Friday, June 04, 2010

Richard Neal (D-MA Hampden 2nd) Holds Pricey Fundraiser out of His District – Neal is up for Reelection in 2010.

Representative Richard Neal - campaigning hard to win the Rangel Gavel must first win the trust of the Hampden 2nd

The Hampden Second District is not often in the news, it is one of the more quiet districts in the Commonwealth, and Democrat Richard Neal, its 11 term Congressional Representative, tends to keep a lower profile. Neal only appears, like clockwork, every two years, when the residents are sent mailers touting the dangers of Republicans and Neal’s accomplishments. The local press begins to run a plethora of stories on Neal, who, up until this time in his career, has not faced a serious challenge. Times have changed, and Neal has stiff competition from Dr. Jay Fleitman of Northampton, Flietman, who as a Republican, has been active in Northampton politics, made his campaign official when he delivered or 3800 certified signatures weeks ahead of the State Deadline. It is the fact that Flietman is not only a Republican who is well-received in one of the most liberal cities in the District, but that he also has a sensible approach to the issues facing the district as well as the nation.

The Globe's report on Neal’s Lobbyist packed fundraiser was based on his quest to take the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, recently made vacant by Charles Rangel. Neal needs the money to donate to Democrat Candidates as well as the Democrat Congressional Committee in order to garner favor with individual reps, so that when the time comes, he’ll have bought enough votes to sustain any serious challengers to the chair.

Neal faces two obstacles to the high seat on the Committee that governs our taxes: one the Democrats must maintain a majority in order for Neal to stand a chance of succeeding, and two, he must still be a Congressional Representative in November. Both of these obstacles are looking insurmountable, with anti-Washington, anti-incumbent and anti-Democrat sentiment running high nationwide, and in no place is this evident more than the Hampden 2nd district of Massachusetts.

In reviewing the special January 19th, 2010 Senate election Map shown below, the Hampden second (noted by the City of Springfield in blue) shows a sea of red, as the District leaned heavily towards Brown. Three areas where Coakley fared well were Springfield, Amherst and Holyoke - the rest - not so much.

Results from January 2010 Special election - Hampden Second runs from the hill towns west (in red) to Worcester

Can a physician from Northampton do to Neal what Brown did to Coakley? – The answer to that question is a resounding yes. With the exception of an increase in articles in the local news (which is anticipated by voters with Neal’s history of showing up every two years), he has about as much name recognition, perhaps less than Dr. Jay. The Boston Globe article talks about Neal as being bi-partisan, however, his voting record in the Congress appears to contradict that claim, as from day 1, he has voted specifically along party lines. Neal is going to have to campaign hard, and it means spending on advertising, announcing the fact that he exists on the one hand, and that he wants to be reelected on the other.

Dr. Jay Fleitman, Republican running against Richard Neal, on a trip to the Capital

It will come down to a matter of who the voters are going to trust to end the spending, the corruption and reign in the deficit. The old allegiance to one party in Massachusetts is gone. The electorate is heavily Independent, and enthusiasm among Democrats is at an all-time low. There are at least 5, perhaps 6, very competitive house races out of the 10 seats currently held by Democrats in Massachusetts.

To learn more about the candidates:
Jay Fleitman for Congress

Neal for Congress

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Barney Frank (D-MA) up for Reelection in 2010 – Throws Gov. Deval Patrick Under the Bus – States “Voters are Angry”

Barney Frank must campaign hard, Sean Bielat one of the 3 stronger candidates who is running for Frank's Seat in the Massachusetts 4th - image The Advocate

From the Boston Herald: Barney Frank is in campaign mode – the 4th District Congressional Representative has been in Congress since 1980 and is directly tied to the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac fiasco. Frank, in an interview with the Herald, opined on the Massachusetts Governors race:

“It’s not bad if you don’t know a job, what’s bad is if you don’t know a job but think you do. I think that was a mistake. Someone who’s very successful in the private sector will often come in and have an overabundance of confidence,” said Frank, who has served in Congress since 1981.
He went on to point out Patrick’s difficult relations with the state Legislature and list his “terrible mistakes,” such as redecorating his office with $12,000 drapes and offering a $175,000 job at an obscure state agency to early supporter Sen. Marian Walsh (D-West Roxbury).
“I think the business that I am in is harder than people think and people who come in at the very top level with no prior experience underestimate the difficulty,” Frank said.

He went on to take a few swipes at both the GOP Candidate, Charlie Baker and gave a backhanded compliment to Democrat turned Independent Candidate, Tim Cahill. Frank did say it was going to be a difficult campaign due to voters’ anger over TARP, but failed to acknowledge voter anger over a myriad of issues including health care reform, the deficit, failure to act on the Gulf Oil spill, the Sestak scandal, and continued high unemployment. The unemployment rate in Frank’s district is particularly high, at over 12% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Commonwealth’s average unemployment rate has remained between 9.2 and 9.5% for the year, starting at 5.6% in January of 2009, according to the Boston Globe.

Frank faces multiple challengers, including a primary challenge from Democrat Rachel Brown, who filed papers on May 27th. In addition, the Republican field includes Earl Sholley who ran against Frank in 2008, taking 70,000 votes in the district – given the fact that Sholley had barely campaigned, this early challenge shows signs of weakness in the incumbent. Sholley will face up-and-coming GOP Star, Sean Bielat in the September primary. Bielat, a Marine (currently serving in the Reserves) and worked for I-Robot corporation, he currently runs a consulting firm. Bielat holds several degrees including a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy school of Government, and a Master of Business Administration for the Wharton school at the University of Pennsylvania. He also had served as a congressional page, giving him insight into our Congress at an early age. He then joined the Marine Corp.
Bielat’s biography can be found here on YouTube
The winner of both primaries will face off in November. Given the amount of voter angst, it is quite possible that those Democrats going to the primary polls may just pull that lever for Rachael Brown, as incumbents are not enjoying a particularly strong political season.

As Frank Said, he needs to campaign hard, however it may do him little good. Voter anger, coupled with multiple challengers makes Frank a target for retirement. The 4th District will be one of the most interesting races to watch, although polling has only been on an internal basis to date. A source close to one of the campaigns indicated that early internal polling in indicated that Frank was on shaky ground. One would imagine, that the other challengers have taken time and treasure to do the same, regardless of Scott Brown’s win in the district (a sign of trouble for the Democrat Party), the district has always favored Frank, and all politics, as they say, are local.

The Massachusetts State Democrat convention will take place this weekend in Worcester which should be interesting, given the fact that there are over 200 Republican’s running for state and local offices, an historical figure in Massachusetts politics. The last time they met, in 2008, it was a boisterous event, with Clinton the delegate’s favored presidential candidate. It will be of interest to see if the State Democrats can manufacture enthusiasm in the current environment, considering that their “Big Guns” (i.e. the likes of Barney Frank) must actually campaign to try and save their seats.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gallop: Republicans Lead Congressional Ballot by 6% - Larger Story Independents Voter Preference

A Gallop survey released todayshows an “historic” lead by Republicans on the Generic Congressional ballot. When one reads further into the data, the most stunning portion of this survey is the Independent Congressional Voting Preferences: which widens the Republican lead by 13 points. In states such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, this trend can be particularly disturbing to those Democrats who are up for reelection in 2010. Almost every Congressional district is in play, including high profile Democrats, Barney Frank (4th district) faces rising Republican Star, Sean Bielat) and Richard Neal (Hampden 2nd)faces popular Northampton Mass. Republican, Dr. Jay Fleitman. In all instances, Democrats, for the first time in Massachusetts history are facing multiple Republican challengers in all districts. The independent vote in Massachusetts, and like states, where independents either equal one party or another or far outweigh both with the total electorate, will make be the deciding factor in many 2010 elections. (Massachusetts as of 2008 had independents at 51% of the voting bloc.) This cannot bode well for State Democrats who will hold their convention June 4th.

Although pundits consistently point to the 12th Congressional District win of Democrat, Mark Critz, which is not without some guile – Critz basically, ran as a Republican in order to gain the seat. (See screenshots of campaign pages where issues are Republican driven issues.) Should this trend continue among voters, as outlined in the Gallop survey, the makeup of the Congress, and possibly the Senate will be greatly changed in November.

Pelosi – Policy Decisions Based on Faith - Analysis

House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has apparently been making policy decisions based upon her Catholic faith according to a CNS news article and video (below). Pelosi made this statement while attending a May 6, Catholic Community Conference in D.C. Pelosi, a Roman Catholic, has been on the opposing side of Catholic (Christian) teaching as regards the abortion issue. She has consistently voted for legalized abortion, including voting against a ban on partial-birth abortion. In February of 2009 Pelosi met with Pope Benedict, who read her the riot act as regards her stance on abortion. The Pope lectured Pelosi on Church doctrine and allowed no cameras into the meeting.
CNS News: In quoting Pelosi,

They ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite this? What is your favorite that? What is your favorite that?’ And one time, ‘What is your favorite word?’ And I said, ‘My favorite word? That is really easy. My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word.”

“And that Word," Pelosi said, "is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it? It just covers everything. The Word.

“Fill it in with anything you want. But, of course, we know it means: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ And that’s the great mystery of our faith. He will come again. He will come again. So, we have to make sure we’re prepared to answer in this life, or otherwise, as to how we have measured up.”

Pelosi’s has always identified herself as Catholic, however, in recent years high profile politicians’ who have voted consistently against Church doctrine on the abortion issues, have faced criticism from the Church. This normally takes place during an election cycle, when the same head into Churches across the country, with the media in tow, vying for the Catholic vote (which is one of the largest voting blocs in the nation). Several of these politicians, including John Kerry (D-MA), have been denied the Catholic sacraments pending a change of heart on the abortion issue.

It is quite possible that Nancy Pelosi, as is the case with all humanity, may have gravitated towards a more religious stance as she ages, that said, it is difficult to ignore the role of the church or religion (or lack thereof) in the lives of those who govern and how that might affect policy. Religion has been used as a tool against politician’s, depending upon political party – George Bush was consistently criticized in the media for his faith, and 2008 presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee was castigated by the media for having been, of all things, a minister at one time. Concerns over politicians whose decisions are based on faith, by those who concerned about the separation of church and state have yet to mention Pelosi’s statements. Go figure. In direct interpretation of the Constitution, the separation of church and state, only refers to the establishment of a particular state religion, and does not extend to the individual practices of politicians and their ability to govern if one is Christian, Jew or, for the matter Atheist.

As Pelosi faces opposition for her seat from several contenders, including businesswomen and Republican, Dana Walsh, it may well be that Nancy Pelosi has grown closer to her faith as she has recently considered

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

AP Poll Suggests American’s are “Stressed” over Economy – Credit Card Debt Featured – Cause and Effect Analysis

A poll released by the AP suggests that, for the most part, American’s are stressed over the economy. The focus of the poll is on credit card debt and management, while the article does take time to mention the continued high unemployment rate of 9.9% (averaged for the nation). What was missing is the summer’s annual hike in the price of fuel, with this year’s gulf oil spill insuring that prices at the pump may hurt a bit more than prior years, to top that off, NOAA (the official government weather agency) has suggested an unusually active hurricane season again this year. This information allows speculators to drive the price at the pump. One can add gas prices to the list of “stressors” that American’s face. As the average cost of a gallon of gas rises, so does the cost to commute to work, cuts must be made and those cuts, in the past, were for non-essentials. That said, as inflation has continued to chip away at food and fuel, , any additional rise in those rates should be seen in mid-July to August, as the price of fuel will drive up the price of groceries at the local store.

When one adds state and local (and possibly federal) taxes to the cost of living, the dip in one’s expenses makes meeting minimum credit card payments, and or mortgage payments difficult, especially for those who are on fixed incomes, say unemployment, where a bill presently before the Senate would buy additional time for those who have been receiving benefits for the maximum of two years.

When unemployment remains high, with unemployment benefits extended for lengthy periods of time, the most logical course taken by the current administration and certain states (New York, Massachusetts), would be to raise taxes on the wealthiest or the corporations that produce private sector jobs. In other words, exacerbating the problem – with an extension in place for benefits through November, that with a slow recovery, will have to be extended once again, especially in areas where fuel cost for heat will be heading toward peak months.

Are there jobs available? Yes, even in Massachusetts - that said those jobs may not pay as high as the ones current unemployment compensation – which would adversely affect home and property. Who foots the bill for unemployment benefits? Short answer: the taxpayer. An excellent treatment of the problem with the current system can be found hereat Although the individual states dole out the compensation (thus the archaic: “on the dole” when describing out of work compensation), it is normally covered by unemployment taxes paid by corporations, small businesses, and of course, when supplemented by the state and federal government, by the taxpayer.

This is, in the words of every letter ever received by the late Senator Edward Kennedy in response to any query about policy: “a complicated situation”. One would have to make it so attractive for employers to come back to the states, that tax cuts and other incentives might need to be in place in order to create jobs. Tax cuts to corporations (or anyone) will not happen under the present administration. With demanding more, while everyone is living with less and the strong influence of unions on the present administration, one can bet the house this situation will continue unabated, until such time as there is a) a change in administrations and eventually b) lawmakers with the guts to regulate unions to their basic function – watch dogs for those who have no voice and are working in dangerous occupations, ensuring those who fit the criteria make a living wage, and dues collected are put towards pensions. Wages for those union executives should be scrutinized as if they were Wall Street CFO’s.

With the union demands under control, cuts for corporations in order to stimulate job growth, (and tax cuts and incentives for those working and paying taxes (only 50% of the nation’s workforce), the economy will regain footing. Until then, printing money, and propping up failed systems, will be the key to continued stress amongst those who are footing the bill making do with less in order to keep the bill collectors and taxman at bay.

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