Freedberg on the State Senate race: “A tale of two electorates”



Special to

In much of today’s America, culture and custom have replaced economics and family history as determinants of voting. The special election taking place on December 14th in the First Suffolk and Middlesex District has, perhaps inevitably, devolved thus.

As I go around the district, attending candidate events, reviewing the two candidates’ endorsements and talking to ordinary voters, I see an almost complete divergence between those who are active in Lydia Edwards’s campaign and those active in Anthony D’Ambrosio’s campaign.

Edwards is the candidate of the young, ideologically committed “progressive’ establishment (more on this aspect later), where D’Ambrosio seems the candidate of ordinary, non-ideological voters.

Lydia’s people work in the new economy of non-profit activism and academia; Anthony’s people tend to the old economy of jobs which you do, not jobs that you think. His supporters are rooted in the district, while Edwards’s activists tend to be newer to Boston, here to take those new economy jobs which are quickly becoming the norm.

Territory of course plays a part in this two-candidate face-off. D’Ambrosio, a Revere resident, has almost every Revere politician in his corner, Edwards has almost all the Boston ones. That is to be expected. Territory confirms the social facts of our city: Boston has almost completely changed economic and social character. Revere has not.

How greatly the new economy has taken hold in the Suffolk and Middlesex District may well be the crucial fact, overriding even territory or “turf.”

Thus, the vast disconnect between the two candidates’ support, has of late turned nasty. I suppose this is to be expected.

Nationally, the disconnections are even more radical than what’s at play here in Boston, Cambridge, Winthrop and Revere. The national divergences have turned campaigns into vulgar and even violent uglies.

Our city hasn’t sunk to that, thank goodness, but the smack being whapped from one candidate’s team to the other’s adds nothing and subtracts a lot.

After all, either Edwards or D’Ambrosio is going to be responsible to every voter if he or she wins the State Senate seat at issue and not just to his or her bleacher seats., Yet here we are.

So now the big question: who will win?

That is up to you and you and you!

My own guess is that D’Ambrosio has the ace card: Revere may well cast 7,000 votes, Boston less. If that happens, he almost certainly wins.

If Revere voters only number 5,000, Edwards probably wins. I think that Anthony will do better in Boston — maybe much better — than Lydia would like, and that Lydia will do a lot better in Winthrop than Anthony would like.

You might opine that ideologically driven voters are more likely to vote on an odd election day in wintery December than ordinary voters not obsessed with this or that “cause.”

Yet the past three years or so of “progressive” rhetoric has made ordinary voters feel threatened: by condescending racialists, impatient climate people, and – above all — the ominous wave of development and high price rentals pushing ordinary voters out of their neighborhoods. I think there’ll be plenty of what one Edwards supporter (who happens to be a friend of mine) has called “Trumpy types” voting in this contest.

I mentioned that Edwards is the candidate of the “progressive” establishment. There is another voter divide going on here, one that has been coming for us since 2018 at least; the left versus the very far left. Starting in that mid-term election, very progressive candidates have been challenged, and sometimes defeated, by insurgents even further left than them.

It’s almost entirely a big-city thing, but Edwards is running in a big city, and word has it that some progressives are sitting her race out. I am told that they still can’t abide her 2020 vote to approve Mayor Walsh’s police budget one that extreme progressives insisted be cut. Yet this year, Edwards was one of the eight Boston City Councilors who voted NOT to accept an $850,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Of course, for ideological zealots, even one deviation from their diktats is a hanging offense.

To have that as your political motto is self-defeating. Anyone who calls himself or herself “progressive” who sits out a candidate endorsed by Senators Markey and Warren and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is, in my view, making a blind mistake.

December 5, 2021

Mike Freedberg is a journalist and consultant with many years of experience writing for Boston media and participating in political campaigns. He publishes the blog Here and Sphere.

State House
Photo Credit: Creative Commons “Mass State House Gate” by herzogbr is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Related: Mike Freedberg “The View from Winthrop”

Related: In their own words: The Candidates

East Boston Senate Fight 2021 Special

City Hall information: Where to vote in East Boston on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.