With the Massachusetts primary just over two weeks away and with voting already started, I am asked every day by friends and colleagues: “Who are you voting for, and why?”
It’s a fair question. Given my work, I have the privilege of meeting and engaging with almost every leading candidate in each cycle, in our region’s congressional and state races. But this is not a question I will answer. As the leader of a 501c3, my public comments are almost always viewed as an official pronouncement on behalf of our network of member organizations (except, maybe, when it comes to my praise of various comic books). Therefore, I should not and do not endorse candidates.
But what I can share is my process for answering that internal and personal “why.” It’s how I make a plan, before I fill out my ballot, to know who I am voting for. It’s really simple:
- First, I ask myself: What do I care about in the leaders serving in this particular role? Of course, we at JCRC hold certain values and principles that we work for – on foreign and domestic concerns. I have some personal clarity as a voter that “I would never vote for someone who…” or “the most important thing I’m looking for in a dog-catcher is…”
- Then, where there is an incumbent running for re-election, I can examine that person’s record: How did they vote, or if an executive office, how did they navigate the big challenges they faced in office? Where did they show up? When were they present or absent?
- Mostly though, I want to research two things:
1. What are the positions the candidate espouses? What have they said in their statements and position papers that tell me how they will govern and how they think about the issues that are of concern to me – in their own words. Fortunately, this is so much easier than it was twenty or thirty years ago, thanks to search engines and to candidates’ websites. Their websites also tell me something about their priorities, i.e. the issues they choose to address and feature, vs. other concerns – some of which are very important to me – that they may deliberately make no mention of. In those cases, I ask myself what that absence says about them and my evaluation of them. 2. Who has endorsed them? Again, in this era, almost every candidate features an endorsements page on their website. This tells me a lot about a candidate. It gives me a sense of what caucuses they might sit in if elected. Who will likely have initial access to them? Who are they likely to be most responsive to on the issues I care about? I can see which advocates of a specific cause or position are putting their own reputations out there to say, “this candidate is the best choice in this race to advance my cause.” That says a lot about a candidate, for me.
It’s not that hard to make a plan for how I will cast my vote. In some races it takes a little more time. For example, in the current congressional race in the MA 4th, researching eight (as of yesterday) democratic and two republican candidates takes a little time – and while I don’t live in this district, since so many members of our community do, I’ll help you all out by including links to all eleven of their websites below.
It is time well spent. As I wrote last week, we know that our vote is our most sacred task to hold government accountable in a democracy. I for one would never vote for someone without doing my due diligence. A couple of hours of effort to inform our role in the myriad tasks and challenges ahead over two, four, or even six years terms is certainly time well spent.
As an example, the MA 4th primary candidates. These links are to their issue pages, but almost all have endorsement pages on their website banners as well, so check those out while you do your research:
Jake Auchincloss: https://www.jakeforma.com/priorities
Becky Grossman: https://beckygrossman.com/issues
Alan Khazei: https://alankhazei.com/vision/
Ilssane Leckey: https://ihssane.org/issues
Natalia Linos: https://www.nataliaforcongress.com/priorities
Jesse Mermell: https://jessemermell.com/issues/
Chris Zannetos: https://www.chriszforma.com/priorities
Julie Hall: http://hallforcongress.com/
David Rosa: https://www.davidrosaforcongress.com/