As my RMG colleague Rob Eno pointed out today, Massachusetts House of Representatives Minority Leader Brad Jones scrambled to co-author legislation designed to amend the rules of the House so that the restriction to bills on the House floor would be lifted. This victory for transparency was made possible by a hearty band of Republican House members dubbed the “Gang of Five”. The resolution filed by Dan Winslow was supported by his plucky Gang of Five colleagues Shaunna O’Connell, Jim Lyons, Marc Lombardo, & Geoff Diehl. Everyone else – including Democrats! – knew a good thing when they saw it & quickly threw their support behind the legislation. The rest, as they say, was history.
But the question remains: why didn’t Jones himself take the initiative to challenge the lack of transparency promulgated by Speaker of the House Bob DeLeo? Why did he wait till the last minute to help his GOP colleagues? WHY?
As Eno pointed out in another post, special election Republican candidates Carol Claros & David Steinhof actually did pretty good considering the fact that both first-time candidates had scarce resources & their respective races happened deep within Democrat territory. Still, DeLeo had no problems publicly pounding the pavement & shaking the money tree for the members of HIS party like Dan Donahue (Claros’ opponent) who were also running in those special elections.
Now where was the Minority Leader when two Republican candidates had a chance to win two open seats? Sure, the MA House Republican PAC doled out $500 & Jones personally donated $100 to Claros (no word yet if he did the same thing for Steinhof), but…but was THAT all he did? Why wasn’t an independent expenditure from the GOP PAC done for either Claros or Steinhof? Jones allowed his name to be attached to an invitation to an event for Steinhof but he never showed up at said event. In fact he was completely absent from ANY event staged for Claros & Steinhof. He was a NO-SHOW!!!
Some Establishment Republicans may titter over a cartoon & squeal, “where’s Waldo?” but ALL GOP activists should righteously respond with “the hell with Waldo – where’s Jones? What’s he doing? Where’s the leadership?”
More after the jump…
Thankfully the GOP leadership vacuum was filled by members of the Gang of Five. O’Connell, Lombardo, Lyons, and Diehl provided consistent support. In fact, O’Connell & Diehl hit their respective donors multiple times for Claros and Steinhof. O’Connell headlined an event for Claros & personally made phone calls side-by-side with her. Diehl door knocked for Claros too. O’Connell walked side-by-side with Steinhof knocking on doors & attended his debate. Lombardo raised money for Claros, Lyons held an event at his barn for her, & Winslow personally gave $500.
Other House Republicans pitched in to help where they could. Kevin Kuros knocked on doors for Steinhof & attended Claros’ debate. Sheila Richardson went door knocking with Steinhof on at least one occasion. Ryan Fattman provided some debate prep assistance & would have done even more had his honeymoon not been scheduled in August.
When DeLeo took time out from his busy schedule to assist Donahue, he sent a strong signal no one could miss. His presence alone informed members of his party & the public at large that Donahue would be an important asset to the Democrats (especially in maintaining said party’s firm grip on power) & by extension he’d be an asset for the community due to the relationship the House Speaker chose to develop with him. DeLeo is a leader because he LEADS.
And Jones? He remains a minority leader because he has the mindset of an obsequious follower – not a leader. Maybe a more proactive approach towards the special election GOP candidates would have tipped the balance & maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. But what DOES make a difference is leadership. Will Claros & Steinhof run again? Will ANY Republican candidate thinking of running for office in this state make the commitment to sacrifice their lives once they realize they’ll have no substantial support from the party leadership? Only if NEW leadership – the type exhibited by Lyons, O’Connell, Winslow, & the other members of the Gang of Five – replaces Jones & his “lead-from-behind” style of failed hand-puppet fellowship. And like the transparency issue, Republicans don’t need Jones’ nor DeLeo’s approval – their blessing – to do the right thing in restoring an opposition party that will one day LEAD this great state of ours.