With an all-Democratic congressional delegation, an all-Democratic roster of statewide officeholders, and the most lopsidedly Democratic state legislature in America, Massachusetts deserves its reputation as the bluest of blue states. Yet most registered voters in Massachusetts don't have a "D" after their names. Unenrolled voters — those not affiliated with any political party — have outnumbered Republicans and Democrats for nearly three decades. Of the state's 4.26 million voters, more than 2.2 million, or 53.1 percent, do not specify a party affiliation.
Judging by results, of course, most of the state's unenrolled voters lean Democratic, even if they decline to wear the party label. But not all tilt leftward. Some — like me — incline distinctly the other way. And since Massachusetts permits unenrolled voters to participate in either party's primary, it's a safe bet that some of those choosing the Democratic nominee for governor in next week's election will be conservatives or libertarians apt to vote for Republicans in a general election.
Republican-leaning unenrolled voters have a compelling reason to vote in Democratic primaries: In this state, that's where most of the action is. Now and then, the beleaguered Massachusetts GOP treats itself to a dynamic primary contest, such as the three-way battle last year among US Senate hopefuls Gabriel Gomez, Michael Sullivan, and Dan Winslow. But those are few and far between. In this year's Republican primary, self-made businessman Mark Fisher is plainly the more stalwart conservative, but he has virtually no chance of beating Charlie Baker to become the party's nominee for governor.
The Democratic nomination, however, isn't a foregone conclusion. Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman, and health-care guru Don Berwick are all running as very liberal Democrats, and I can't see myself voting for any of them in the general election on Nov. 4. But that's no reason to sit out the primary election, where my vote is more likely to have an impact. All I have to decide is which of these three lefties to vote for.
Should I vote strategically, backing the Democrat I think has the least chance of winning in November? Should I support the candidate whose abilities and experience seem most suited for executive office? Should I try to figure out which of the three Democrats might at least be open to considering reforms and innovations proposed from the right?