Leave it to the folks in Massachusetts to turn everything on its head. Two hundred and thirty-six years ago it was a bunch of angry colonists sacking a couple of ships and dumping tea into Boston Harbor. Fast forward to Jan.19, 2010, and once again the commonwealth has managed to upend the political establishment with the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat that he held for more than 40 years.
Leave it to the folks in Massachusetts to turn everything on its head.
Two hundred and thirty-six years ago it was a bunch of angry colonists sacking a couple of ships and dumping tea into Boston Harbor. Fast forward to Jan.19, 2010, and once again the commonwealth has managed to upend the political establishment with the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the late Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat that he held for more than 40 years.
On Wednesday, a victorious Brown and his supporters relished in the candidate’s 52 to 47 percent win in the special election over Democrat Martha Coakley. For the GOP, Scott’s win is seen as a measure of the voters’ dissatisfaction and a referendum against President Obama’s and the Democrats' handling of the economy and such divisive issues as health care reform.
For the White House and the Democratic Party, Brown’s win has spurred a flurry of placing blame for Coakley’s loss, whose election was seen initially as a given, and a frantic reorganization of legislative priorities in light of the soon-to-be-lost filibuster proof majority of 60 votes in the Senate.
State Rep. Sarah Peake, quoted by the Provincetown Banner, said Coakley’s loss was not a surprise.
“What this race became was bigger than Martha Coakley and bigger than Ted Kennedy and it has become a referendum on the [federal] health care bill. We saw a huge infusion of cash coming from out of state,” Peake said.
Locally, Republicans are viewing Brown’s win as a much-needed boost to generate a resurgence of the party on Cape Cod. Orleans Selectman David Dunford has already declared his intention to unseat Peake in November.
Based on Tuesday’s election results, it certainly seems that a Republican candidate could do very well on the Cape. Except for the Outer Cape towns of Provincetown, Eastham, Wellfleet and Truro, Brown won by a clear majority in the remaining 11 Cape towns -- many that voted Democratic last year.
Brown’s victory, however, was not achieved solely through Republican votes, but through a heavy hand of independents, many of whom voted for Obama in 2008. His win does not necessarily portend support for a Republican mandate and is seen as a protest vote against the White House and Congress for what many in the electorate feel is a disconnect between policy makers and the needs and concerns of the people.
What this could mean locally is that the electorate is increasingly becoming less bound to a political party and more focused on the performance of the elected representative. For politicians, this could be a wake-up call that impacts both parties with the realization that no seat is safe and the electorate needs to know that it is heard and wants to see results.
In the coming months on Cape Cod it’s possible you might be hearing and seeing a little more of your state representative, state senator and congressman at selectmen meetings -- regardless if they are up for re-election -- giving updates on “what they have done for you lately.”
Newsrooms, too, are bracing for a likely increase in press releases from elected officials and, perhaps, a little more time in their schedule to talk on the record.
So don’t be surprised when you sit down at a local breakfast counter to have your meal interrupted by someone introducing themselves as “your elected representative” and ask if they might sit in the seat next to you and talk.
Matthew Belson is the New Media Editor for GateHouse Media New England's Cape Cod Region.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the newspaper.