifer, Stephanie, and Steve, and unfortunately this week Massachusetts reported an uptick in positive COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, new cases rose by 438, which is the highest one-day increase since June 6. This comes as schools continue to strategize their reopening plans, and some release them. Somerville Public Schools, for example, has announced its school year will begin with all-remote learning. In Senate news, a Louisiana-based firm released a poll last week measuring support in the Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy III matchup. The data showed 44% of likely Democratic primary voters for Markey, 41% for Kennedy, and 16% undecided. This is a shift, as polling done early on showed Kennedy with a sizable lead. Steve says the margin between them plus the rate undecided voters means this is still anybody’s race. The data show that Markey leads among voters under the age of 55, while Kennedy has more support from older voters. Among voters with at least a college degree, Markey leads, while Kennedy is supported by more voters with some or no college. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this poll was light on non-college voters. 69% of those polled had at least a college degree. If that rate were lower, Markey’s lead might be as wide or even exist. When it comes to results, Steve says, the turnout demographics are going to be key. “If turnout is very high among people with high levels of education and among younger people, that benefits Markey and vice versa would benefit Kennedy.” In the crowded Massachusetts 4th congressional race to fill Congressman Kennedy’s empty seat, Ben Sigel decided to run because, he says, he was “sick and tired of seeing the divisions in our country.” He was the seventh of nine candidates to enter the race and did so because he said none of the other candidates talked about coming together to solve big issues. “We need to get back to the times of the Orrin Hatch, John McCain and Kennedy days where people knew that 80% on policy they disagreed with, but on the 20% that they agreed with, that’s what they worked on to make real change.” He says one of the first things he wants to do upon entering congress is pass paid family and medical leave legislation, which, he says is a bipartisan issue. Given the recent bumps in positive COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, Sigel calls for caution in continuing to reopen the state’s economy. He says decisions should be based on science. “[We] should probably slow things down and see how the next few days go, if we need to reverse the course that we’re at.” He also recommends schools begin the year with all-remote learning.
7/30/20--As election season bears down upon us all, applications for mail-in ballots should now have officially arrived at the residences of all registered Massachusetts voters. Biden said he will make his VP selection next week. Elizabeth Warren’s name has been bandied about as a potential pick, and if that ends up being the case, look out for what could be a very interesting special election. A coalition of Black state legislative staffers are calling out the racist behavior they’ve witnessed in their workplaces and demanding reform. The staffers with the Beacon BLOC group on Wednesday wrote a letter to Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Spilka, and Secretary of State Bill Galvin outlining their demands. As special guest co-host and State House News Service Reporter Katie Lannan describes, the group would like to see leadership "take steps that they say would make the State House a place that values and supports Black staffers.” As policy proposals aimed at systemic racism circulate through the chambers, the group addresses the idea that, as Katie puts it, “if you’re going to be talking about this stuff from a policy angle, you want to get there from a human resources angle as well.” Strange happenings abound this week, beginning with an unusually early endorsement coming from The Boston Globe. The Globe endorsed incumbent Senator Ed Markey for re-election Tuesday. Markey’s up against U.S. Congressman Joe Kennedy III, whose team said the endorsement served as an effort to uphold the status quo for the paper’s “disproportionately white, well-off, well-educated readers.” Politico Massachusetts Playbook author Stephanie Murray covered the development, and switches from her usual post as co-host to guest to weigh in. She says the campaign’s method of response backfired. “By choosing to respond to it in this way, it actually stretched coverage and conversation about the endorsement into another day.” Speaking of endorsements, neither Kennedy nor Markey during this week’s debate were willing to endorse or disavow Governor Baker for re-election in 2022. Stephanie says, “To knock the popular governor right before the voters of Massachusetts are going to decide on you is kind of a tough spot to be in.” And popular he certainly is. The MassINC Polling Group finds 77% of Massachusetts voters hold a favorable view of Baker. All is topsy turvy on Beacon Hill as the House votes to extend the legislative session beyond its July 31st deadline through the end of the year. Good thing The Horse Race is joined by state legislature expert and veteran State House News Reporter Katie Lannan to explain what this means for the high-priority policy proposals that have yet to be passed. The purpose of the deadline itself, Katie explains, "is pretty much to insulate lawmaking from the campaign season, so you’re not campaigning by policy.” “It serves as kind of the stopping point in election years in the second year of the session for major bills, things still get done after that point, but the controversial things are wrapped up before that point often at midnight on July 31st.” The deadline has not been moved yet. So far, Senate has not voted on the measure. As to what the next five months will look like if the extension does go into effect, that’s unclear. “This is really uncharted territory here,” Katie says. There have been suspensions allowing for more time for formal session in the past, but only in November in the first year of the term. To be doing it in July during a “weird and hectic campaign season” is new. Major legislation that has yet to be decided, spanning topics from police accountability and racial justice to economic development to climate change to transportation. New MassINC Polling Group data finds voters are keen to see changes in transportation, and largely support new funds for that. Though political will for major transportation changes appears strong, exactly when legislation will pass remains a mystery.
7/23/20--While co-host Stephanie Murray is off for a much-deserved vacation this week, Steve Koczela and Jennifer Smith have plenty to talk about both in national and statewide politics and policy. President Trump signed a memo on Wednesday instructing the Commerce Department to leave out unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. from the census report that determines distribution of Congressional seats. As Jenn points out, this is not the first time the Trump administration has attempted to tangle in the census process of counting all persons. Back in pre-COVID times, the Trump administration tried to put a question on the census asking about citizenship status. We at The Horse Race have spent a lot of time covering COVID-era housing issues, because it's a basic human need that, as evidenced by data from The MassINC Polling Group, has become incredibly difficult for some Massachusetts residents to hold onto during this crisis. The statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium was set to expire mid-August, and polling conducted in June found many renters and homeowners did not feel confident they could catch up on housing payments by that point. Governor Baker announced Tuesday that moratorium will be extended until October 17, protecting renters and homeowners from foreclosure and eviction at least until then. Businesses across the state are hurting, regardless of their size. But new polling from The MassINC Polling finds that some factors make businesses much more vulnerable to hardship brought on by the pandemic, whether that's revenue loss or accessibility to aid. Very small businesses, for example, have not applied for PPP as often or received the full amount they applied for as larger businesses. The industry in which the business resides also has a lot to do with if and to what capacity they're operating. Those that deal in a lot of in-person interactions like education and beauty businesses as well as bars and restaurants are more likely to be closed and less likely to be open completely. Many small businesses are also women- and/or minority-owned. More than half of businesses owned by women and women of color reported revenue drops of half or more in the first half of 2020. While Congress turns its attention to a second stimulus package, Boston Indicators is proposing a more permanent form of financial security in the shape of a guaranteed minimum income for lower-income Massachusetts families. This would be executed via reforms to the pre-existing Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). In the research report, Boston Indicators Director Luc Schuster, points to the systemic income inequities in Massachusetts, and says that given Massachusetts wealth as a state, it has the resources at its disposal to ultimately eliminate poverty. With the EITC as a foundation, Luc says, “It would be pretty easy to just build on top of that to make more categories of households eligible and increase the benefit.”
7/16/20-- This week in #mapoli coverage begins with a national news item with a Massachusetts connection. The Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a proposal to bar current international students from studying in the US if all their classes are taught online. They would have been asked to either transfer to institutions with at least one in person class or self-deport. This happened during a federal hearing of a lawsuit initiated by Harvard and MIT. And speaking of lawsuits, the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office told news outlets that applications for mail-in ballots for registered primary voters in Massachusetts are being sent out. This comes after voting rights organizations sued Secretary Bill Galvin, saying he needed to mail the applications by July 15 regardless of the funding issues he had pointed to as reason for delay. The Massachusetts Senate passed a police reform bill Tuesday that would ban chokeholds, limit the use of tear gas, and train law enforcement officers in the history of racism. The bill, if passed, would limit qualified immunity that protects officers from civil lawsuits. This aspect was the only notable point of contention in the Senate and has also upset police union leaders in Massachusetts. Stephanie Murray provides an update on the news landscape here in Massachusetts that, like everywhere, was already suffering disinvestment before COVID hit, but the pandemic has only exacerbated conditions. News outlets across the state are suffering, and reporters are enduring furloughs and layoffs, leaving a smaller and smaller group of people to cover the fallout from a global crisis. Steve Koczela presents snapshots of public opinion on one aspect of such fallout--how families are thinking about higher education int he midst of the pandemic. It turns out that while most (roughly three-quarters) of Massachusetts parents of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders say that their children's college plans have not changed, that leaves one-quarter of parents whose kids' plans have changed. Those who say their child will delay entry tend to be those who have been the most disadvantaged throughout the shutdown--families who lack sufficient devices and Internet connection, families who speak languages other than English at home, and families with lower incomes. On a lighter note, Steve, Jennifer, and Stephanie, upon hearing of the city of Chicago's recently established Census Cowboy, decided Massachusetts could use a similar vigilante. They asked the good people of Twitter who would make a good Census Cowboy for the Bay State and were flooded with dozens of ingenious responses. The winner: a photoshopped Bill Weld, eating a turkey leg atop a horse, wearing a cowboy hat. We at The Horse Race believe we need that now more than ever.
7/8/20-- This week brings more news out of the Supreme Court where two decisions were made in favor of religious interests. Our in-house legal analyst Jennifer Smith breaks them both down. Also this week, Governor Charlie Baker announced free, on-demand COVID-19 testing would become available to residents of 8 communities that have been hit especially hard by the disease. Jon Hillman and Wilnelia Rivera of the Democratic consulting firm Rivera Consulting dropped by The Horse Race virtual bunker to talk vote by mail an dispel their predictions for the changing 2020 political landscape. On the recently passed early voting and vote by mail legislation to be implemented here in Massachusetts, both Hillman and Rivera are bracing for impact, both doubtful that our state is adequately equipped for the change. Hillman, a Senior Consultant and Researcher at the firm says of vote by mail, "There’s a lot of states that have been doing this for decades that it’s part of their political infrastructure, and to an extent they’re ready for this influx. In a state like Massachusetts, we don’t have a culture like that." Rivera and Hillman stressed that vote by mail is overdue. "We need to redistribute power on Beacon Hill, and vote by mail is a way to do that," Rivera says. On the national front, Rivera sees Joe Biden's vice presidential pick as an important step in igniting an enthusiastic voting base. "We have to give the American electorate-- particularly the Black electorate-- the candidate that they're asking for. And that's a black woman." The right vice presidential pick will be essential in building a movement, she says. Meanwhile, Biden "represents a tradition and stability of what the Democratic party has been, but [he] doesn't represent its future."
7/2/20--It’s almost the 4th of July, though if we’re going by the amount of fireworks set off, it’s been 4th of July for several weeks now. There’s also reason for celebration because it’s Poll Release Day. Steve Koczela & co. at The MassINC Polling Group have new data on Massachusetts parents of K-12 students and their experiences with remote learning. But first up, we bring you the latest headlines. Voting reform legislation is on the move after the Massachusetts House and Senate struck a deal this week. After the bill is expected to be voted through by both houses, it will go to the governor’s desk, where, if signed, the Secretary of State’s office would send all Massachusetts voters applications to request mail-in ballots. Voters would receive applications by July 15 for primary ballots and in September for general ballots. As Stephanie Murray reported yesterday, Senators Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders filed a bill to end qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine that bars police officers from being sued in their personal capacity when they violate someone’s constitutional rights. A version of the bill has been filed in the house by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Congressman Justin Amash. Stephanie also notes Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders have been teaming up a lot lately, and she wonders if Sanders might endorse Markey some time during his re-election campaign. In the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District, the field of candidates vying for Joe Kennedy’s vacant seat is busy. We spoke with yet another candidate in the race yesterday afternoon. Dave Cavell served in Governor Deval Patrick’s administration as well as President Obama’s, and he told the Horse Race hosts he’s running because….. “I thought we needed to bring real leadership and experience and integrity and professionalism to this work and to the federal government at a moment of real crisis for the country.” “This is the time for somebody who can not just vote the right way, but lead the right way.” The District 4 race is still wide open. Polling shows 60% voters in the district are undecided. Cavell says winning is not determined by who raises the most money. He points to lessons he’s learned from his previous “bosses,” (Maura Healey, Deval Patrick, the Obamas). “Go everywhere and you meet everyone,” Cavell said. “And that’s the way that you win these races.” Thanks to last week’s special guest, MassINC Polling Group Research Director, Maeve Duggan, we got a glimpse into data on Massachusetts parents of K-12 students, who were largely divided over school reopening plans. This week, Steve Koczela brings us more findings on that polling, namely, parents’ experiences in terms of how their kids interacted with school was not at all homogeneous. Whether parents were asked how frequently their child participated in an online class, received personalized feedback, or had a one-on-one check in with a teacher, responses were all over the map. Check out the full slides at
6/24/20--A state report was released today on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home that was the site of a deadly coronavirus outbreak. 76 people, more than a third of the veterans residing at the home, died of COVID-19-related causes. The report found that leadership at the state-run home made “substantial errors” that “likely contributed” to the death toll. Investigations from the Massachusetts Department of Justice and Attorney General Maura Healey will follow, and Governor Charlie Baker obtained an outside firm to do an independent review. The report’s release prompted a resignation from the Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Services, Francisco Urena. This is one of several high-profile resignations from state organizations in recent years, following scandals at the state police, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. As Stephanie Murray puts it, “this does seem to be some sort of trend where administration officials end up resigning amid really serious issues, but Charlie Baker’s popularity stays really high.” A web-based initiative to model coronavirus data in the U.S., Covid Act Now, found that only 4 states are on track to contain the coronavirus: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Governors of three of those states — all but Charlie Baker — announced a travel advisory starting Thursday that “all individuals traveling from states with significant community spread” of the coronavirus into one of these states must quarantine for 14 days. anyone who doesn’t follow the advisory could be punished by way of a fine. Baker said MA would not be installing such a requirement, calling such an action “unconstitutional.” Co-host and resident legal analyst Jennifer Smith calls this a weird and kind of thorny issue of constitutional law regarding the essential right to travel between states.” We want to hear from you listeners, should we delve into this further with a constitutional law segment next week? Kentucky voters both hit the polls and mailed in ballots yesterday in a Democratic primary contest for Senate that’s garnered national attention. Amy McGrath leads Charles Booker in in-person vote totals, but mailed ballots are still being counted. Officials estimate a winner might not be announced until next week, when all votes are officially tallied. This trend might continue as vote by mail gains popularity, and we might not know who wins future primary and general elections, even the presidential election, on designated election days. In #Veepstakes news, Sen. Amy Klobuchar this week withdraws her name from consideration as a potential VP pick, urging BIden to pick a woman of color. Variety floated Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley as an option. New data from The MassINC Polling Group shows parents of school-age children are divided over plans for school reopenings. MPG Research Director Maeve Duggan shares the data with The Horse Race hosts. The biggest takeaway? “There’s no clear mandate from parents over what they would prefer, and a sizable portion of them are not confident that schools can reopen safely.” Within that, there are divides by race, income, and geography “that we have come to expect when it comes to anything to do with impacts of the coronavirus.” Maeve says the findings in this data support the narrative found in previous work done by MPG and other outlets, that "those who are less confident [about schools reopening], are the same groups that have borne both the health and the economic brunt of the coronavirus crisis."
6/19/20--As we near the official start of summer, Massachusetts continues with Phase 2 of its reopening plan, with malls and hotels open for business, as well as restaurants for outdoor dining and drinking. No sign yet that Massachusetts will need to backtrack on the reopening, as state officials confirm downward trends continue on each of the four key coronavirus metrics they're tracking. In Supreme Court news, three significant developments were made this week. LGBTQ workers were granted a historic victory when the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the federal law that bars sex discrimination in employment does apply to LGBTQ employees. In a decision that impacts Massachusetts gun laws in particular, justices turned down petitions from 10 challenges to state laws established to limit the availability and accessibility of some firearms and when they can be carried in public. Lastly, on Thursday, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration's attempt to end DACA, finding this move unlawful. This decision keeps 640,000 people safe from deportation. State Representative Liz Miranda stops by The Horse Race to discuss legislation she filed alongside Senator Cynthia Creem, An Act to Save Black Lives. The bill, Miranda says, is designed "to really look at use of force guidelines, creating a duty to intervene." It also bans dangerous police tactics such as chokeholds and the use of rubber bullets and tear gas. Independent oversight is called for in the bill, with Miranda naming the attorney general's office as a potential arbiter, saying that while some people turn to civilian review boards when police misconduct is committed, "I looked at the duty of the attorney general and said that there's a real opportunity here to have oversight come from that."
Episode 135: RENT

Episode 135: RENT


6/10/20-- New data from The MassINC Polling Group show that many Massachusetts renters and homeowners are struggling to make housing payments due to the financial burdens of the coronavirus crisis. MPG President Steve Koczela points to the key finding that people under the most economic strain during the pandemic are also much more likely to be in a household with COVID-19 themselves. Huge disparities exist between demographic groups in likelihood of missing a housing payment, and there is broad support among Massachusetts residents for housing policy proposals. Juana Matias, COO of MassINC and former state Representative for the 16th Essex District of Massachusetts, shares data on race parity in our elected leadership as well as her experience running for the state House of Reps as well as U.S. Congress as a woman of color.
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