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Election Eve Odds and Ends

November 5, 2012

Massachusetts: The race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, his Democratic challenger, is one being watched nationwide because it carries the possibility of deciding party control of the U.S. Senate. All of the polling shows this election close. But Warren has to be a slight favorite in this Democratic state where President Obama is considered a lock. To win, the likeable Brown, he of the Everyman persona and pickup truck popular image, must convince about 400,000 voters across the Bay State to split their tickets for Obama and then vote Republican for Senate. Warren, a Harvard Law School professor known for her advocacy of  regulating Wall Street, has the support of just about every Democratic interest group and would be a senator in the same vein as the late Ted Kennedy, whose seat Brown won in a special election.

For those handicapping the race: Warren must roll up a substantial margin east of  Route 128, including Boston, Cambridge, Brookline and Newton. Brown can be expected to harvest votes in the 495 Belt west of the Boston core, but also must do well in Quincy, Lynn and Lowell if he is to keep the seat. Communities to watch:  Such inner Boston suburbs as Melrose and Stoneham are usually  good predictors in close Massachusetts elections, and Braintree is often a swing area.

Warren must do well in Fall River and New Bedford, two old, economically-struggling southeastern Massachusetts cities where Brown has wooed the fishing and fish-processing communities. In his iconic novel, `The Last Hurrah’ Edwin O’Connor famously labeled western Massachusetts as the `apple counties.’

Now, with the exception of Springfield, west of the Connecticut River could be renamed the Rachel Maddow counties, where Warren is sure to run strong. Up for grabs: Worcester, the state’s second largest city, where Brown must keep any Warren plurality low if he is to keep the seat. Yours truly is also keeping tabs on Marshfield, Weymouth and Duxbury, which could be swing communities.

Rhode Island Ballot Issues: The ballot items that have generated the most attention and campaign cash are the two that would add table games to the slot-machine parlors at Newport Grand and Twin River in Lincoln. Because there gambling emporiums pump more than $300 million into state tax coffers, voters statewide are likely to approve both statewide questions to make both locations casinos. But under the Rhode Island Constitution, both venues also need approval from local voters. This should not be a problem in Lincoln, where there is not much organized opposition against table games. But in Newport, the local referendum will likely be closer than Lincoln. Newport has a long history of opposition to casino gambling and a citizens group spearheaded  by the Rev. Eugene McKenna, a retired Roman Catholic priest, has been fighting new  gambling in the City By the Sea. And more than a few citizens don’t think that Newport, with its fine restaurants, world-class sailing, Gilded Age mansions and glittering beaches, needs to stoop to more gambling to attract tourists.

But the Hurley family, which owns Newport grand, is well-liked in Newport for being good corporate citizens, involved in local good causes, including the Newport Music Festival. And most local pols, including a healthy majority of city council candidates, have endorsed table games. The back drop to all this is the future worry that Massachusetts, which is about to usher in development of three large casinos and drain revenue from Rhode Island.

The other ballot issues have not generated nearly the attention or campaign spending of the casino topics. Question 3, for example, would authorize $50 million in bonds to upgrade buildings at Rhode Island College. RIC has gotten a boost on this one from alumna Viola Davis, the Oscar-nominated actress, who has done effective radio spots for this initiative. Question 4 would earmark up to $94 million to build a new Veterans Home in Bristol and renovate the existing facilities. Veterans groups have campaigned vigorously for it but the ProJo editorial page has opposed it, saying it is too costly. Question 5 would supply $20 million in bonds for clean water and water pollution abatement projects.

Question 6 would allocate $20 million for an array of environmental projects, including the purchase of open space land, protecting farmland, restoring Narragansett Bay watershed and grants to municipalities for renovation of historic parks and recreation areas. And Question 7 would provide $25 million in bonds for affordable housing, which has been pushed by housing advocates.

Rhode Island Players Nationally: Paul Tencher, the onetime chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, is campaign manager for Indiana Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, who appears headed for a narrow victory over Republican  Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party conservative who defeated incumbent moderate GOP Sen. Richard Lugar in a primary.

Tad Devine, the Providence native and Brown grad, who has been major domo in Democratic politics nationally since the 1980s, is a media consultant for Joseph P. Kennedy, III, who is a heavily favored to win the U.S. House seat in Massachusetts that is being vacated by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, who is retiring at age 71. Devine worked on campaigns for Kennedy’s father, former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, and the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

J.B. Poersch, Sen. Jack Reed’s former chief of staff and a prominent Democratic consultant, is running The Majority PAC, a political action committee working with big Democratic donors and organized labor to keep Democrats in U.S. Senate control.

Most importantly, don’t forget to vote. Rhode Island polls close at 8 p.m. this year, one hour earlier than usual. When means that political junkies get their returns earlier, but that you most be in line at a poll by 8 p.m. to vote. All polls in the state open at 7 a.m., except for Block Island, where starting time is 9 a.m.

Results: Rhode Island Public Radio coverage starts at 8 p.m.  with local coverage and analysis from Scott MacKay and Maureen Moakley and national results from NPR.

Election Night Parties: Democrats at the Providence Biltmore and Republicans at the Providence Marriott.

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