Peter Smulowitz Campaign Under Threat from Needham Democratic Party Schism

Peter Smulowitz

Democratic infighting threatens other Needham Democratic candidates as well.

The election for the Norfolk Bristol and Middlesex Senate seat is just a week away. Progressive Democratic activists from around the state are working overtime to help Smulowitz win. There are call centers set up not just by the Smulowitz campaign, but by activists in Arlington and as far away as Northampton. Activists at BlueMassGroup have been raising money for Smulowitz. Katherine Adam has organized a fast growing independent facebook group to raise money for Smulowitz. Democratic super-activist Harmony Wu, a major organizer for Barack Obama, has been giving Smulowitz her full attention.

The Boston Phoenix has taken notice of the statewide support Smulowitz is getting, going so far as to call them a new progressive ‘tea party’ movement.

Harmony Wu

But it may not be enough. Smulowitz defeated 20 year incumbent Lida Harkins partly by calling her out, correctly, on some improper contributions from ‘indicted former speakers’. Harkins may not have won, but she is in a position to cost him the election. Harkins has refused to endorse Smulowitz – and as Needham Democratic Town Committee chairwoman she has been able to deny him local Democratic support. Following Harkins lead, none of the five Needham selectmen have endorsed Smulowitz.

And since the primary Harkins has been repeatedly interviewed criticizing Smulowitz at length:

“Losing is easy. Restoring your reputation is not,” Harkins said. “He went out of his way to destroy my reputation, to make me sound like Dianne Wilkerson.”

This is not the way it’s supposed to work. After a primary, candidates from the same party, due to their common interests, and with respect for the will of fellow party members are supposed to line up behind the party’s candidate. But with Harkins’ vocal opposition to Smulowitz, Needham Democrats are now divided, with Harkins loyalists opposed to Smulowitz, and increasingly Democratic Progressives outraged at Harkins and the Democratic Town Committee.

The race between Ross and Smulowitz would likely have been tight, but winnable for Smulowitz – especially with the statewide support he is getting from Democractic activists. It’s likely Smulowitz will lose the election now, but how he loses will be important for other Democratic candidates for the rest of the year. If Smulowitz loses by a large margin, then maybe it was never meant to be, with or without Harkins support. But if he loses by a narrow margin, then blame will be laid on Harkins, and on the entire class of centrist Democratic incumbents.

Echoes of this will be felt for example in this race’s mirror image – the race between Cynthia Creem and Charles Rudnick.

YouTube Preview Image

Smulowitz himself really hasn’t done enough to quell the controversy. In yesterday’s GateHouse news video debate, the interviewer roasted Smulowitz over not reaching out to Harkins. In it Smulowitz, who is normally a great speaker,  is visibly uncomfortable, and isn’t really able to adequately answer the interviewer’s question. It’s difficult to watch. Maybe it’s because Smulowitz was 90 minutes late to the interview.

Since so much of Smulowitz support comes from Democratic activists from outside the district, their unhappiness with Democratic machine politics will translate into a deeper schism in the Democratic party across the state. More Democratic Progressives will abandon the chosen party candidates and focus their efforts exclusively on progressive Democratic candidates.

Who benefits from Democratic Infighting?

The big winner from all this of course is Ross - whose win is almost assured now –  and Republicans statewide. And to some extent the damage may be national. Whether this Senate seat goes red or blue will affect the narrative of Scott Brown’s victory – whether it’s perceived as a fluke by a canny candidate – or a distinct movement to the right in Massachusetts politics.

To a smaller extent another winner is the Republican challenger for Harkins’ open seat, John O’Leary. Since his opponents Selectmen Garlick and Wasserman have refused to endorse Smulowitz, they too risk alienating the progressive Democratic voters they will need in September. Their position is an unenviable one. Had they endorsed Smulowitz, they would risk losing hardcore Harkins supporters.

The damage that Harkins is doing to Democratic politics just keeps on reverberating througout Needham.

YouTube Preview Image

Republican activists are enjoying this embarrassing spectacle. Republican pollster Jack Gately has released another video mocking Smulowitz and Harkins.

Lida Harkins political career is over. She’s doubled down and lost, and there is no coming back from this. It’s interesting that she blames Smulowitz for destroying her reputation when she is so publicly destroying it herself. When Smulowitz loses, she will permanently lose the support of the majority of voters who chose Smulowitz. There is no way she can make it back to political life – and it’s not likely she will remain Needham’s Democratic Town Committee chairwoman for much longer.

While she may be remembered fondly by some loyal Democratic voters in Needham who she has helped throughout the years, she will be remembered by state Democratic activists only as a graceless loser who put personal disappointment ahead of statewide Democratic priorities and handed the Republicans another Senate seat and a national story.

72 Comments

  • May 5, 2010 - 1:50 am | Permalink

    Funny how Harkins doesn’t want her reputation destroyed – but she’s willing to pile on to Diane Wilkerson!

  • May 4, 2010 - 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Funny how Harkins doesn’t want her reputation destroyed – but she’s willing to pile on to Diane Wilkerson!

  • Almond
    May 5, 2010 - 2:08 am | Permalink

    It’s really sad. Time to move on, people. If Lida doesn’t want to endorse, that’s one thing, but she should not be dragging the whole town with her, and we all know that is what she’s doing, with a wink and a nod.

    And so that’s what she’s doing… and Democrats are squabbling like a bunch of peafowl at feeding time.

    Heads out of asses; there are issues at stake.

  • Almond
    May 4, 2010 - 10:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s really sad. Time to move on, people. If Lida doesn’t want to endorse, that’s one thing, but she should not be dragging the whole town with her, and we all know that is what she’s doing, with a wink and a nod.

    And so that’s what she’s doing… and Democrats are squabbling like a bunch of peafowl at feeding time.

    Heads out of asses; there are issues at stake.

  • May 5, 2010 - 2:34 am | Permalink

    Interesting analysis, especially looking ahead to the fall House contest.

    No doubt, Harkins has some responsibility here. But Smulowitz is the candidate. He’s the guy who has failed to find a way to rise above the fray. He’s the guy who is going to have to maneuver around tougher hurdles than Lyda Harkins if — as he claims — he wants to be able to bring meaningful change to Beacon Hill.

    It’s been three weeks since the primary. All he had to do was pick up the phone and call her. If she didn’t take his call, then the burden of a loss next week wouldn’t rest on his shoulders.

    The real shame is that Republicans will claim a Ross win as further momentum following Scott Brown. But as with the Scott Brown, a Ross win would also be the result of the Democrat running a less than stellar campaign.

    • May 5, 2010 - 3:07 am | Permalink

      I agree that Smulowitz has botched a chance to be gracious to Harkins. He’s new to politics and the way he has handled this shows how much he has to learn. He needed to do something to not so much to soothe Harkins, but to appear gracious to her supporters who were offended as well.

      But I still think the majority of the blame is on Harkins. Why the focus on whether Smulowitz called Harkins. By tradition the loser is supposed to call the winner and concede – not the other way around.

      For sure Smulowitz needs more experienced political advisors to help steer him through situations like this.

      • Almond
        May 5, 2010 - 3:21 am | Permalink

        Yes, the headlines blaring SMULOWITZ NEVER CALLED completely miss the larger point.

      • Ross Donald
        May 5, 2010 - 5:34 am | Permalink

        This has become a bonfire of the insanities! Its been three weeks and the Needham Fox Times insists on devoting a huge amount of time and space to the Lida versus Peter minutia. That race is run. On May 11 it will be a new Democrat versus an established Republican. As a voter, I’ll side with an inexperienced person who shares my values on gambling, healthcare, and a clean energy economy.

      • May 5, 2010 - 11:26 am | Permalink

        As we originally reported and as you can see on the video, Smulowitz told us on Monday that he never called us. We did not make that up.

        Tuesday morning he called our reporter to say that she did call him on election night and that he returned her call that same evening.

        We’ve reported this. It will be in tomorrow’s print edition of the Needham Times. We’ve amended the original online version of the story.

        I still maintain that a smart politician, and more importantly a smart leader, would have and should have tried to reach out to her in the weeks since. Blame Harkins if you want. Blame the Needham Times if you want (although State House News actually broke news of this rift and the video does not lie). But he’s the one who had/has the power to stop it. He’s also the one who may lose on Tuesday.

      • Almond
        May 5, 2010 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

        Greg, “Retweeting doesn’t mean you endorse.” Sure. But it means you’re disseminating snarky and irrelevant crap, which is exactly what you were doing with your giddy twitter comments about the phone call that wasn’t and then was. I looked up your twitter feed yesterday and you tweeted and retweeted and retweeted that “no phone call” thing so many times. Minutiae isn’t news. Snarky sniping isn’t news.

        Are you a journalist, editor of a newspaper, or what? If you just want to be a provocateur, then job well done. Given that you link to Needham Times, I thought you were a reporter or some kind of newsman.

        If I want to know about the latest sniping, I’ll be sure to follow your Twitterfeed, Greg. You’re making quite a name for yourself. Thumbs down.

      • Tower
        May 5, 2010 - 1:24 pm | Permalink

        I know we are beating a dead horse here, but let’s just get the facts straight. As you say, “by tradition the loser is supposed to call the winner and concede” and that is, in fact, what happened. On election night, Harkins called Smulowitz to concede. She left a message. He called back on election night. She conceded, he did not ask for her support and they hung up. As he states in video, he has not contacted her since then to ask for her support.

    • Almond
      May 5, 2010 - 3:25 am | Permalink

      “Greg_Reibman RT @RedMassGroup: Maybe Dr. Smulowitz shouldn’t have woken up yesterday #mapoli”

      Greg, why with these comments? It’s not becoming to have a journalist tweeting and retweeting snarky sarcastic comments on the subject you yourself have stirred up.

    • May 5, 2010 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

      @Almond: As you could also see on the Twitter feed, I’m publisher of the Needham Times and 17 other newspapers owned by GateHouse Media. The Needham Times (and Wicked Local Needham) has its own reporter and editor.

  • May 4, 2010 - 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Interesting analysis, especially looking ahead to the fall House contest.

    No doubt, Harkins has some responsibility here. But Smulowitz is the candidate. He’s the guy who has failed to find a way to rise above the fray. He’s the guy who is going to have to maneuver around tougher hurdles than Lyda Harkins if — as he claims — he wants to be able to bring meaningful change to Beacon Hill.

    It’s been three weeks since the primary. All he had to do was pick up the phone and call her. If she didn’t take his call, then the burden of a loss next week wouldn’t rest on his shoulders.

    The real shame is that Republicans will claim a Ross win as further momentum following Scott Brown. But as with the Scott Brown, a Ross win would also be the result of the Democrat running a less than stellar campaign.

    • May 4, 2010 - 11:07 pm | Permalink

      I agree that Smulowitz has botched a chance to be gracious to Harkins. He’s new to politics and the way he has handled this shows how much he has to learn. He needed to do something to not so much to soothe Harkins, but to appear gracious to her supporters who were offended as well.

      But I still think the majority of the blame is on Harkins. Why the focus on whether Smulowitz called Harkins. By tradition the loser is supposed to call the winner and concede – not the other way around.

      For sure Smulowitz needs more experienced political advisors to help steer him through situations like this.

      • Almond
        May 4, 2010 - 11:21 pm | Permalink

        Yes, the headlines blaring SMULOWITZ NEVER CALLED completely miss the larger point.

      • Ross Donald
        May 5, 2010 - 1:34 am | Permalink

        This has become a bonfire of the insanities! Its been three weeks and the Needham Fox Times insists on devoting a huge amount of time and space to the Lida versus Peter minutia. That race is run. On May 11 it will be a new Democrat versus an established Republican. As a voter, I’ll side with an inexperienced person who shares my values on gambling, healthcare, and a clean energy economy.

      • May 5, 2010 - 7:26 am | Permalink

        As we originally reported and as you can see on the video, Smulowitz told us on Monday that he never called us. We did not make that up.

        Tuesday morning he called our reporter to say that she did call him on election night and that he returned her call that same evening.

        We’ve reported this. It will be in tomorrow’s print edition of the Needham Times. We’ve amended the original online version of the story.

        I still maintain that a smart politician, and more importantly a smart leader, would have and should have tried to reach out to her in the weeks since. Blame Harkins if you want. Blame the Needham Times if you want (although State House News actually broke news of this rift and the video does not lie). But he’s the one who had/has the power to stop it. He’s also the one who may lose on Tuesday.

      • Almond
        May 5, 2010 - 8:59 am | Permalink

        Greg, “Retweeting doesn’t mean you endorse.” Sure. But it means you’re disseminating snarky and irrelevant crap, which is exactly what you were doing with your giddy twitter comments about the phone call that wasn’t and then was. I looked up your twitter feed yesterday and you tweeted and retweeted and retweeted that “no phone call” thing so many times. Minutiae isn’t news. Snarky sniping isn’t news.

        Are you a journalist, editor of a newspaper, or what? If you just want to be a provocateur, then job well done. Given that you link to Needham Times, I thought you were a reporter or some kind of newsman.

        If I want to know about the latest sniping, I’ll be sure to follow your Twitterfeed, Greg. You’re making quite a name for yourself. Thumbs down.

      • Tower
        May 5, 2010 - 9:24 am | Permalink

        I know we are beating a dead horse here, but let’s just get the facts straight. As you say, “by tradition the loser is supposed to call the winner and concede” and that is, in fact, what happened. On election night, Harkins called Smulowitz to concede. She left a message. He called back on election night. She conceded, he did not ask for her support and they hung up. As he states in video, he has not contacted her since then to ask for her support.

    • Almond
      May 4, 2010 - 11:25 pm | Permalink

      “Greg_Reibman RT @RedMassGroup: Maybe Dr. Smulowitz shouldn’t have woken up yesterday #mapoli”

      Greg, why with these comments? It’s not becoming to have a journalist tweeting and retweeting snarky sarcastic comments on the subject you yourself have stirred up.

    • May 5, 2010 - 9:58 am | Permalink

      @Almond: As you could also see on the Twitter feed, I’m publisher of the Needham Times and 17 other newspapers owned by GateHouse Media. The Needham Times (and Wicked Local Needham) has its own reporter and editor.

  • CH
    May 5, 2010 - 2:40 am | Permalink

    I completely agree with this outlining of the schism between progressives vs. “centrist Democrat incumbents”. As the article in the Phoeniex pointed out, this is happening all over. And I find it unfathomable that Harkins supporters do not see the risk of letting this seat stay Red, and the extent to which a Republican win would bolster the narrative spun around Scott Brown’s victory. But I am definitely not ready to give up hope. There are moments occasionally when it seems like a losing battle. But the voters that I’ve been talking to are still making up their minds, are still intrigued by this new young voice who could be a real breath of fresh air on Beacon Hill. And it’s that group of undecideds that leads me to believe that the results are anything but inevitable.

    Also, anybody else feeling a little deja vu with the way this is playing out in Needham? Feeling a little like the last time this Senate seat opened up (in 2004) and Needham Democratic primary candidates could not find it within themselves to support the winner of the primary in the general? Let’s hope things turn out differently this time.

    • May 5, 2010 - 3:09 am | Permalink

      CH,

      It’s good to hear that you are seeing a lot of support for Smulowitz on the ground. Are you canvassing for Smulowitz in Needham?

      You would think Needham Democrats would have learned from last time.

      • Almond
        May 5, 2010 - 12:59 pm | Permalink

        What happened last time?

      • CH
        May 5, 2010 - 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Last time, meaning in 2004, the last time there was a Special election to fill this seat, two Democrats from Needham ran in the primary, split the Needham vote, and the Democratic candidate from Millis, McQuilken, won the nomination. McQuilken then went on to lose the general against Scott Brown, possibly due to the fact that supporters of the two Needham candidates (one of whom is a current Needham Selectman) never rallied behind the Democratic nominee. In fact, another Needhamite (and another current Needham Selectman) ran against McQuilken again in the primary leading up to Scott Brown’s re-election in November.

        Do I have that story right? Anyone sensing a pattern here in Needham politics?

      • Almond
        May 8, 2010 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Oh My God. Thanks for Scott Brown, Needham!

  • CH
    May 4, 2010 - 10:40 pm | Permalink

    I completely agree with this outlining of the schism between progressives vs. “centrist Democrat incumbents”. As the article in the Phoeniex pointed out, this is happening all over. And I find it unfathomable that Harkins supporters do not see the risk of letting this seat stay Red, and the extent to which a Republican win would bolster the narrative spun around Scott Brown’s victory. But I am definitely not ready to give up hope. There are moments occasionally when it seems like a losing battle. But the voters that I’ve been talking to are still making up their minds, are still intrigued by this new young voice who could be a real breath of fresh air on Beacon Hill. And it’s that group of undecideds that leads me to believe that the results are anything but inevitable.

    Also, anybody else feeling a little deja vu with the way this is playing out in Needham? Feeling a little like the last time this Senate seat opened up (in 2004) and Needham Democratic primary candidates could not find it within themselves to support the winner of the primary in the general? Let’s hope things turn out differently this time.

    • May 4, 2010 - 11:09 pm | Permalink

      CH,

      It’s good to hear that you are seeing a lot of support for Smulowitz on the ground. Are you canvassing for Smulowitz in Needham?

      You would think Needham Democrats would have learned from last time.

      • Almond
        May 5, 2010 - 8:59 am | Permalink

        What happened last time?

      • CH
        May 5, 2010 - 11:36 am | Permalink

        Last time, meaning in 2004, the last time there was a Special election to fill this seat, two Democrats from Needham ran in the primary, split the Needham vote, and the Democratic candidate from Millis, McQuilken, won the nomination. McQuilken then went on to lose the general against Scott Brown, possibly due to the fact that supporters of the two Needham candidates (one of whom is a current Needham Selectman) never rallied behind the Democratic nominee. In fact, another Needhamite (and another current Needham Selectman) ran against McQuilken again in the primary leading up to Scott Brown’s re-election in November.

        Do I have that story right? Anyone sensing a pattern here in Needham politics?

      • Almond
        May 8, 2010 - 11:44 am | Permalink

        Oh My God. Thanks for Scott Brown, Needham!

  • Almond
    May 5, 2010 - 3:18 am | Permalink

    Greg, you have stirred the pot! Cheers!! You will sleep so well tonight!

    CH, well-framed. I am beyond stunned that our Needham neighbors are this petty. Maybe. Or maybe it’s an echo chamber of controversy and what I hear when talking to people is enthusiasm for Smulowitz. What people particularly like _is_ the fact that he is new to the scene, won’t play the fraked up games the “old guard” requires.

    While this plays out in the tiny navel-gazing world of the blogosphere and Twitter, CH you are reminding me that while they are loud, the self-obsessed are only a small sliver.

    Even those who are angry and former Lida supporters know that voting for Peter is the right thing to do. We will see.

  • Almond
    May 4, 2010 - 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Greg, you have stirred the pot! Cheers!! You will sleep so well tonight!

    CH, well-framed. I am beyond stunned that our Needham neighbors are this petty. Maybe. Or maybe it’s an echo chamber of controversy and what I hear when talking to people is enthusiasm for Smulowitz. What people particularly like _is_ the fact that he is new to the scene, won’t play the fraked up games the “old guard” requires.

    While this plays out in the tiny navel-gazing world of the blogosphere and Twitter, CH you are reminding me that while they are loud, the self-obsessed are only a small sliver.

    Even those who are angry and former Lida supporters know that voting for Peter is the right thing to do. We will see.

  • Frank Smith
    May 5, 2010 - 11:50 am | Permalink

    Isn’t the losing candidate meant to call the winner? Harkins is behaving like a spoiled child. She has basically endorsed Ross, because voters rejected her candidacy. Some Democrat she is. She should be turfed out as party chair in Needham.

  • Frank Smith
    May 5, 2010 - 7:50 am | Permalink

    Isn’t the losing candidate meant to call the winner? Harkins is behaving like a spoiled child. She has basically endorsed Ross, because voters rejected her candidacy. Some Democrat she is. She should be turfed out as party chair in Needham.

  • Tower
    May 5, 2010 - 11:51 am | Permalink

    It’s easy to use a broad brush to describe the situation, but I think many people outside Needham are assuming Lida has way more power than she actually does over Needham Dems. Here are the cold, hard facts for me: Smulowitz is not a very good candidate and I doubt he will make a good state senator who will represent the district. This link may help to explain what many Needham Dems are struggling with: http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/news/opinions/letters/x932353387/Needham-letter-Needham-Democrat-wont-support-Smulowitz-for-Senate

    • Almond
      May 5, 2010 - 1:00 pm | Permalink

      that letter had me laughing so hard. Needham Dems can sure be drama queens.

  • Tower
    May 5, 2010 - 7:51 am | Permalink

    It’s easy to use a broad brush to describe the situation, but I think many people outside Needham are assuming Lida has way more power than she actually does over Needham Dems. Here are the cold, hard facts for me: Smulowitz is not a very good candidate and I doubt he will make a good state senator who will represent the district. This link may help to explain what many Needham Dems are struggling with: http://www.wickedlocal.com/needham/news/opinions/letters/x932353387/Needham-letter-Needham-Democrat-wont-support-Smulowitz-for-Senate

    • Almond
      May 5, 2010 - 9:00 am | Permalink

      that letter had me laughing so hard. Needham Dems can sure be drama queens.

  • Tower
    May 5, 2010 - 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Frank Smith: As has been reported, Lida Harkins did call Peter Smulowitz on the night of the primary to concede. She had to leave a message for Peter. Peter called her back that night. Lida conceded during that phone conversation. Peter did not ask for her support during that conversation. They hung up. The tempest in a teapot is that Peter did NOT then call her to mend fences and ask for her support. So yes, the losing candidate DID call the winner. The Needham Times has been focused on the fact that AFTER the concession phone call, Peter did not initiate a call, as the winner, to mend fences and ask for the loser’s support.

    • Almond
      May 5, 2010 - 1:04 pm | Permalink

      And in focusing on whether a phone call was made, they neglect the exxtended portions of their own interview where it is clear that Smulowitz has been trying–and failing–to reach out, and finding resistance and refusal. Lida is practically stumping for Ross, and that became clear pretty quickly after April 13. It doesn’t take a genius to see that there’s no fence to mend there. You don’t just pick up the phone and call the Godfather. You arrange to have intermediaries pass messages to other intermediaries and wait to get a sign back. Peter got his sign–a dead fish wrapped in newspaper. Yeah, I wouldn’t call either.

      • May 5, 2010 - 5:26 pm | Permalink

        We’re “neglect[ing] the extended portions of [our] own interview”?

        How can we be ignoring it? We posted it.

        Ignoring would have been if we didn’t include it.

      • Almond
        May 8, 2010 - 3:39 pm | Permalink

        Greg are you being intentionally obtuse? You made a detail into a story and headline. You didn’t explore many of the actually relevant angles of the story which this blog and the Phoenix DID cover. Have you even called Lida, during this ridiculous story, to ask her what she is thinking about some people’s perception that she is betraying the party? Did you ask her what she would have needed to hear from Smulowitz in order to have forgiven and endorsed him?

        That is reporting that would have been relevant, if you buy the premise that “he botched the kiss/makeup” is the story.

        As the publisher of papers, are you crossing a line when you go into snarky mode in your blogs and tweets , which link to your newspapers?

        To me it does. And it puts the editorial choices of your papers in question.

        And, why did you run the first story about the “no call”? Once it became evident that there was a different story than the one you were pushing, that story should have been REWRITTEN or pulled from the print edition. It looks either like laziness/sloppiness or vindictiveness against Smulowitz (which seems a subtext of most of your and the Times reporting).

        Needham Times could be a really useful community paper but it is showing its irrelevance with its focus on minutiae and commitment to petty vengeance.

        I hope there will be changes.

  • Tower
    May 5, 2010 - 8:05 am | Permalink

    Frank Smith: As has been reported, Lida Harkins did call Peter Smulowitz on the night of the primary to concede. She had to leave a message for Peter. Peter called her back that night. Lida conceded during that phone conversation. Peter did not ask for her support during that conversation. They hung up. The tempest in a teapot is that Peter did NOT then call her to mend fences and ask for her support. So yes, the losing candidate DID call the winner. The Needham Times has been focused on the fact that AFTER the concession phone call, Peter did not initiate a call, as the winner, to mend fences and ask for the loser’s support.

    • Almond
      May 5, 2010 - 9:04 am | Permalink

      And in focusing on whether a phone call was made, they neglect the exxtended portions of their own interview where it is clear that Smulowitz has been trying–and failing–to reach out, and finding resistance and refusal. Lida is practically stumping for Ross, and that became clear pretty quickly after April 13. It doesn’t take a genius to see that there’s no fence to mend there. You don’t just pick up the phone and call the Godfather. You arrange to have intermediaries pass messages to other intermediaries and wait to get a sign back. Peter got his sign–a dead fish wrapped in newspaper. Yeah, I wouldn’t call either.

      • May 5, 2010 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

        We’re “neglect[ing] the extended portions of [our] own interview”?

        How can we be ignoring it? We posted it.

        Ignoring would have been if we didn’t include it.

      • Almond
        May 8, 2010 - 11:39 am | Permalink

        Greg are you being intentionally obtuse? You made a detail into a story and headline. You didn’t explore many of the actually relevant angles of the story which this blog and the Phoenix DID cover. Have you even called Lida, during this ridiculous story, to ask her what she is thinking about some people’s perception that she is betraying the party? Did you ask her what she would have needed to hear from Smulowitz in order to have forgiven and endorsed him?

        That is reporting that would have been relevant, if you buy the premise that “he botched the kiss/makeup” is the story.

        As the publisher of papers, are you crossing a line when you go into snarky mode in your blogs and tweets , which link to your newspapers?

        To me it does. And it puts the editorial choices of your papers in question.

        And, why did you run the first story about the “no call”? Once it became evident that there was a different story than the one you were pushing, that story should have been REWRITTEN or pulled from the print edition. It looks either like laziness/sloppiness or vindictiveness against Smulowitz (which seems a subtext of most of your and the Times reporting).

        Needham Times could be a really useful community paper but it is showing its irrelevance with its focus on minutiae and commitment to petty vengeance.

        I hope there will be changes.

  • peaches
    May 5, 2010 - 12:44 pm | Permalink

    For me, this is about whether I believe that Peter is the right man to push forward into the political sphere for a long-term career of leadership. And, based on the way he has handled himself in the primary and afterwards, I have to say, “No”.

    He is willing to sacrifice integrity for a win, is not gracious in victory, and is a poor sport when the tables are turned and he sees his campaign unraveling over what he perceives to be an unfair complaint against him.

    No one (not Lida, no Democratic Committee member) has told me to make this decision. This is a personal decision, arrived at after seriously considering voting for Peter at one point during the primary campaign. I expect that individual, personal decisions to not support Peter are mostly what is holding up his campaign.

    Peter is having to dig out of a hole of his own making – not one made by Lida. The schism in the party is of HIS making, not hers.

  • peaches
    May 5, 2010 - 8:44 am | Permalink

    For me, this is about whether I believe that Peter is the right man to push forward into the political sphere for a long-term career of leadership. And, based on the way he has handled himself in the primary and afterwards, I have to say, “No”.

    He is willing to sacrifice integrity for a win, is not gracious in victory, and is a poor sport when the tables are turned and he sees his campaign unraveling over what he perceives to be an unfair complaint against him.

    No one (not Lida, no Democratic Committee member) has told me to make this decision. This is a personal decision, arrived at after seriously considering voting for Peter at one point during the primary campaign. I expect that individual, personal decisions to not support Peter are mostly what is holding up his campaign.

    Peter is having to dig out of a hole of his own making – not one made by Lida. The schism in the party is of HIS making, not hers.

  • peaches
    May 5, 2010 - 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I should add that this perceived party schism is just a passing phase, because it really is about Peter, and not about policy or even process.

    I have faith that there are plenty of good-hearted leaders in Needham who can work to heal the damage that this very sad affair has done, once the current election cycle has passed.

    • May 5, 2010 - 2:00 pm | Permalink

      The Democratic party schism is real and has been growing over the past several years. We now have a number of progressive legislators who are really not in sync with the main Democratic party – and are not being supported by party leadership. I’m thinking of legislators like Jehlen, Garballey, Brownsberger etc.

      And they are challenging Democrats this year almost as much as Republicans are. We’ve got challenges this year to Creem, Lynch, and this race between Smulowitz and Harkins which are part of that trend. We are also seeing a resurgence of Green Party activists as progressives jump ship to support Green progressives.

      The fact that the Needham primary has so deeply split Democractic voters – whoever’s fault it is – shows just how deep the division is.

      I don’t think its permanent – or even unhealthy for progrssive politics – but its definitely going to be a major factor this year.

  • peaches
    May 5, 2010 - 9:18 am | Permalink

    I should add that this perceived party schism is just a passing phase, because it really is about Peter, and not about policy or even process.

    I have faith that there are plenty of good-hearted leaders in Needham who can work to heal the damage that this very sad affair has done, once the current election cycle has passed.

    • May 5, 2010 - 10:00 am | Permalink

      The Democratic party schism is real and has been growing over the past several years. We now have a number of progressive legislators who are really not in sync with the main Democratic party – and are not being supported by party leadership. I’m thinking of legislators like Jehlen, Garballey, Brownsberger etc.

      And they are challenging Democrats this year almost as much as Republicans are. We’ve got challenges this year to Creem, Lynch, and this race between Smulowitz and Harkins which are part of that trend. We are also seeing a resurgence of Green Party activists as progressives jump ship to support Green progressives.

      The fact that the Needham primary has so deeply split Democractic voters – whoever’s fault it is – shows just how deep the division is.

      I don’t think its permanent – or even unhealthy for progrssive politics – but its definitely going to be a major factor this year.

  • straightshooter
    May 5, 2010 - 8:39 pm | Permalink

    The major disconnect here is that Peter Smulowitz didn’t tell the truth about Lida Harkins. His lack of public apology, despite his initial admission of errors, and subsequent private apologies, leaves Needham Democrats believing that there is no consistent honesty or integrity of character there.
    No amount of Democratic “greater good” trumps lying by a candidate and campaign.
    The rest is just filler.

    • May 5, 2010 - 9:09 pm | Permalink

      Smulowitz needs to have a “come to Jesus” moment and apologize for not reaching out to Harkins after the election better. I think that video of him waffling about not calling her is hurting him. It makes him look like he is putting his personal hurt feelings ahead of the party just like Harkins is.

      I don’t agree that his statements were in-accurate. I checked what he said and he is factually correct – Harkins did take contributions from indicted former speakers. It’s up to the voters to decide if those facts are relevant.

      The innaccuracies pointed out by the Harkins side are minor and don’t really speak to the substance of what he said. In my opinion Smulowitz was very generous in not pointing out the even more troubling aspects of Harkins funding. She takes more lobbyists money than almost any other legislator – a lot of it from casino interests and tobacco interests. It’s interesting that she changed her vote on casinos once she started getting their donations.

      I did a story on it here:

      http://massachusetts-election-2010.com/2010/04/09/lida-harkins-vs-peter-smulowitz-campaign-controversy-over-lobbyist-funding/

      • foxfire
        May 7, 2010 - 3:06 pm | Permalink

        I noticed that you have again stated that you “checked what he said and he is factually correct – Harkins did take contributions from indicted former speakers.” Yet you also say you have not seen the fliers. So on what are you basing your evaluation? The fliers contain a fabricated OCPF report that shows the names of Sal DiMasi, Thomas Finneran and Charles Flaherty as contributors. No such OCPF report exists. If you look at the actual OCPF information (which I assume you did since you claim to have checked), the contributions were from the “Speaker’s Funds” (alteast in the case of Finneran– DiMasi doesn’t appear at all in the years mentioned in the fliers). These are the same funds that the Party itself gets money from. So it seems that by changing the OCPF form to make it look like it was personal money, the intent was to make it look like Lida took money from them as individuals. This is not factually correct. I would suggest that before you claim something is true, you should actually look at the evidence. As to whether these issues regarding contributions or “being too close to leadership” or so forth are minor or not, that is worthy of debate. And if Peter had raised them in an honest way, without the intent of misleading or smearing, or even subsequently publicly made a statement of regret for his mischaracterization, then we wouldn’t debating his character or leadership qualities. In that case, I submit his prospects for election would be much rosier.

  • straightshooter
    May 5, 2010 - 4:39 pm | Permalink

    The major disconnect here is that Peter Smulowitz didn’t tell the truth about Lida Harkins. His lack of public apology, despite his initial admission of errors, and subsequent private apologies, leaves Needham Democrats believing that there is no consistent honesty or integrity of character there.
    No amount of Democratic “greater good” trumps lying by a candidate and campaign.
    The rest is just filler.

    • May 5, 2010 - 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Smulowitz needs to have a “come to Jesus” moment and apologize for not reaching out to Harkins after the election better. I think that video of him waffling about not calling her is hurting him. It makes him look like he is putting his personal hurt feelings ahead of the party just like Harkins is.

      I don’t agree that his statements were in-accurate. I checked what he said and he is factually correct – Harkins did take contributions from indicted former speakers. It’s up to the voters to decide if those facts are relevant.

      The innaccuracies pointed out by the Harkins side are minor and don’t really speak to the substance of what he said. In my opinion Smulowitz was very generous in not pointing out the even more troubling aspects of Harkins funding. She takes more lobbyists money than almost any other legislator – a lot of it from casino interests and tobacco interests. It’s interesting that she changed her vote on casinos once she started getting their donations.

      I did a story on it here:

      http://massachusetts-election-2010.com/2010/04/09/lida-harkins-vs-peter-smulowitz-campaign-controversy-over-lobbyist-funding/

      • foxfire
        May 7, 2010 - 11:06 am | Permalink

        I noticed that you have again stated that you “checked what he said and he is factually correct – Harkins did take contributions from indicted former speakers.” Yet you also say you have not seen the fliers. So on what are you basing your evaluation? The fliers contain a fabricated OCPF report that shows the names of Sal DiMasi, Thomas Finneran and Charles Flaherty as contributors. No such OCPF report exists. If you look at the actual OCPF information (which I assume you did since you claim to have checked), the contributions were from the “Speaker’s Funds” (alteast in the case of Finneran– DiMasi doesn’t appear at all in the years mentioned in the fliers). These are the same funds that the Party itself gets money from. So it seems that by changing the OCPF form to make it look like it was personal money, the intent was to make it look like Lida took money from them as individuals. This is not factually correct. I would suggest that before you claim something is true, you should actually look at the evidence. As to whether these issues regarding contributions or “being too close to leadership” or so forth are minor or not, that is worthy of debate. And if Peter had raised them in an honest way, without the intent of misleading or smearing, or even subsequently publicly made a statement of regret for his mischaracterization, then we wouldn’t debating his character or leadership qualities. In that case, I submit his prospects for election would be much rosier.

  • May 7, 2010 - 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Foxfire,

    I appreciate you spending the time to lay out the objections in detail. I haven’t seen the flyers myself – but I have checked to OCPF reports. And you are correct – the OCPF image in the mailer was modified to show the contributions listed in a way different than the originals – and that clearly was misleading, though I think this was not due to a deliberate effort by Smulowitz to mislead, but a clumsy effort to make the message clearer. On the real forms the contributions are on separate pages, and listed in various ways – Speaker funds etc.

    When you read those forms you often have to track down who the real source of funds are as those forms are full of ‘straw donors.’ For example, when a company wants to push a candidate they give money to employees to donate to candidates.

    I think money from a ‘Speaker’s fund’ is absolutely a contribution from the Speaker. The speaker controls how those funds are distributed, and they go only to the Speaker’s allies. So in substance one can say fairly that to get those funds a legislator has to be closely aligned with the Speaker’s priorities.

    The huge power that Speakers have in the House is a problem in Massachusetts. We see that with the casino bill and on many other issues. When the Speaker changes, a very large number of legislators change their positions on issues. That is dishonest. When you tell voters you will represent them, and you campaign on a certain platform, changing your positions mid-stream to satisfy the Speaker is a betrayal of voter’s trust.

    It’s legitimate to question Harkins on her flip flop on the casino bill. When former speakers were against it – she was against it – now that the Speaker is for it she is for it. She’s not alone in this. There was a swing of nearly 100 legislators on this since DeLeo became Speaker. The outsize power of speakers is a major factor in why so many of them get into trouble.

    Having too close an association with the Speaker, and a general lack of independence among legislators is one of this year’s most important electoral issues. Smulowitz got behind the independence issue early and I think that has more to do with his victory than the fliers.

  • May 7, 2010 - 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Foxfire,

    I appreciate you spending the time to lay out the objections in detail. I haven’t seen the flyers myself – but I have checked to OCPF reports. And you are correct – the OCPF image in the mailer was modified to show the contributions listed in a way different than the originals – and that clearly was misleading, though I think this was not due to a deliberate effort by Smulowitz to mislead, but a clumsy effort to make the message clearer. On the real forms the contributions are on separate pages, and listed in various ways – Speaker funds etc.

    When you read those forms you often have to track down who the real source of funds are as those forms are full of ‘straw donors.’ For example, when a company wants to push a candidate they give money to employees to donate to candidates.

    I think money from a ‘Speaker’s fund’ is absolutely a contribution from the Speaker. The speaker controls how those funds are distributed, and they go only to the Speaker’s allies. So in substance one can say fairly that to get those funds a legislator has to be closely aligned with the Speaker’s priorities.

    The huge power that Speakers have in the House is a problem in Massachusetts. We see that with the casino bill and on many other issues. When the Speaker changes, a very large number of legislators change their positions on issues. That is dishonest. When you tell voters you will represent them, and you campaign on a certain platform, changing your positions mid-stream to satisfy the Speaker is a betrayal of voter’s trust.

    It’s legitimate to question Harkins on her flip flop on the casino bill. When former speakers were against it – she was against it – now that the Speaker is for it she is for it. She’s not alone in this. There was a swing of nearly 100 legislators on this since DeLeo became Speaker. The outsize power of speakers is a major factor in why so many of them get into trouble.

    Having too close an association with the Speaker, and a general lack of independence among legislators is one of this year’s most important electoral issues. Smulowitz got behind the independence issue early and I think that has more to do with his victory than the fliers.

  • Tower
    May 7, 2010 - 8:04 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a link for negative mailer #1 from Smulowitz about Harkins: http://www.scribd.com/doc/29555709/Copy-of-PSM-11×17-COMP-2AltCov

    This post on Blue Mass Group lays out the “blue print” that can be followed to create the same message about a FEW other legislators: http://www.bluemassgroup.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=19688

    Today, Smulowitz’s campaign sent a negative mailer about Ross: http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/needham/2010/05/07/newest-smulowitz-fliers-reach-voters-door/

    • May 7, 2010 - 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this. I’ll see if I can upload the images directly to the site.

      I saw that BMG post. and just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right. This is rather a validation of Smulowitz point – and what many voters agree about – that the speaker has way too much influence.

      The speaker has the ability to assign committees by fiat. Committee assignments determine how effective legislators can be, and come with a very significant pay raise, better offices and more staff.

      So the fact that they also steer a lot of campaign money to favored legislators is just another problem. Legislators who receive these perks end up representing the priorities of the speaker instead of their own town.

      Up until DeLeo became speaker, Harkins was majority whip, had great committee assignments, and voted with the speaker on almost everything. Now that the speaker has changed, she has changed a number of her positions – primary among them her position on casinos.

      Is she really representing Needham when she does that? It’s a very fair question.

      • Tower
        May 7, 2010 - 9:33 pm | Permalink

        I agree the speaker has too much influence. A negative ad pointing out the Lida Harkins had been in the legislature for 21 years, had been the majority whip, had been one of many to be given campaign money from speakers’ funds, would have been factual. But the mailers tried to do more than that and in the minds of many Needham Dems, they crossed the line. This was not an “everyone is doing it” and we need to clean house on Beacon Hill kind of thing. The mailers, which most people just glance at and get a gut reaction to, gave off the vibe of “Whoa! LOOK how corrupt THIS woman is!”

        That’s why I found it so interesting to see the story below just two weeks after the election. John Walsh had to admit to improper fundraising for Smulowitz and DiDomenico. I am sure that the fundraising e-mails sent to state e-mail addresses were sent in error, but the story showed that it only took two weeks for Peter Smulowitz, the independent, outsider candidate, to be caught up in a messy fundraising situation. The story also demonstrated that Peter seemed fine with having the Democratic State Committee give him money. An opponent could certainly spin this fundraising story and dig into all the sources of the money in the Democratic State Committee kitty to come up with an attack ad putting Dr Smulowitz in a less than glowing light.

        http://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/news/x43875173/Dem-chair-Walsh-admits-to-improper-fundraising-for-Smulowitz-and-DiDomenico

  • Tower
    May 7, 2010 - 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a link for negative mailer #1 from Smulowitz about Harkins: http://www.scribd.com/doc/29555709/Copy-of-PSM-11×17-COMP-2AltCov

    This post on Blue Mass Group lays out the “blue print” that can be followed to create the same message about a FEW other legislators: http://www.bluemassgroup.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=19688

    Today, Smulowitz’s campaign sent a negative mailer about Ross: http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/needham/2010/05/07/newest-smulowitz-fliers-reach-voters-door/

    • May 7, 2010 - 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for this. I’ll see if I can upload the images directly to the site.

      I saw that BMG post. and just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right. This is rather a validation of Smulowitz point – and what many voters agree about – that the speaker has way too much influence.

      The speaker has the ability to assign committees by fiat. Committee assignments determine how effective legislators can be, and come with a very significant pay raise, better offices and more staff.

      So the fact that they also steer a lot of campaign money to favored legislators is just another problem. Legislators who receive these perks end up representing the priorities of the speaker instead of their own town.

      Up until DeLeo became speaker, Harkins was majority whip, had great committee assignments, and voted with the speaker on almost everything. Now that the speaker has changed, she has changed a number of her positions – primary among them her position on casinos.

      Is she really representing Needham when she does that? It’s a very fair question.

      • Tower
        May 7, 2010 - 5:33 pm | Permalink

        I agree the speaker has too much influence. A negative ad pointing out the Lida Harkins had been in the legislature for 21 years, had been the majority whip, had been one of many to be given campaign money from speakers’ funds, would have been factual. But the mailers tried to do more than that and in the minds of many Needham Dems, they crossed the line. This was not an “everyone is doing it” and we need to clean house on Beacon Hill kind of thing. The mailers, which most people just glance at and get a gut reaction to, gave off the vibe of “Whoa! LOOK how corrupt THIS woman is!”

        That’s why I found it so interesting to see the story below just two weeks after the election. John Walsh had to admit to improper fundraising for Smulowitz and DiDomenico. I am sure that the fundraising e-mails sent to state e-mail addresses were sent in error, but the story showed that it only took two weeks for Peter Smulowitz, the independent, outsider candidate, to be caught up in a messy fundraising situation. The story also demonstrated that Peter seemed fine with having the Democratic State Committee give him money. An opponent could certainly spin this fundraising story and dig into all the sources of the money in the Democratic State Committee kitty to come up with an attack ad putting Dr Smulowitz in a less than glowing light.

        http://www.wickedlocal.com/wellesley/news/x43875173/Dem-chair-Walsh-admits-to-improper-fundraising-for-Smulowitz-and-DiDomenico

  • Leave a Reply to peaches Cancel 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>