Rep. Mike Connolly (center) holds certification papers from Attorney General Andrea Campbell for his proposed ballot question to lift the statewide rent control ban during a press conference with Sen. Jamie Eldridge (front right) and other proponents outside the State House on Wednesday, September 6. Credit: Alison Kuznitz / State House News Service

If it’s red-hot races for elective office that float your boat, the 2024 Massachusetts election looks like a year in drydock.

A Republican willing to get poleaxed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren has yet to surface, and GOP State Chair Amy Carnevale visibly winced when asked recently how the hunt for a human sacrifice is going. There are no serious challengers for any of the nine incumbent House members. For the March 5 presidential primary here to offer any suspense, Donald Trump would have to propose a ban on Dunkin Donuts.

Thankfully, there are ballot questions to keep us busy. Attorney General Andrea Campbell certified 34 of them last week, and a handful of those will get (or, in some cases, buy) the necessary signatures. And their common denominator is a question: who do you trust?

By the time voting day rolls around, you will be saturated with arguments for and against the initiative petition “establishing that app-based drivers are not employees.” A similar 2020 question in California drew more than $200 million in spending by the rideshare and delivery app industry, the most expensive ballot campaign in state history. (Organized labor, the chief opponents both there and in Massachusetts, raised less than $20 million.)

Proponents argue their gig-worker business model is successful and popular among drivers, and shouldn’t be burdened with the benefits that accrue by law to conventional workers. The unions say it’s just a power grab by greed-crazed corporations who don’t want to pay for full benefits, a model that will soon spread to other occupations. In California, a whopping 59% of voters trusted the pro-question drivers touting the freedom to set their own hours more than the labor groups who claimed to have workers’ best interests at heart.

Trust in big labor is also at the core of the petition “to remove MCAS performance as a condition for high school graduation.”

The Massachusetts Teachers Association hates the MCAS test because it provides the most comprehensive data ever on whether or not students are meeting minimal academic standards and, thus, provides officials with a map of failing teachers, classrooms and schools. Accountability is anathema to unions that never fail to fight discipline or dismissal of bad teachers. But clumsy administration of the tests and decades of often-grotesque anti-MCAS rhetoric (a “30-year experiment with test, punish and privatize,” MTA literature calls it) have damaged the MCAS brand.

Who will voters trust more? Education reform advocates who know the billions we’ve spent will be wasted if accountability for failure vanishes, or the well-respected teachers who will surely be front and center in the union ad blitz?

And then there’s the question that would empower cities and towns to bring back rent control, outlawed in a 1994 statewide vote. Predictably, property owners hate it, and will make sure voters recall the failures of rent control back in the day, including damaging distortion of the housing market and exploitation by wealthy renters. Supporters will likely enjoy a receptive audience of those who justifiably think the rent is too damn high, and don’t trust the state to find an answer.

This has been an era when local voters have reflexively returned incumbents at all levels, turned Beacon Hill over to one pro-labor party (absent decent alternatives), and given the Legislature relatively high marks in polling. Will they again put their trust in policymakers and union officials who’ve presided over regulatory messes, ed reform failures, and a housing debacle – but can’t seem to manage cursory tax breaks for renters, investors and estate inheritors?

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Jon Keller has been reporting and commenting on local politics since 1978. A graduate of Brandeis University, he worked in radio as a producer and talk-show host before moving into print journalism at The Tab newspapers and the Boston Phoenix. Freelance credits include the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Boston Magazine, the New Republic and the Washington Post. Since 1991 his "Keller At Large" commentaries and interviews have been a fixture on Boston TV, first on WLVI-TV and, since 2005, on WBZ-TV. He is a 12-time Emmy Award winner for political reporting and commentary. He began his Massterlist column in March 2020.