Thursday, June 17, 2021

Allen Town

Living on page B1 and B3 and even if you don't like Billy Joel -- and I don't -- there is no doubt that he is the greatest musical artist of his generation:

"In launching gubernatorial bid, Danielle Allen says Democrats have ‘settled for too little’ under Baker" by Matt Stout Globe Staff, June 15, 2021

Painting her candidacy in lofty, populist tones, Harvard professor Danielle Allen launched a campaign for Massachusetts governor Tuesday, saying some Democrats have “settled for too little” under the Republican incumbent, and with it, a primary began.

Allen’s entrance made official a fledgling intraparty race in which she, former state Senator Ben Downing, and undoubtedly others will spend the coming months pressure-testing arguments for their own candidacy with party activists, but they will also have to articulate a wider argument for why they believe the state should move on from Governor Charlie Baker, an obvious but also difficult pitch, given Baker’s popularity. Also, none of them know if Baker will even choose to run in November 2022.

[If not, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will likely be the nominee]

Baker has not made a decision on whether he’ll seek a third term, advisers say, a choice that could have wide ramifications for how the Democratic field comes together, and what issues might prove the most potent weapons against Baker for Democrats and their gubernatorial hopefuls remains unclear, continuing a six-year trend in which critics failed to meaningfully pierce Baker’s political armor in the eyes of the wider public.

Allen on Tuesday offered Democrats an indication of how she would.

The 49-year-old enters the field as the first Black woman to run for governor as part of a major party in state history, bringing years of experience in academia and the nonprofit world into what will be her first run for public office.

The California native and Cambridge Democrat settled in Massachusetts in 2015 after being hired to lead Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. She cited “precedent” of others who won major offices in Massachusetts without being elected before — former Governor Deval Patrick and Senator Elizabeth Warren, though both had experience in navigating Washington, D.C., and in the hand-to-hand political combat that defines it before launching their own political runs.

Standing with three dozen supporters on the Boston Common alongside the Massachusetts 54th Regiment memorial — which honors one of the first Black regiments in the Civil War — Allen said too many in the state have been abandoned by policymakers, a trend she said has been magnified by the pandemic and the social and economic pain it wrought around the state.

“It’s time to accelerate the pace of change,” she said.

The event marked Allen’s first formal introduction after she spent months exploring a gubernatorial bid. She stuck largely to broad strokes, calling transportation, education, social justice, and climate change priorities with few policy specifics, and said she’d govern with a desire to lift up those marginalized.

Allen also said the state has tended to “over-criminalize” certain offenses, noting she supported decriminalizing marijuana, but she did not say what other criminal offenses she would support removing from the books.

She also made her pitch to Democrats who helped carry Baker to an easy reelection victory in 2018, saying they “have let their expectations fall.” It was an echo of appeals Democrats have long made in seeking to dent Baker, arguing the state needs a broader vision beyond the technocratic management he promised during both of his successful campaigns.

“They have to recognize that they have settled for too little,” Allen said of Democrats, “that we can ask more of ourselves in this commonwealth.”

She also sharpened criticisms of his administration, describing the state’s initial approach to combating the coronavirus as “slow, halting, and fumbling,” and arguing that Baker has not fully utilized the state’s “talents.”

Massachusetts has since emerged as one of the leading states in getting residents vaccinated; as of Tuesday, Vermont is the only state that has vaccinated more of its population. When asked what she would attribute to Massachusetts’ success now in beating back COVID-19, Allen pointed to the work of local officials and coalitions, giving credit to such groups as the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition and regional collaboratives in the Berkshires and elsewhere.

“Engaged communities turned the tide,” Allen said.

Allen joins a Democratic contest that already includes Downing, who launched his campaign in February and has regularly prodded Baker since, including publicly saying the governor should testify on revelations about his administration’s management about the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.

Downing attempted to capitalize on Allen’s announcement Tuesday, issuing a fund-raising appeal with her name in the subject line within an hour after her press conference. “She’s already raised nearly $300,000!” Downing’s campaign wrote, asking supporters to donate.

The field is expected to grow. State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz of Jamaica Plain, who would enter the race with the support of a number of young progressives, is exploring a bid. She reported this month paying a new political consultant, Almquist & Associates; paying $14,000 to a separate California-based consulting firm called Tides Advocacy for research; and purchasing a domain name for a website, potential signs she’s building the infrastructure for a campaign.

Democrats are also waiting to see whether Attorney General Maura Healey, who has the advantage of high name recognition and a national reputation as a progressive, will ultimately seek the seat. Longtime Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection, is also viewed as a potential candidate.

[How he will explain his stewardship of that $hithole is beyond me, and Healey appears to be the front-runner]


"Union officials are launching a $250,000 campaign-style attack on Governor Charlie Baker, criticizing the second-term Republican for appointing an “incompetent,” politically connected hire to lead the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home before COVID-19 swept through the facility last spring. The National Association of Government Employees, which represents just a handful of employees at the Holyoke home, plans to run three months of digital ads and launched a new website targeting Baker, according to its president, David J. Holway. The timing and tone of the campaign is notable.  NAGE, along with other public unions, are currently in collective bargaining talks with the Baker administration.  “We have the governor, who is one of the smartest people in the state, not remembering a 30-minute conversation with somebody. So we decided to question his credibility,” said Holway, who said the campaign has a roughly $250,000 budget....."


"Murder victim’s daughter, prosecutor support commuting inmate’s life sentence" by Shelley Murphy Globe Staff, June 15, 2021

William Allen was 20 and working at a veterans hospital in 1994 when a childhood friend asked if he would help him rob a reputed drug dealer. At first, Allen told him he was crazy, but then reluctantly agreed. They pushed their way into a Brockton apartment at knifepoint, and while Allen assured several women that everything would be all right, his friend fatally stabbed a man in another room.

Although a jury found Allen didn’t directly participate in the killing of 42-year-old Purvis Bester, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole in 1997. The man who stabbed Bester pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was paroled 12 years ago.

On Tuesday, Allen, 47, expressed remorse for his crime as he urged the Massachusetts Parole Board to grant his request for a commutation after 27 years in prison.

“I am truly sorry for what I have done,” said Allen, who during a 3½-hour remote hearing recalled his role in the crime, his transformation in prison, his deep regret that he could not prevent his own son from ending up in prison, and his hope that he can persuade others to choose a different path. “I, and I alone, am responsible. I failed to make better choices.”

Allen is only the second inmate to be granted a commutation hearing in seven years. In January, the board voted unanimously to recommend that Governor Charlie Baker commute the sentence of Thomas E. Koonce, who is serving life without parole for a 1987 slaying in New Bedford when he was a 20-year-old Marine home on leave. Baker has yet to act on the petition.

The board took Allen’s request under advisement. If Baker approves a commutation petition, it goes to the Governor’s Council for final approval.

Allen, a Roxbury native, has significant community support and is represented by several lawyers, including Robert J. Cordy, a former justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. His bid for freedom drew additional support Tuesday from Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, whose office prosecuted him decades ago, and the victim’s family.

“I forgive you for what you have done,” Bester’s daughter, Leah Cole, said after Allen expressed remorse and described his participation in restorative justice and alternatives-to-violence programs and his desire to become a youth counselor and outreach worker if he’s released.

“Brockton needs positivity, because Brockton is struggling right now,” Cole said, adding that she believed people could learn a lot from Allen.

Bester’s two brothers also support Allen’s commutation, but his sister, Hattie Bester, opposes it, Cruz told the board. She had been scheduled to testify Tuesday but could not access the remote hearing because of technical difficulties, according to the board. She was invited to submit her comments in writing within two weeks.

Cruz said Allen’s felony murder conviction was “one of those rare cases” that warranted reconsideration and asked the board to recommend that Allen’s sentence be commuted to life with the possibility of parole.

Allen was convicted of first-degree felony murder based on the jury’s finding that he had been a joint venture in an armed robbery. In 2017, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that defendants in fatal crimes can no longer be convicted of first-degree murder unless it is proven that they set out to kill or knew their actions would likely turn fatal. The law was not retroactive.

“It is unknown whether he would be convicted of that same crime today,” Cruz said.

Allen said he grew up in Roxbury with a mother who was addicted to drugs. He found refuge at the home of a friend, Rolando Perry, whose mother was like a mother to him. In 1994, Perry was selling drugs when he asked Allen to help him rob a man he believed was also selling drugs and had cash stashed there, Allen told the board.

“I was a follower,” Allen said. He said he loved Perry like a brother and felt pressured to help him because he “didn’t want to look weak, and I was foolish.”

Allen said he didn’t see Perry stab Bester, but saw him laying on the floor with blood on his shirt as Perry stomped on him. Perry pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was paroled in 2009.

Allen said he was offered a plea bargain before trial that would have allowed him to plead guilty to second-degree murder. He would have been eligible for parole after serving 15 years, but Allen said he rejected it because he didn’t believe he should be punished for a murder he didn’t commit and did not understand the seriousness of his situation, but Allen said he now recognizes that he was equally responsible for Bester’s slaying. Allen said his transformation began in 2004, after he spent 42 days in solitary confinement for a disciplinary infraction. He also learned that his mother was dying of cancer.

“I am not asking you to forget what I’ve done; I just want you to know that’s not who I am today,” Allen said. If he’s freed, he said, he wants to “make good footprints for children of color to follow because I don’t want them to follow the same footprints as I did.”


Time for me to make tracks:

"Texas Republican congressman cancels event with MassGOP over internal drama" by Emma Platoff Globe Staff, June 15, 2021

Dan Crenshaw, a prominent Republican congressman from Texas, canceled a fund-raiser planned this weekend with the Massachusetts GOP over the internal discord roiling the state party, according to a person familiar with Crenshaw’s planning.

Crenshaw had been scheduled to speak Sunday at the Andover home of state GOP chairman Jim Lyons, an event party officials had been advertising as late as Monday evening. But around 10 p.m., the party abruptly announced that the event had been called off “due to planned protests.” Party leaders did not respond to questions about the protests they cited.

Crenshaw informed party officials around 7 p.m. Monday that he would not attend the event, according to the person familiar with the event’s cancellation, who asked not to be identified to speak openly about the congressman’s decision.

He had agreed to appear at the fund-raiser before learning about the current state of affairs in the party and decided he did not want to wade into another state’s internal politics, the person said.

The Crenshaw event was not the only one disrupted by the internal divisions in the state party. Lyons had been scheduled to speak at a June 26 event for the Massachusetts Federation of Young Republicans, but the group disinvited him recently, chairman Joe Paru said.

“We don’t want to be involved in the drama,” Paru said. He said Lyons accepted their decision cordially.

Lyons, a controversial figure in a party sharply divided between social conservatives and establishment moderates, has been under fire in recent weeks for his handling of anti-gay remarks made by a fellow Republican. Lyons and a spokesman for the state party did not immediately return requests for comment.

Deborah Martell, a member of the 80-member Republican State Committee, told a GOP congressional candidate she was “sickened” that he and his husband had adopted children. At a closed-door meeting last week, Martell said she wouldn’t be “bullied” into resigning although top officials, including Governor Charlie Baker, have called on her to do so and national Republican figures have condemned her comments.

After staying silent for days despite calls from some of his fellow Republicans to denounce the comments, Lyons said Martell’s remarks were “offensive” but did not call on her to resign as many top party officials had, saying he refused to bow to “cancel culture.” Republican critics, many of them more moderate than Lyons, said the chairman has failed the party by failing to fund-raise and recruit strong legislative candidates, as well as applying too strict a litmus test to a party that should seek to be inclusive.

That’s led to a number of prominent Massachusetts Republicans calling on Lyons to step down, most recently a group of seven former party chairs that included a former congressman and lieutenant governor.

“A chair who is unable to put the welfare of the party ahead of his or her own interests should have the decency to step aside, for the sake of the party they claim to serve,” they wrote. “If the chair will not, the time has come for the State Committee to act.”

Nearly the entire Massachusetts House Republican caucus called on Lyons to resign if he did not forcefully condemn Martell’s remarks. Lyons has dismissed those calls as the product of “poisonous woke cancel culture groupthink.”

Ousting Lyons would require a two-thirds vote of the state committee. At a state committee meeting last week, there was no concerted effort to remove him from power, though several attendees complained that his behavior was at times aggressive and erratic, including cursing at some fellow Republicans.


That's the churn as tensions within the Massachusetts Republican Party rise to a fever pitch, and the blow comes at a particularly vulnerable time for Lyons, who leads a party split between those who share his ideological bent and more moderate establishment Republicans.