Thursday, Feb 25 – The Cambridge Democratic City Committee (CDCC) will meet tonight at 7:00pm at the Central Square YMCA (820 Mass. Ave.) to nominate three people for one of the two Democratic seats on the Cambridge Election Commission. There are five candidates seeking this position (see below). The practice of each of the two major political party committees has been to rank their three nominees, but there is nothing in the law that either requires this or even suggests this practice. It’s only purpose is to pressure the City Manager to abide by the preferred choice of the political committee, and this choice is often dictated by which candidate is able to pack the meeting when the nominations are determined. There is also a history of using an exclusionary strategy to nominate three candidates as a group solely to ensure that one of the other candidates is not among the three nominees. (This is exactly what occurred last year with the Republican City Committee.) The City Manager is under no obligation to pay any attention to the pecking order of these political committees (nor should he). It’s unfortunate that he is restricted to only these three nominees, but this restriction dates back to the establishment of the Cambridge Election Commission in response to claims made about 90 years ago that the Democratic mayor at that time (long before Plan E) was nominating “Republicans in name only” to the Board of Registrars, the predecessor of the Election Commission.
While I have a long-standing practice of never endorsing individual candidates for public office, the choice of an election commissioner is an appointment to a City board and is not a public election (only City Committee members may vote). Because my interest in the Cambridge elections (for both civic and academic reasons) is significant, I will say that the best choice by far for this position is Tom Stohlman. He was a candidate in the recent municipal election and has been actively involved in the campaigns of other candidates over the years. He is not only one of the most likable and agreeable people I’ve met during my 32 years in Cambridge, he also has a lot of expertise in the mechanics of the Cambridge elections. He would also be the perfect choice to move the Election Commission in the direction of improved public information about our local elections. In terms of the interpersonal relations of the 4-person Election Commission and how the Commission will work with its soon-to-be-appointed new Executive Director, there is no doubt that Tom would be the ideal choice. This is not meant as a negative statement about any of the other four candidates, but only as an affirmation of just how good a choice Tom would be for this position.
Unfortunately, though I am a CDCC member, I teach a class every Thursday night and cannot attend this meeting. If you are a voting member and can attend this meeting, please cast a vote tonight for Tom Stohlman – preferably the top choice, but please make sure he’s on the list of three nominees and that the City Manager chooses wisely from these three nominees. — Robert Winters
Update: Not unexpectedly, Linda Pinti, Mushtaque Mirza, and Martha Older collaborated in a partially successful preclusionary strategy to box out the competition. They were able to get Linda Pinti nominated as 1st choice and Mushtaque Mirza as 3rd choice with Poly Cobb getting the 2nd choice. These are the same results as last time and there’s no reason to believe the City Manager’s appointment will be any different this time, so congratulations goes to Poly Cobb for successfully fending off the competition and virtually assuring her reappointment!
Unfortunately, the best candidate of all, Tom Stohlman, was not included among the three nominees to be sent to the City Manager. I once characterized the Cambridge Democratic City Committee as political hospice. I believe the shoe still fits. For those who might actually care, here’s how the vote went:
Round 1: Pinti 59, Cobb 46, Stohlman 5, Mirza 1 (Older withdrew from Round 1). Pinti has majority, so gets #1 nomination.
Round 2A: Cobb 51, Mirza 46, Stohlman 9 (Older withdrew from Round 2). No majority, drop lowest candidate (Stohlman).
Round 2B: Cobb 51, Mirza 51 (tie). After much debate, decide to revote.
Round 2C: Cobb 54, Mirza 47. Cobb gets #2 nomination.
Round 3: Mirza 63, Stohlman 25 (Older withdrew from Round 3). Mirza gets #3 nomination.
Had I been able to attend this meeting, I might have told the CDCC, all of its officers, and most of its members what I really think of them. Instead, I taught a great Linear Algebra class at the Harvard Extension School and had a greater impact in one evening than the CDCC has made all year. – RW
Attention Cambridge Democrats! Want to be an Election Commissioner? Fill out the questionnaire and submit it no later than 5:00pm on Monday, February 1. The Cambridge Democratic City Committee will have a public forum with all candidates for the three nominations on Thursday, February 11 at 7:00pm and a vote on Thursday, February 25 at 7:00pm (Central Square YMCA). [A Candidate is Qualified if s/he has completed and submitted a Questionnaire to the City Committee and has been present and responded to questions at a public hearing.]
Candidates who Submitted Questionnaires by the Feb 1 deadline are:
Polyxane S. (Poly) Cobb – Questionnaire & Resume
Mushtaque Alikhan Mirza – Questionnaire & Resume
Martha J. Older – Questionnaire & Resume
Linda Sophia Pinti – Questionnaire & Resume
Thomas J. Stohlman, Jr. – Questionnaire & Resume