With just 24 days to go until the September 14 primary election, time is growing short for the candidates. The calendar presents a real challenge: prevailing wisdom is that “no one pays attention until after Labor Day”, but this year, Labor Day comes late (September 6) and once it passes, there will only be a week until the election. Add to that the back-to-school, start of kids’ activities (think Lowell Youth Soccer), end of summer vacation disruptions to everyday life and you’re likely to have not much interest in this entire election beyond those who vote every time.
After last Monday’s debate, many Doherty supporters were ecstatic, convinced their candidate had come out way ahead. The new comer (to being a candidate, at least) Doherty more than held his own, he probably exceeded expectations while the much more experienced Donoghue, by not completely overwhelming her less experienced opponent, may have fallen short of the expectations of some. I called the debate a draw and a good advertisement for future debates between these candidates.
As for lawn signs, in my neighborhood (the Highlands) the sign totals seem balanced with neither having all that many. In contrast, I drove out Lakeview Ave in Dracut one day last week and between the signs for Barry Finegold and Jack Wilson – both running in that Senate district – there were more political signs on that one road in Dracut than there are in the entire Highlands section of Lowell.
To me, the most interesting development in the First Middlesex Senate race was the arrival in my mailbox of the fourth Doherty for Senate flyer I’ve received in the past two weeks. The first was “He’s a prosecutor not a politician,” the second was the “too cheap for new shoes” piece; the third was his grandmother’s endorsement of his plan to “give seniors a break on taxes” piece; and the fourth was the “he’s made it easier for women to get restraining orders” card. What I find most interesting about this is the timing of these mailings. Why send them now, in the middle of August? Does Doherty have enough money to send even more? Presumably Donoghue will have her own barrage of mailings that will arrive sometime in the future. Will those late arriving pieces be more on the mind of voters come primary day or will they be lost in the transitional turmoil of early September?
In preparing this post, I queried a half dozen acquaintances, all Lowell voters who are uninvolved and undecided in this race. Every one of them concluded that Doherty “has the momentum” right now, that between his debate performance, his mailings, his omnipresence at public events since this race began and the online buzz his youthful supporters have generated, he has the edge. But in politics, timing is everything and it doesn’t do much good to peak three weeks before election day. Donoghue was extremely popular as a city councilor and as mayor. Just three years ago she spent nearly $1 million running for Congress. In that race, she easily won the city of Lowell, demonstrating that her success in a “vote for nine” council race was transferable to a “vote for one” race for another office (a transition that has proven difficult for so many other Lowell office holders). My guess is that the Donoghue campaign is stockpiling its resources for the sprint to the finish line and her campaign activities will ratchet up substantially in the coming days. But Doherty has run a good campaign thus far and there’s no indication that will stop now. That’s why the next 24 days will be fascinating for local political observers.
UPDATE: I was driving around Belvidere this morning and saw a substantial number of Donoghue signs. I just went through yesterday’s mail and found a fifth Chris Doherty flyer, the theme of this one is “creating green jobs.” The postal carrier should be here shortly: will I need another update?