Sutton Selectman Ryan Fattman running against Rep. Jennifer Callahan for the 18th Worcester District

Jennifer Callahan

Jennifer Callahan

Jennifer Callahan is a 5 term Representative from the 18th Worcester district. She grew up in Sutton on her parent’s apple farm. She is a nurse by training, and worked as a maternal child health coordinator at the VNA of Southern Worcester County as a trauma nurse at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

Much of her legislative focus has been on health care, particularly access to primary care, pediatrics and tick-borne illnesses.

Though she styles herself a as “liberal legislator,” she is representing a district which has been trending sharply Republican in recent years.

Boston University has a more detailed biographical article.

CandidateMediaFinanceNotes
» Jennifer Callahan (D) $31,688 incumbent
» Ryan Fattman (R) $16,666

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Ryan Fattman

At age 24, Ryan Fattman is already a second term Sutton Selectman. In just a few short years, Fattman has a number of impressive accomplishments in Sutton. He is leading an effort to revitalize Marion’s Camp, a recreation area in Sutton. Most impressive, while most Massachusetts towns have seen property tax increases, Fattman has actually been able to reduce Sutton property taxes.

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Fattman is a Sutton native. In 2007 Ryan earned a Bachelor’s Degree in government from Suffolk University, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with distinction as an Archer Fellow. In 2008, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government awarded Ryan with the Rappaport Institute’s Public Policy Fellowship. He is currently a graduate student in public policy at Tufts University and works as a Policy Analyst at MassHousing Finance Agency.

Fattman is running an extremely vigorous campaign. While he has promised to run a positive campaign, he has not shield away from outlining clear policy differences with Rep. Callahan:

  • He supports rolling back the state income tax to 5%
  • He wants to restore local aid funding which was cut three times in the last three years
  • He opposes giving state benefits to illegal immigrants
  • He supports term limits
  • He supports the “Clean Elections” law which allows for public financing of political campaigns
  • He opposes Chapter 40B, which allows developers to override local zoning laws if they build ‘affordable housing’

He calls out Callahan for taking money from lobbyists and PACs, and for having extremely low ratings from Citizens for Limited Taxation ( 2008: 19%, 2006: 36%, 2004: 45% )

Campaign Financing

At last filing Callahan comes into the race with about $31,688, and Fattman with $16,666. Even though Callahan has a major funding advantage, Fattman’s $16k, shows aggressive and successful fundraising by a first time candidate to state office.

Fattman’s single filing (2009) shows his campaign is financed mostly by small contributions from regular citizens. He has no lobbyist contributions, but does have two contributions totaling $500 from two PACs: MA Independent PAC for Working Families, and MA Republican Municipal Coalition PAC. Fattman also has contribution from Republican Rep. Lewis Evangelidis.

Callahan’s filings ( 09, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02 ) show her campaign is mostly free of lobbyist money. She has several contributions from lobbyists at Craven and Ober. The filings do show that she takes in a significant amount of PAC money, mostly from the building trades. In recent years, this has been the single largest source of her campaign financing.

It’s a familiar pattern, as legislators build relationships with certain PACs over the years their fundraising tends become dominated by PAC financing. The major PAC contributors from 2009 alone are:

  • Carpenters Local #40 Pol Action Comm
  • Carpenters Local Union #275 Pol Action Comm
  • Framingham-Newton Building Trade Council
  • Central Massachusetts AFL-CIO
  • Local 791 UFCW Union MA PAC
  • MA Building Trades Council AFL-CIO Pol Action Comm.
  • A Coalition of Nurse Practitioners PAC
  • MA Laborers’ District Council Pol Action Comm
  • New England Regional Council of Carpenters AFL-CIO
  • Painters District Council #35 PAC
  • Professional Firefighters of MA People’s Cttee
  • Retired Public Employees PAC
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 17 People’s Ctte
  • Sprinkler Fitters Local #550 COPE Fund
  • Teamsters Local 127 PAC
  • United Assoc. of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 4 PAC
  • United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 535 PAC
  • Worcester Fitchburg Building Trades Council

There are two points of interest in this list. First is the high concentration of contributions from a single industry – in this case building trades. This looks like a coordinated effort to have a reliable vote on issues that affect the trades.

The other issue is the contribution from the “Retired Public Employees PAC”. Callahan has received major contributions from this PAC for three years. The sole purpose of this PAC is to prevent reform of the state’s public employee pension program which has been abused for years.

Controversy over Ethics Allegations by Rep. Callahan

In May 2008, toward the end if the state budget process, and when it was looking increasingly clear the Speaker DiMasi would have to step down Rep. Callahan claimed that she was threatened by a member of the legislature, who told her

“I’ve been in this building a long time, Jen, and I wanted you to know that I could make things real difficult for you. I mean, Jen, I could really hurt you if I wanted to.”

Callahan did not reveal the name of the lawmaker who made  the threats, but it was later revealed to be Rep. James Vallee. The issue was taken to the legislature’s ethics committee but no action was taken.

These political threats are common in the legislature – but it is uncommon for a legislator to have the courage to go public when threatened.

Vallee is a close ally of Speaker Robert DeLeo. Speakers wield a huge amount of power in the legislature and it takes great political courage to oppose them.

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