While I am sure Jimmy Buffet was thinking of warmer climes when he penned his Changes in Latitude song, part of the reason I was brought on to this blog was to highlight the politics outside of the beltway of Boston, so that’s what I am going to do today.
For many years, the SouthCoast of Massachusetts was seen as reliably Democratic; as such, many down here felt that the region didn’t get much love. Politicians didn’t pay attention to us, because the vote down here was locked up so to speak. Indeed, in both 2002 and 2006, the towns in the region primarily went to the Democrats, even though Romney took the election in 2002.
But things have been changing around here. In 2010, Commonwealth Magazine’s round up of political regions noted the Brink City’s (the wonderful name given to this region of the state) “newfound willingness to vote Republican.” Some politicians noted this too; others, not so much. While Brown ran well here in 2010, earning over 21,000 more votes than Coakley in Bristol County*, Baker did not. He came down to the SouthCoast, and duly noted his opposition to the SouthCoast rail project, beloved by many in this region. Voters responded accordingly, giving Patrick the nod with a margin of over 7,800 votes in 2010.
Baker’s a pretty smart guy though; when he came back down in 2014, he announced his newfound support for SouthCoast Rail and took Bristol County by over 6,500 votes. That’s over 16% of Baker’s total margin statewide. Now, SouthCoast rail isn’t the only issue down here, but I think Baker’s switch on this issue stems more from recognizing the political benefits of supporting this project as opposed to its actual benefits.
The region’s newfound willingness to consider both parties (an increasingly rare characteristics in towns and cities in the Commonwealth) should be reflected in turnout levels in the primary down here on Tuesday. Turnout will presumably be higher in the Democratic primary in both Fall River and New Bedford, but turnout may actually be higher in the Republican primaries in many of the other communities in this region. As an admittedly unscientific example, I have seen exactly three yard signs in my hometown of Dartmouth: one for Sanders, one for Carson, and one for Trump. Not that I expect this region (or this state for that matter) will get much love in the general election, but I do think the SouthCoast should be in play for both parties for many state elections. And smart politicians in both parties should take note.
*Admittedly, Bristol County is not necessarily the same as the SouthCoast, but it's reasonably close.