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Voices: Back Story

Payne and Domke go independent

Two gubernatorial candidates target unenrolled voters

BY: Bruce Mohl


Dan Payne and Todd Domke are well-known political consultants who often moonlight together as pundits for media outlets, with Payne representing the Democrat point of view and Domke the Republican. But now Payne and Domke are working for the same team, the gubernatorial campaign of businessman - and independent - Jeffrey McCormick.

The two political consultants aren’t abandoning their parties, but they do sense the public in Massachusetts and across the country is disillusioned with politicians who see everything in red and blue. They think McCormick is a purple-violet type of guy, someone who can appeal to the 52 percent of the Massachusetts electorate who choose not to enroll in either party.

McCormick is a founding partner of the Boston venture capital firm Saturn Partners, which counts among its investments the email marketing company Constant Contact and Boston Duck Tours. Domke and Payne say McCormick is mounting his first political campaign as an independent because that’s how he sees himself.

“He’s a hybrid,” said Domke, who notes that McCormick has supported Democrats and Republicans in the past. “He sees the world differently than most pols,” said Payne.

Keep in mind that Domke and Payne are being paid by McCormick, but their take on an independent candidacy is interesting. (Full disclosure: A colleague at MassINC has just left to do consulting work and one of her clients is the McCormick campaign.)

Domke says a recent Esquire/NBC News poll was eye opening for him. The poll indicated Washington may be polarized, but much of the nation shares a lot of common values. The majority of voters in the middle tend to be socially progressive while leaning rightward on the environment, capital punishment, and diversity. “There really is a center,” said Domke.

Payne has witnessed the draw of an independent candidacy personally, having worked for Angus King in Maine during his successful runs for governor in 1994 and 1998 and, more recently, his victory in the race to succeed Olympia Snowe in the US Senate. Payne said he took McCormick to Washington to meet with King so he could learn firsthand how an independent can win.

Payne said he recognizes that Beacon Hill isn’t as dysfunctional as Washington, but he suspects that’s largely because of one-party rule by Democrats. “There isn’t a lot of original thinking going on at the State House,” he said.

McCormick isn’t the only independent in the race for governor. Evan Falchuk jumped into the race in February, and is not only trying to win as an independent but trying to launch a party for Massachusetts independents called the United Independent Party. The 42-year-old Falchuk comes out of the health care arena, having worked at Best Doctors Inc. of Boston, a company that arranges for second medical opinions for the employees of its corporate clients.

Falchuk stopped by CommonWealth this week to talk about his candidacy. He is concerned about partisan political dialogue and the disconnect between voters and the political process. He voted for Republicans and Democrats in the past and made a pilgrimage to Angus King’s office in Washington. And he is promising to bring a very different voice to the gubernatorial race.

On health care, for example, he thinks Massachusetts residents are paying too much because a handful of companies dominate the business. He singled out Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim, and Tufts on the insurance side, and Partners HealthCare on the hospital side.

“It’s a setup that works really, really well for these big institutions,” Falchuk said. “The way we deal with monopolies is to break them into smaller pieces. You smash them up.”

That’s not an idea you hear very often on the campaign trail these days.
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