Between charges of smear tactics, scandals involving bad behavior, write-in campaigns, absentee ballots and recounts, it could be argued that the just completed Special Election for State Representative from Everett was not a showcase for all the best that democracy has to offer.
I want to be clear on this subject.
I am neither a Wayne Matewsky supporter or detractor.
I am an avid watcher of politics, at all levels, and I am a believer that (most of the time) the system works.
That being said, I’ve observed a few things during the past eight weeks or so, and I thought that I would take the time to share those things.
1) The more people in a race, the fewer votes are needed to win. Elections are not really about ideals or politics or policy. They are about numbers. Can you get your voters to show up at the polls? And will those votes be more than your competition? People who underestimated Matewsky – and largely complained about his victory afterwards – forgot that, or never knew it. Matewsky not only remembered it, he focused on it, made sure his voters got to the polls and focused on his strongholds.
2) Write-in Campaigns are almost never successful. Former Mayor John Hanlon ran one of the most successful write-in campaigns for office ever seen in this city, or anywhere for that matter, and still finished 49 votes behind Matewsky. Enough said.
3) Running citywide in Everett, without a D after your name is worse that running a write-in campaign. This is self-evident and no disrespect is meant to the independent candidates in the race. The Everett electorate is so dominated by Democrats, as are many communities around Massachusetts, that even Independents have a tough time getting elected here.
4) Matewsky will likely face a challenger in two years. Clearly, this is more of a prediction than an observed fact, but consider the evidence. Not only did five local Democrats think they were the right choice during a special election campaign this time out, but after Matewsky won, one of them still decided to run a write-in campaign. That write-in campaign was hugely popular, if not successful. The number of votes that went to Matewsky’s opponents far outnumbered the number of votes he received, making him appear to be vulnerable. And, finally the reduction of seats on the Everett city council, which takes place in January means there will be at least a dozen former politicians with nothing better to do in two years.
5) Lastly, Matewsky has some important positives he can take from the recent race. Despite an embarrassing incident between the primary and the general elections, he was still able to convince enough voters that his past record was more important and was able to win. Local Democrats seem absolutely unable or unwilling to coalesce around a unified candidate, meaning that he will likely face a large crowd again in two years, which favors his campaign strengths. Lastly, Matewsky can look at the just completed campaign and his hard fought victory as a reminder that there are those in Everett who will be watching him very closely to see if he has any other missteps or embarrassing episodes. Provided he remembers that his opponents (and voters) are watching, he should be able to avoid controversy and set himself up for a solid re-election effort in two years.