Troubling poll in Third Congressional District

A new poll of likely voters in the Third Congressional District suggests the Democratic primary winner in the race to succeed US Rep. Niki Tsongas will be elected without a clear mandate from voters.

It’s become a familiar story in Massachusetts, where incumbents dominate and the rare open seat attracts so many candidates that the winner typically fails to garner support from a majority of the voters. The problem is so pervasive that Paul Schimek, in an analysis written for CommonWealth, concluded that democracy isn’t working in Massachusetts.

The poll of voters in the Third Congressional District illustrates the problem. Tsongas in August announced her decision to leave office at the end of this term, setting off a scramble among would-be replacements. The open seat has attracted 13 candidates in the Democratic primary, an unwieldy number that makes it difficult for voters to keep track of the challengers, let alone discern differences among them. The end result is typically voter apathy and low turnout.

Professor Joshua J. Dyck of the UMass Lowell Center for Public Opinion, which conducted the voter survey with the Boston Globe, highlighted the problem in his report on the poll.

“A campaign that has thus far been waged as a series of fundraising disclosures shows an electorate that still is relatively unfamiliar with many of the candidates,” he said. “More than half (59 percent) of Democratic primary likely voters surveyed said that they have not yet made up their mind about who to vote for in this race. Thus far, the electorate reports modest interest in the race with just over one third of likely voters (36 percent) saying they haven’t really been following the race much at all.”

The goal in such crowded fields is not to win over a majority of the voters in the district but to beat out the other candidates. Since there are so many candidates, it doesn’t take that many votes to win. Candidates in such situations often tailor their message to narrow groups of voters. Making matters worse, the winner of the Democratic primary is heavily favored to win the general election.

In the UMass Lowell poll, Rufus Gifford, a recent transplant to the district and a former ambassador to Denmark, led the pack with 11 percent support. He was followed by state Sen. Barbara L’Italien at 7 percent, Lori Trahan at 5 percent, and Rep. Juana Matias and Dan Koh at 4 percent. The list of candidates in the Democratic primary is so long that the Globe, in its story on the poll, didn’t even list all of them.

A number of states are experimenting with ways to overcome the problem. One approach that is gaining some currency in Massachusetts is ranked choice voting. Instead of voting for just one candidate, voters cast ballots that rank all of the candidates from top to bottom. If no candidate wins majority support in the initial count, the candidate with the fewest votes is tossed from the race and the votes of his or her supporters shift to their second choice. The process is repeated until a majority winner emerges.



The scandal-plagued Massachusetts State Police is a bit more scandal plagued, as the department’s payroll director, who was placed on leave in November, is charged with stealing more than $23,000 in travel and reimbursement funds. (MassLive) Gov. Charlie Baker says the crackdown is good news because it shows the State Police is cleaning up its own house. (MassLive)

Another state rep appears to be heading for the exit. Rep. Tom Calter of Kingston is expected to announce shortly that he will be leaving the State House to serve as his home town’s administrator. (Patriot Ledger)

Jesse Kelley of the conservative R Street Institute hails passage of the criminal justice reform law as a turn away from the tough-on-crime philosophy in Massachusetts. (CommonWealth)


Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia is gearing up to launch a streetscape banner program with the city’s new slogan, “Make it here.” (Herald News) For more on how the slogan came to be, check out this profile of Correia. (CommonWealth)

A Dudley Square “pop-up” market in Roxbury that features wares by minority artists was defaced with graffiti proclaiming “White Lives Matter.” (Boston Herald)


A Herald editorial applauds UN ambassador Nikki Haley for standing strong against Russia, including declaring on Sunday that new sanctions against the government were coming, but it strangely blames Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow and a “messaging snafu” from the White House for undercutting her stance, rather than pointing the finger at the erratic president who appears to have changed his mind about sanctions.

Retired Boston federal judge Nancy Gertner, who presided over the successful lawsuit brought against the government for the wrongful imprisonment of four men convicted of killing a low-level mobster, writes in a New York Times op-ed there is no truth to the charges being leveled by Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or her “friend” Alan Dershowitz that Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating President Trump, had anything to do with the matter.

Trump vs. Comey? A pox on both of them, says Joyce Ferriabough Bolling. (Boston Herald)

Thomas Edsall, in an op-ed that seems to describe Boston well, says Democrats are becoming the party of well-heeled coastal elites and the poor service-sector workers who share city life with them. (New York Times)


Sen. Stan Rosenberg plows ahead in his campaign for another term, saying he has lots left to do, ignoring his fall from the powerful Senate president’s post and the indictment of his husband, which caused it, on sexual assault charges. (Boston Globe)

A politically wired Boston law firm did not violate state campaign finance laws when it reimbursed partners for thousands of dollars in campaign donations they made, a special prosecutor has concluded. (Boston Globe)

A congressional report card put out by the American Conservative Union Foundation indicated the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation is part of a “radical left” coalition. Of course, the obviously biased evaluation system indicated most Democrats in Congress are part of the radical left.


Simon Taylor, the CEO of HYKU, said Boston’s brand as a tech destination is muddled and needs to be sorted out by state, academic, and business officials. He urges something akin to the life science legislation for artificial intelligence. (CommonWealth)

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams is implementing a new policy that allows two visits in the same week with the purchase of one ticket. The strategy is designed to encourage visitors to stay in the area longer. (Berkshire Eagle) MassMoCA has been trying to boost its impact on the local economy. (CommonWealth)

Bertucci’s, the once popular pizza chain now heading for bankruptcy, became a victim of a changed market, including a saturation of new restaurants. (Boston Globe)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the number of paid Prime subscribers exceeds 100 million. (Bloomberg)

Amazon, shmamazon is the upshot of a recent poll finding Boston area residents aren’t on the edge of their seats over the sweepstakes to land a second headquarters for the retailing giant. (Boston Globe)


Now that high school seniors have received college acceptances, the challenge of how they’ll pay for higher education looms large. (Boston Globe)


In the midst of an opioid crisis, health care providers are running short of opioids. (WGBH)


Support for tolls on the bridges to Cape Cod is building as traffic backups lengthen and the need for new bridges becomes more and more pressing. (WGBH)


Wynn Resorts, trying to demonstrate to regulators that it is a changed company, adds three women to its board of directors. Wynn CEO Matt Maddox calls the additions “meaningful change.” (CommonWealth)

Neighbors of the Healthy Pharms medical marijuana dispensary in Cambridge are suing the firm using the RICO statute, alleging its operation violates federal law and is negatively impacting property values. (MassLive)

Abington officials will host an informational meeting for residents next week that will include members of the state Cannabis Control Commission to answer questions in advance of next month’s town meeting that includes a warrant article on retail sales of marijuana in the community. (The Enterprise)


Thousands of police officers from across the country joined with his family and friends at the funeral yesterday for slain Yarmouth police officer Sean Gannon. (Boston Globe) The Globe profiles the starkly different lives led by Gannon and Thomas Latanowich, the man accused of killing him.