It’s been said that you can’t split dead wood.
Surprisingly, the Massachusetts Republican Party, usually barren tundra when competing in statewide races, is fielding a forest of formidable candidates to challenge Democrat incumbent U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2018. Two of them — Beth Lindstrom and John Kingston — are twin oaks of establishment politics and just recently announced their candidacies. They are worthy contenders, nevertheless, and deserve recognition.
Lindstrom is a Groton resident. She was executive director of the Massachusetts Lottery in the 1990s and, later, worked as director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation while Mitt Romney was governor. She also managed Scott Brown’s successful U.S. Senate campaign during the 2010 special election and is the first female executive director of the state Republican Party. Lindstrom appeared, notably, on television ads in 2014 for a super PAC backing Republican Charlie Baker. She announced her candidacy on Twitter on Aug. 21, with a formal announcement on Oct. 14.
John Kingston is a Winchester resident. He is a rich businessman and philanthropist. He was a lawyer at Ropes & Gray and went on to hold leadership positions at Affiliated Managers Group, the global asset-management company. He serves on the board of the Pioneer Institute, the public-policy organization, and is a member of the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington D.C., think tank. He is also involved with several charitable endeavors. Active in state and national Republican Party affairs, Kingston was part of Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign and was an executive producer for the 2014 documentary film Mitt. He formally announced his candidacy on Oct. 25.
So, before debate moderators and deceitful mainstream media can ask them their favorite color or when they last wept, they should be asked serious questions. Herewith are some to ponder:
1. Your mentor, Mitt Romney, was mocked during the 2012 presidential campaign for suggesting that Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat to the United States. Considering the allegations that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, is Russia today still the biggest threat to American security? Why or why not?
2. What should be done to mitigate North Korean provocations? Can America live with a nuclear-armed North Korea?
3. In May, with over $70 billion in outstanding debt, Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy (believed to be the largest ever U.S. local government bankruptcy) under Title III of a U.S. Congressional rescue law known as PROMESA. Puerto Rico’s poor fiscal condition, highlighted again after Hurricane Maria, mirrors many mainland municipalities. What should this debt restructuring look like? Do municipal bankruptcy laws need modification given the sheer number of over-incumbered, bankruptcy-prone municipalities?
4. Some would argue that the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter are effectively operating as monopolies, and that their size and influence far exceed those of Standard Oil, and AT&T, for instance, which were ultimately broken up. Do the current examples raise anti-trust concerns? Does the Justice Department need to rethink its anti-trust policies?
5. For better or worse, President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party, your party. In what regard is the president doing well? In what regard can the president improve?
6. In Massachusetts, you will not win election without winning over some Democrats. How do you garner their vote? What do you say to Senator Warren’s core constituency, progressive populists, to gain their vote?
7. The commonwealth has one of the highest rates of opioid overdose deaths in the country. This year police in several Massachusetts cities and towns are seeing massive increases, not decreases, in non-fatal overdoses. The rightly called opioid epidemic has been trending for over a decade in the wrong direction. What are your proposals for action? How should state and federal governments better address this matter?
8. The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon lured 238 bids from cities and regions for its second corporate headquarters. With no public vetting or commenting process, a total of 26 Massachusetts sites are competing for Amazon’s business, which, according to estimates, will bring tens of thousands of jobs to the winner. Is public policy perverted when one of the world’s richest companies is seeking — and will be granted — generous subsidies and tax benefits from these places where there is already high indebtedness, massive unfunded pension liabilities, and where there is need for drastic infrastructure improvements? What are your thoughts on these arrangements?
9. Does Obamacare need to be repealed and replaced? If yes, what are your proposals? If no, what improvements need to be made to make it a sustainable health care system? And looking at health care locally, Romneycare is now eating up close to 45 percent of the Massachusetts budget, prompting state Rep. Jim Lyons to call the budget “an insurance company.” How do you bend the cost curve? Is the expansion of Medicaid slowly bankrupting Massachusetts? How do you finance it on the federal level?
10. Former Sen. Scott Brown said during the 2012 senatorial campaign that he was a “Scott Brown Republican.” He lost by a wide margin. Likewise, both of you have described yourselves as abstractions. (Lindstrom: “a common-sense Republican.” Kingston: “an independent thinker.”) What do you mean by these Twitter-inspired thought bubbles? Do you have better descriptions?
11. Speaking of 2012, Brown and Romney could not decide if they were moderates or conservatives or something else. Lacking such identity probably hurt them. Warren is proudly progressive. What are you? And does it make political and electoral sense to fight a progressive with a conservative?
12. What are your reactions to the Massachusetts Republican Party settling charges for $240,000 in 2015 with Tea Party member Mark Fisher? (He claimed that the party stymied his efforts at getting on the Republican gubernatorial primary ballot in 2014, which raised larger issuers of attempting to purge the party of conservatives.)
13. On March 10, The Boston Globe’s Frank Phillips wrote: “A major concern for the governor’s political team is that the party’s U.S. Senate candidate in 2018 be compatible with Governor Charlie Baker and his political positions.” You both speak of not being beholden to President Trump but you’re both considered insiders in the state Republican Party. How do you refute Phillip’s premise that you are not beholden to Baker? Do you think his team favored the party’s proposal of doubling the number of super-delegates at next year’s nominating convention?
14. Who are your political role models? Why?
15. Has the national legislative branch abdicated its constitutionally prescribed powers to the executive branch? If yes, how do you bring the balance back?
16. Candidate Lindstrom: In the announcement video for your candidacy, you say you are “not a professional politician.” (Technically Olympic athletes aren’t professional athletes either.) Granted, you were never elected to public office, yet a substantial portion of your career has been involved in government. Do you think that the average voter would believe your statement?
17. Candidate Lindstrom: In 2008, Former Republican Lit. Gov. Kerry Healy would have been the first woman elected Massachusetts governor. You would be the first Republican woman elected Massachusetts senator. What advice has she given you?
18. Candidate Kingston: It was reported that you switched party registration last year from Republican to unenrolled and led an effort to create a movement to field an independent candidate in the presidential election. You have lent your own campaign approximately $3 million. You are a harsh critic of President Trump. Candidate Trump also had a history of switching party affiliations and lending his campaign personal funds. Philosophically and operationally, aren’t you behaving like Trump? Why are you running as a Republican and not as an Independent?
19. Candidate Kingston: You made a fortune in the asset-management business and spent a significant amount of your career in financial services. Did Wall Street learn any lessons in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008-2009? What were they? Are Americans more protected from Wall Street shenanigans today than last decade? Should hedge funds, which play increasingly powerful roles in trading and asset accumulation, be taxed and regulated more?
20. Candidate Kingston: In your formal announcement video, you say you are a “different kind of leader.” How so? In a separate statement you also said, “We cannot risk that chance [defeating Warren] on candidates who cannot deploy the resources necessary to win, or on candidates who are unelectable or uninspiring.” Is that an elitist sentiment, and don’t ideas matter too? Are you suggesting that your primary opponents’ lack of comparable wealth is a disqualifier? How are you inspiring?
Lindstrom and Kingston aren’t the only GOP candidates. State Rep. Geoff Diehl, businessman Shiva Ayyadurai, and Allen Waters of Mashpee are also running. But these questions are for the two candidates formally jumping in this month.
It’s too early to tell if Lindstrom and Kingston will split the vote or split their differences with Massachusetts Republicans. Each will need 15 percent of the vote at next April’s state party convention to secure their respective names on the primary ballot. But already there is controversy and trouble among them. Kingston, it was reported by the Globe, has bizarrely urged Lindstrom to drop out of the race. Surely a brush fire Baker wants extinguished immediately.
James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer, former columnist with The Cape Cod Times and former banker. This column first appeared in New Boston Post. His work has also appeared in The Providence Journal as well as here, newenglanddiary.com.