By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Wilkerson run would break no rules

Few observers of local politics are as astute as Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi. But I can’t agree with her that state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, D-Roxbury, is somehow breaking the rules because she will try to keep her seat with a write-in campaign if she doesn’t win the Democratic primary recount.

(Aside: I am referring only to the rules of running an independent campaign. I am not referring to the numerous tax and campaign-finance rules Wilkerson has broken over the years, which are the reason her political career may now be going down the drain.)

Wilkerson’s challenger, Sonia Chang-Díaz, may be the Democratic nominee (pending the recount results), but the rules allow Wilkerson to run as an independent, even though her name won’t appear on the ballot.

And though Wilkerson won’t be the party’s nominee, there is nothing to stop her from calling herself a Democrat (which seems to offend Vennochi), or a radical syndicalist, or Irene.

Vennochi tries to draw an unfavorable comparison between Wilkerson and U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who was re-elected as an independent after he lost a Democratic primary race in 2006. Lieberman, Vennochi writes, had the “grace” to run “as a third-party candidate.”

But Lieberman took the same branding approach as Wilkerson, referring to himself as an “Independent Democrat,” which sounds like a Democrat, only better:

I remain a Democratic [sic] but I’m running as an Independent Democrat, which in some ways makes official what I’ve been for a long time. I’ve been an independent Democratic [sic]. [Note: I haven’t listened to the audio, but I assume those are transcription errors, not evidence that Lieberman can’t talk.]

Wilkerson’s free to run, and the voters are free to re-elect her or reject her. Those are the rules.

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  1. The Arranger

    That’s how Joe Moakley got elected to Congress – he ran as an independent after Louise Day Hicks won the Democratic nomination.Bob in Peabody

  2. Tony

    Correct Dan: Wilkerson can run as a write-in or sticker candidate now that she has lost the primary. She will not, however, be able to run as an indie with her name physically on the ballot because those deadlines have past. That said, it will be an uphill battle for her. These campaigns are very hard to run. If she wasn’t able to win her primary, because she wasn’t organized enough, how is she going to run in the general this way? And, historically, Boston area Dems have coalesced around the nominee even if they didn’t like the nominee or support the nominee in the primary. I seriously doubt all the folks like Menino, Capuano, etc., will assist Wilkerson in this effort. Sonia Chang-Díaz won the primary fair and square. Wilkerson should hustle out and find herself a real job. The difference in the Lieberman case is that Conn. law is different than Mass. law. Lieberman immediately shifted to run as an indie after he lost and the law allowed him to do that; the Mass. deadlines have passed for that. The law was written specifically to keep a Lieberman situation from happening here. Winners, many of them Beacon Hill incumbents, do not want to have to face off against primary opponents who lose running as indies in the general when the turnout is much higher and voters are paying attention [on prank and political junkie value, the Conn. model is the better of the two. :-)]. As for the Joe Moakley comparison, I don’t think Bob is correct. Moakley lost the Democrat primary to Louise Day-Hicks in 1970. Day-Hicks served one term in the House. In the 1972 cycle, Moakley chose not to challenge Day-Hicks in the primary but ran as an indie instead. He beat her in the general election that year and after being sworn in, changed his affiliation back to Democrat and ran that way every election afterwards.

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