People’s Pledge Bickering Moves Down the Ballot

Two Attorney General candidates have signed two different versions of a People's Pledge. #youredoingitwrong

As you might have picked up in previous posts, the world of Massachusetts politics has been beset by bickering over so-called “People’s Pledges,” aka, the agreements between candidates to pay a penalty if outside groups spend on their behalf; outside money apparently being on par with toxic sludge these days.

That fight moves down-ballot now to the Democratic primary for state Attorney General, which pits Maura Healey against Warren Tolman.

On Thursday, the Healey camp stirred up trouble by publicly releasing a challenge for Tolman to sign a Pledge upon which Healey had affixed her own signature. Today, Warren responded by challenging Healey to sign a different version of the Pledge, bearing his John Hancock.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there are talks of having talks to work out an actual Pledge that both can sign.

The version put forth by Healey is essentially the one used by Steve Lynch and Ed Markey in their U.S. Senate primary; Tolman’s is the original one used by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in their 2012 U.S. Senate race. The biggest difference, at first take, is that the former covers direct mail—that is, would penalize campaigns benefiting from outside direct mail—while the latter does not.

If I may speculatively interpret: Tolman wants the labor groups to support him to be able to send direct mail; Healey would prefer they don’t.

We’ll see whether this is something they’ll be able to negotiate out, or whether this is all about the obvious and transparent public posturing with no expectation of reaching an actual deal.

Tolman, who presumably has more outside money waiting to help him (although there is already one Super PAC formed to help Healey), would seem to have little incentive to work toward an actual agreement. But, if he is seen as refusing to agree, the Healey folks can hammer him for allegedly bailing on the clean-elections beliefs for which he once so fiercely fought. So, both sides want to control the spin about who really wanted a Pledge and who obstructed it.

Which is much like what happened in the Governor’s race previously. Presumably the candidates for Treasurer are just waiting their turn.