Harkins Won't Endorse Smulowitz – Party Activists Line up Behind Ross and Smulowitz

Dr. Peter Smulowitz

Lida Harkins has stunned Needham Democratics in an interview on Wicked Local Needham, where she refused to endorse Peter Smulowitz, the winner of the Democractic Primary for Scott Brown’s Senate seat. She said she isn’t supporting Ross only because she is Chair of Needham’s Democratic Town Committee.

Harkins, a 20 year incumbent, lost to Smulowitz by a narrow margin in what is looking like a difficult election year for Democratic incumbents. Toward the end of the race, Smulowitz sent out flyers attacking Harkins controversial campaign financing, pointing out that she continues to take contributions from indicted former Speakers.

Harkins blasted Smulowitz, calling his campaign flyers ‘slanderous’ and ‘gutter politics.’ And Smulowitz countered saying his statements were factual and that it was important for voters to know and decide for themselves.

This controversy highlights a growing schism among a new wave of progressive Democratic candidates and established Democratic Party incumbents, who seem to embroiled in a constant stream of scandals and insider dealings. Three Speakers in a row, and many other legislators, have been indicted in various schemes.

Beer Diplomacy: Charlie Baker and Christy Mihos

Harkins refusal to endorse Smulowitz is part of that pattern. Normally when a candidate loses a party primary, even when that primary is contentious, will throw their enthusiastic support behind the winner. We saw that for example with Christy Mihos and Charlie Baker. Mihos is viewed by many Republican as one of the factors in Kerry Healy’s loss to Deval Patrick. After Baker managed to engineer his failure to even get into the Republican Primary last week, Baker and Mihos were quick to arrange a photo op where they are both seen enjoying a beer together. It’s a way of telling voters that while they may have had sharp differences in the primary, that the issues are not personal, and that what is important is to support ideas they have in common.

Harkins is taking it personally. During the election she told voters that she is running to support their progressive values. Now that she has lost, she is willing to put her supporter’s progressive priorities in jeopardy. It certainly makes it clearer which of these candidates really cares about Democratic values.

Peter Smulowitz is facing a tough political battle in a very short election. The Norfolk Bristol and Middlesex district is a long vertical district. The northern end in Needham is a Democratic stronghold. But the southern part of the district is among the most Republican in the state. They voted for Scott Brown by margins of over 70%. Ross is extremely popular in that part of the district, and it’s going to take a strong effort by Democrats to get Smulowitz elected.

The race has also taken on national significance. National Republicans and their supporters are crowing about Scott Brown’s victory as a sign that even in Massachusetts voters are turning against Democrats. If Ross wins in Brown’s district, it will only re-enforce that message.

Democrats have been piling on to Attorney General Martha Coakley, who lost the race to Brown. They say that Brown’s victory has nothing to do with dissatisfaction with Democrats – but only because Coakley ran a very incompetent campaign. If Smulowitz can win, it will help show that the tide is not turning against Democrats in Massachusetts.

Progressive Democratic activists from around the state have started their own independent grass roots efforts to support Smulowitz:

  • “Turn Scott Brown’s State Senate Seat Blue!” – A fast growing independent Facebook group helping raise money for Smulowitz.
  • BlueMassGroup has been posting articles about Smulowitz with links to their own fundraising efforts for Smulowitz.
  • Progressive Democratic organizer Harmony Wu, and progressive State Senator Jamie Eldridge have been working hard to raise money for Smulowitz.
Scott Brown supporting Richard Ross at Saturday's fundraiser in Attleboro

Senator Scott Brown, who used to hold this seat, has been campaigning and raising money for Ross. He has been the speaker at several Ross fundraisers, most recently on Saturday in Attleboro.

Voters are looking for change in November. Republicans have been successfully casting themselves as agents of reform. Progressive Democrats are racing to capture that message by replacing incumbents like Harkins with new progressive candidates like Smulowitz.

The question is  – can they do that in time?

12 Comments

  • April 25, 2010 - 11:59 pm | Permalink

    If she’s not going to support their candidate, maybe Harkins should resign from Needham’s Democratic Town Committee. Isn’t supporting the Democratic candidates in Needham the whole point if it?

  • April 25, 2010 - 7:59 pm | Permalink

    If she’s not going to support their candidate, maybe Harkins should resign from Needham’s Democratic Town Committee. Isn’t supporting the Democratic candidates in Needham the whole point if it?

  • foxfire
    April 26, 2010 - 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Does being a good Democrat mean holding your nose and supporting every Democratic candidate who wins just because they say they’re “Progressive.” Smulowitz has shown himself to be without ethics or integrity, and that flies in the face of what it means to me to be a Democrat. I say, leave the liars and misrepresenters to the Tea Partiers and stand up for principles. Count me as another Needham Democrat who hold values higher than any single candidate– I won’t be supporting Smulowitz in May.

    • April 26, 2010 - 5:58 pm | Permalink

      Smulowitz is more of a progressive than Harkins. Harkins takes money from slot machine and tobacco lobbyists. She changed her vote on casinos after getting casino lobbyist money.

      And Smulowitz fliers were completely factually correct. I checked it and so did the Globe. I think it’s right to point this out to voters and let them decide.

      And Harkins is Town Democratic Committee chair. The Democratic primary winner is Smulowitz. It’s her job as committee to support the nominee. It would be different if she were just a regular voter, but she is representing the party – so she should do what the party has decided. If she can’t do that – she should step down.

      She clearly is putting her personal interests ahead of the party and voters she represents.

      • foxfire
        April 27, 2010 - 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Actually, your facts are in error. The fliers were inaccurate and deliberately misleading. Lida Harkins did not “pocket cash” from Sal Dimasi, and the Smulowitz campaign retracted that. Lida Harkins did not “pocket cash” from Thomas Finneran, and the “proof” that the fliers suggest, in the form of a fabricated OCPF form designed to look official was also untrue. If you looked at the actual OCPF report, you would not find any donations under the names of either DiMasi or Finneran. So to say that the fliers are factually correct is just plain wrong.
        Dr. Smulowitz takes money from his own special interest– the doctors whom he promises to protect from malpractice. Are the medical special interests somehow loftier than other lobbies? Peter put his own interest in getting elected above ethics or integrity or honesty, and it will probably cost the Dems the seat.
        Finally, it’s up to the body of the Dem Town Cmte whether they support Lida’s position or not. There are plenty of Needham Democrats who don’t want to reward Smulowitz for his lack of ethics.

  • foxfire
    April 26, 2010 - 9:11 am | Permalink

    Does being a good Democrat mean holding your nose and supporting every Democratic candidate who wins just because they say they’re “Progressive.” Smulowitz has shown himself to be without ethics or integrity, and that flies in the face of what it means to me to be a Democrat. I say, leave the liars and misrepresenters to the Tea Partiers and stand up for principles. Count me as another Needham Democrat who hold values higher than any single candidate– I won’t be supporting Smulowitz in May.

    • April 26, 2010 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

      Smulowitz is more of a progressive than Harkins. Harkins takes money from slot machine and tobacco lobbyists. She changed her vote on casinos after getting casino lobbyist money.

      And Smulowitz fliers were completely factually correct. I checked it and so did the Globe. I think it’s right to point this out to voters and let them decide.

      And Harkins is Town Democratic Committee chair. The Democratic primary winner is Smulowitz. It’s her job as committee to support the nominee. It would be different if she were just a regular voter, but she is representing the party – so she should do what the party has decided. If she can’t do that – she should step down.

      She clearly is putting her personal interests ahead of the party and voters she represents.

      • foxfire
        April 27, 2010 - 9:23 am | Permalink

        Actually, your facts are in error. The fliers were inaccurate and deliberately misleading. Lida Harkins did not “pocket cash” from Sal Dimasi, and the Smulowitz campaign retracted that. Lida Harkins did not “pocket cash” from Thomas Finneran, and the “proof” that the fliers suggest, in the form of a fabricated OCPF form designed to look official was also untrue. If you looked at the actual OCPF report, you would not find any donations under the names of either DiMasi or Finneran. So to say that the fliers are factually correct is just plain wrong.
        Dr. Smulowitz takes money from his own special interest– the doctors whom he promises to protect from malpractice. Are the medical special interests somehow loftier than other lobbies? Peter put his own interest in getting elected above ethics or integrity or honesty, and it will probably cost the Dems the seat.
        Finally, it’s up to the body of the Dem Town Cmte whether they support Lida’s position or not. There are plenty of Needham Democrats who don’t want to reward Smulowitz for his lack of ethics.

  • April 28, 2010 - 12:02 am | Permalink

    Foxfire – I haven’t seen the actual fliers. The statements in the fliers that I read I checked and they were factually correct. Now if there was a photoshopped graphic of a campaign filing in the flier – that would certainly be misleading. As for using the term ‘pocketed’ – that again is certainly a more damaging phrase to use than ‘recevied contributions’ – but I don’t think any voters were confused and thought she just stole the money. I believe people understood that the meaning was that she took contributions.

    So Smulowitz was maybe more aggressive than was fair – but I know the substance of what he was saying is factual. I checked it.

    I know Smulowitz got the majority of his campaign money at the beginning from doctors at Beth Israel. I reported that. But I think there is a big difference to take money from your personal friends and co-workers who happen to be doctors and to take contributions from registered lobbyists who represent companies who have state business.

    Harkins takes money – a lot of it – from lobbyists who represent tobacco companies and those lobbyists are active in trying to stop tobacco control bills that come up every year. It doesn’t give the public confidence that she is impartial when reviewing those bills when she has just written the lobbyists a thank you note for a $500 contribution.

    She also takes money from casino lobbyists – again while those companies are trying to win state lottery contracts – and when there is a casino bill in the House. She started receiving contributions and changed her vote at the same time. I think voters understand what that means when they know those facts. It’s important for voters to decide those things for themselves.

    Finally, after a primary, candidates should put their personal feeling aside. The voters have chosen. What she is doing is essentially campaigning for Ross. If the Democratic vote is split in Needham – Ross wins for sure.

    Elections have consequences. Harkins is putting her feeling ahead of the interests of Needham. Does she really think that Needham will be better served by a Republican from Wrentham than a Democrat from Needham?

    She is also damaging the interests of Democrats for the entire election season. There is a schism brewing between establishment Democrats like Harkins and progressive democrats. the way Harkins is behaving is backfiring for establishment Democrats. Her part of the party is losing support. People are bailing to go either to the right toward moderate Republicans, or the the Left toward progressive Democrats.

    By putting herself ahead of the Democratic party she is showing Democratic voters that people like her ( and the rest of the party leadership ) don’t really have their best interest in mind. Its becoming clearer that its really just about personal power.

  • April 27, 2010 - 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Foxfire – I haven’t seen the actual fliers. The statements in the fliers that I read I checked and they were factually correct. Now if there was a photoshopped graphic of a campaign filing in the flier – that would certainly be misleading. As for using the term ‘pocketed’ – that again is certainly a more damaging phrase to use than ‘recevied contributions’ – but I don’t think any voters were confused and thought she just stole the money. I believe people understood that the meaning was that she took contributions.

    So Smulowitz was maybe more aggressive than was fair – but I know the substance of what he was saying is factual. I checked it.

    I know Smulowitz got the majority of his campaign money at the beginning from doctors at Beth Israel. I reported that. But I think there is a big difference to take money from your personal friends and co-workers who happen to be doctors and to take contributions from registered lobbyists who represent companies who have state business.

    Harkins takes money – a lot of it – from lobbyists who represent tobacco companies and those lobbyists are active in trying to stop tobacco control bills that come up every year. It doesn’t give the public confidence that she is impartial when reviewing those bills when she has just written the lobbyists a thank you note for a $500 contribution.

    She also takes money from casino lobbyists – again while those companies are trying to win state lottery contracts – and when there is a casino bill in the House. She started receiving contributions and changed her vote at the same time. I think voters understand what that means when they know those facts. It’s important for voters to decide those things for themselves.

    Finally, after a primary, candidates should put their personal feeling aside. The voters have chosen. What she is doing is essentially campaigning for Ross. If the Democratic vote is split in Needham – Ross wins for sure.

    Elections have consequences. Harkins is putting her feeling ahead of the interests of Needham. Does she really think that Needham will be better served by a Republican from Wrentham than a Democrat from Needham?

    She is also damaging the interests of Democrats for the entire election season. There is a schism brewing between establishment Democrats like Harkins and progressive democrats. the way Harkins is behaving is backfiring for establishment Democrats. Her part of the party is losing support. People are bailing to go either to the right toward moderate Republicans, or the the Left toward progressive Democrats.

    By putting herself ahead of the Democratic party she is showing Democratic voters that people like her ( and the rest of the party leadership ) don’t really have their best interest in mind. Its becoming clearer that its really just about personal power.

  • foxfire
    April 28, 2010 - 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate your feelings about Lida position in the party. As a progressive myself, I am troubled by the appearance of a schism. But here’s the thing– if you haven’t seen the fliers, then you are in no position to judge their veracity. They were misleading both in intent and in fact. So as a progressive, I am troubled by the integrity of someone who would take that approach in a primary campaign. It would be an entirely different story if he had won without misleading voters. But giving a pass to someone who “swiftboats” because they call themselves a Democrat doesn’t hold water. As Peter himself stated, we need to hold our leaders to a higher standard. That’s what I’m doing.

  • foxfire
    April 28, 2010 - 10:16 am | Permalink

    I appreciate your feelings about Lida position in the party. As a progressive myself, I am troubled by the appearance of a schism. But here’s the thing– if you haven’t seen the fliers, then you are in no position to judge their veracity. They were misleading both in intent and in fact. So as a progressive, I am troubled by the integrity of someone who would take that approach in a primary campaign. It would be an entirely different story if he had won without misleading voters. But giving a pass to someone who “swiftboats” because they call themselves a Democrat doesn’t hold water. As Peter himself stated, we need to hold our leaders to a higher standard. That’s what I’m doing.

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>