Tonight’s Debate

I think there might have been 400 people in the room for what turned into an entertaining, funny, rollicking exchange of ideas. I’ll have to video posted later on (I got all but about 2 minutes, as someone had the temerity to call me during the event - of all the nerve!), but overall, not a lot to criticize, but here’s some thoughts.

Kumar Barve had a great night. He injected a lot of humor into his presentation, which really went over very well with the crowd. We knew he was serious and substantive, now we know he’s got some Borscht Belt in him.

Joel Rubin impressed me very much, and not just because I sat next to his wife for the entire debate. He started out a little nervous and tentative, understandable as this was his first public forum. But the more he spoke, the more comfortable he got and the better his answers became. He got a solid amount of applause lines throughout the night.

Kathleen Matthews has clearly adapted from being a good public speaker to being a first rate candidate. It’s not as easy a transition as it might seem; I’d been standing up in front of judges and juries for 20 years before I ran for office, but speaking like a good candidate was one of the hardest things I’d ever tried. By the end of my campaign I was much better than when I started. Matthews made the jump a lot faster than I did. She was smooth and effective again tonight.

Jamie Raskin also had a very good night. He was sharp and focused, and like Barve, deployed his humor to great positive effect. In particular, Raskin did an excellent job of stressing his experience and legislative accomplishments. Nobody can match his oratorical skills, but his strengths as a candidate have sometimes gotten lost in the weeds of his rhetoric. Not tonight. A very effective presentation.

David Anderson took the most confrontational approach to tonight’s debate, calling out Raskin and Matthews - sometimes by name - for what he sees as slavish devotion to party orthodoxy. I give him a great deal of credit for bravery, because the crowd was on more than one occasion uncomfortable with his stated desire to work cooperatively with Republicans on shared goals, and he was booed on more than one occasion. While I don’t agree with Anderson’s views, I find his challenge to progressive orthodoxy refreshing. When all the candidates agree on a point, the conversation can quickly become stale. David Anderson is determined not to let that happen, and he deserves credit for that, not booing. My one piece of advice is to work on the tone of his criticism, which too often comes across as harsh and might well have contributed to some of the negative reactions.

Ana Sol Gutierrez was also solid. She made her points more crisply and effectively than I’d seen her do before, and like Barve, she injected some lightheartedness info her delivery, which worked very well for her. She’s an appealing and likeable personality, and she did a good job of showing that tonight.

Will Jawando had the toughest seat in the room tonight. As you’ll see on the video, he was in the first seat next to the moderator, and on virtually every question he had to walk down to the other end of the table, retrieve the mike from Kathleen Matthews, snake it back through the middle five candidates, and only then begin his answer. But he handled all that coolly and with grace, and delivered his message cogently and effectively.

Finally, kudos to Linda Kolko of the Women’s Democratic Club, who organized a great event with around 400 people in attendance, and kept her cool when the sound system stopped working right from the start. And also to former Gazette reporter Kate Alexander for effectively moderating the debate. It was a really fun night full of lively and interesting conversation.

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