Conventional wisdom argues the larger the field the easier path for an incumbent to win another term, with splitting of anti-establishment votes. When John Gomes entered the mayor’s race last December his operatives had hoped for a one-on-one against Mayor Joe Ganim.
Now they have it upon news a few days ago that both State Senator Marilyn Moore and Lamond Daniels came up signature short to qualify for the Democratic primary September 12.
When team Gomes heard the news his headquarters on East Main Street burst into chants of John Gomes. Mano a mano, hand-to-hand.
Now they have the matchup they wanted.
Be careful what you wish for. Unforeseen circumstances may exist by not scratching the surface in advance.
The anti-vote is not an on and off switch; it’s a dimmer that jumps up and swings down depending on the level of voter angst and candidate matchup.
The face of the Gomes campaign, by virtue of its candidate slate, social media testimonials on behalf of Gomes and door-knocking operatives tilts heavily Hispanic, the community that rescued Joe Ganim’s 2019 primary scare.
Be it district leaders, town committee, City Council members and candidates, faith community, most of those respective interests in the Black community are aligned with Ganim.
An examination of the 2019 primary results show that Ganim and Moore, head to head, split the Black vote across city precincts, with Moore performing exceptionally well overall in the area of the city she represents, the 22nd Senatorial which covers the North End, West Side and Black Rock. Moore’s legislative base certainly came in handy during the primary. A majority of the Black community returned to Ganim, however, in the general election during Moore’s long-shot write-in campaign. She performed best in Black Rock and her home precinct Central, but everywhere else she had little traction.
The Moore campaign had lamented Daniels entry into this season’s primary fearing he’d poach votes from Moore. Throw Ganim into the mix and now the Black vote would be split among multiple candidates across the city.
If Gomes, who has no legislative base, has traction in the Hispanic community a wide field would be the mightiest scenario for Gomes to slip in.
That would also assume Ganim has little in the tank with the Hispanic community which does not appear to be the case based on his infrastructure support including City Council President Aidee Nieves, councilwoman Maria Valle, City Clerk Lydia Martinez and State Rep. Chris Rosario who collectively represent a strong Hispanic constituency on the East Side.
Now let’s examine Gomes’ strengths. Since his entry in December he has worked his butt off, campaigning full time. He has far surpassed fundraising expectations, banking more than $300,000 by bringing new contributors to the table from the Cape Verdean and Brazilian communities. He’s fluent in Spanish and Portuguese with the dexterity to converse in multiple other languages. The campaign has registered new voters from emerging communities pointed out above.
His core inner circle support comes largely from former Ganim enthusiasts, now anathema to the mayor, passionate about taking Ganim out. Gomes is one himself having served in Ganim’s administration until he was let go more than a year ago.
It’s hard to hit Ganim on taxes and make it stick. The tax rate is essentially the same as when he returned to the mayoralty in 2015.
Police Department was a stick in the eye to Ganim for a number of years. New Chief Roderick Porter has provided much stability in an understaffed department while fronting a strong face including regular community outreach. Crime is currently down in most key categories.
On economic development Ganim has much more to tout this term including the popular 6,000-seat amphitheater Downtown, thousands of new housing units, new Bassick High School under construction in the South End, as well as new Boys & Girls Club close to opening in the North End, new libraries and senior centers in neighborhoods and a key development on Stratford Avenue in the East End.
Ganim could be vulnerable on education if played correctly. Critics assert he’s not made classroom investment a priority. You pledge much more for schools, as Gomes has promised, and it’s a double-edged sword also promising to cut taxes, as Gomes has also done.
Cutting taxes while investing a lot more in schools is paradoxical.
Qualify of life? Streets are being paved as never before this close to an election. Ganim’s only doing it because of election year! you snap. Majority voters don’t care about that. It’s a declaration made by electors who won’t vote for him no matter what.
The past few weeks Ganim has controlled the narrative running on his record: mail pieces, social media, digital advertising, teams of supporters door knocking.
Meanwhile, Gomes had been trying to qualify for the ballot which he has accomplished.
State law has made it easier to vote that way simply citing fear of illness. It’s totally legal to share with a voter it’s okay to vote absentee if you’re concerned about a current illness or getting one by going to a precinct. And now there’s a new variant of Covid lurking.
Team Ganim has a head start on early voting over Gomes.
Three weeks left. What will team Gomes do to persuade Democratic voters to fire the incumbent in favor of him?
Gomes will attack Ganim on a number of fronts who no doubt will return fire on Gomes’ role in his administration. He’s already tweaked Gomes on social and digital media for “vindictive” runs for mayor twice after fired by two administrations.
Still, the Ganim campaign must guard against complacency, a no-no in low turnout primaries. Gomes enjoys a passionate team on the ground many with political scores to settle
Three weeks left. Will a galvanizing issue shape the home stretch?