This is a special edition blog.  I went to a forum for the candidates in the Democratic primary to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacant U.S. Senate seat.  For those that don’t live in Massachusetts this is essentially the race to determine the next U.S. Senator from the state.  The Republican nominee has about as much chance as a Democratic nominee in Texas.

Those who have followed this blog know that I’ve come out in favor of Steve Pagliuca.  But you also that I’m not an ideologue and I’m more interested in the individual than the posturing.  So let me try to give you an objective assessment of the forum.  The format was that each candidate was brought on stage separately (it was not a debate) and they were questioned for 20 minutes by two moderators.  After the questioning the candidates were given five minutes to make a closing statement.  Here’s my assessment of the candidates in the order they were presented:

Steve Pagliuca.  Steve is anything but a politician and it shows in his delivery.  It’s not that he was terribly uncomfortable on a stage but it was clear he was more accustomed to arguing his case in front of business colleagues than creating excitement about his positions.  But he held up well and he made some very specific recommendations with regards to helping the Massachusetts economy.  My confidence in his ability to make good decisions for both the Commonwealth (of Massachusetts) and the country – particularly as it relates to economic issues – was reinforced.

Martha Coakley.  Ouch.  This is the person who has raised the most money and is the purported front runner?  She is without question a one issue candidate.  And the issue – civil rights – is not the the most pressing issue of our time.  Indeed, she had little of use to say about the economy or global conflict.  I came away with one thought – maybe I should start an “anybody but Martha” campaign instead of supporting a specific candidate.

Mike Capuano.  I liked Mike.  He was probably the most personable of the candidates.  And, very uncharacteristically for a politician, he admitted his mistakes.  Unfortunately, two of the mistakes got us into the mess we’re in today.  He voted for one of the derivatives deregulation laws and he voted for legislation to loosen mortgage lending rules.  In other words, he exposed himself as the worst kind of liberal – one that takes a strong ideological stand but doesn’t necessarily understand the broader implications of his votes.  But he knows how to warm an audience.

Alan Khazei.  Wow!  It wasn’t a debate but he still won.  He was without a doubt the most passionate, most articulate speaker.  And he was the most specific in his policy prescriptions.  I really liked his view and prescriptions for the healthcare crisis.  He was the only one who specifically noted that healthcare reform required tort reform.  And he also made reference to the need for better approach to prevention.  He gets it.  I need to understand more about his other positions but he has definitely piqued my interest.  If the vote was held right after the forum I might have voted for him.

There really wasn’t a lot to distinguish the candidates from an ideological perspective.  They were all liberal Democrats.  But there was a difference in their backgrounds and accomplishments.  The two outsiders – Pagliuca and Khazei – we’re highly accomplished in different, but both impressive, ways.  The two insiders – Coakley and Capuano – were your typical political class candidates.  You got the feeling that their quest was akin to coporate insiders reaching for the next rung in the ladder (although I can’t help feeling that Coakley has reached her ceiling as Massachusetts Attorney General).

If you were planning to vote in the primary then you owe it to yourself and your fellow citizens to learn more about the candidates.  If you weren’t going to vote you might want to reconsider your position.   It’s a political race that counts.