Dem. chair appeals for help amid mail ‘blitz’
By State House News Service | February 25, 2016, 15:13 EST
STATE HOUSE — Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Thomas McGee has reached out to his legislative colleagues seeking manpower to help blunt an “all-out blitz” planned by a right-leaning independent group backing two Republicans running for House seats in special elections to be decided next Tuesday.
The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative non-profit that has spent heavily in election cycles to target Democratic candidates for state office, started blanketing the Fitchburg-Lunenburg area targeting Democrat Stephan Hay, a Fitchburg city councilor, over transparency, internet sales taxes and illegal immigration.
A letter sent to supporters on Tuesday from Jordanne Anderson, of the MassFiscal Alliance, said she needed to raise $23,000in seven days to “execute MassFiscal’s mission” ahead of the March 1 special elections in Fitchburg and Peabody.
“The plan is an all-out blitz,” Anderson wrote.
MassFiscal officials could not immediately be reached for comment on how much they planned to spend on the two races.
With Gov. Charlie Baker planning to campaign over the weekend in both Fitchburg and Peabody on behalf of Dean Tran in Fitchburg and Stephanie Peach in Peabody, McGee emailed legislators Thursday asking them and their staffs to help staff a phonebank at Democratic headquarters in Boston.
“We can’t match the Republicans and their allies with outside spending, but, with your help, we can beat them with grassroots support,” McGee said in the message, obtained by the News Service.
McGee, a Democratic senator from Lynn, attached a copy of a MassFiscal mailer being distributed in Fitchburg and Lunenburg “repeating the same ridiculous accusations they charged many of you with last election.”
The mailer stated that Tran supports making legislative committee votes available to the public and giving preference to veterans over illegal immigrants in public housing, and opposes taxing sales on the internet. Under Hay’s name and photo, the card states “declined” next to all three issues, suggesting the Democrat did not respond to MassFiscal’s campaign questionnaire.
The issue of veteran preference in public housing is a particularly sensitive one given that many House Democrats faced similar charges from MassFiscal in 2014 that they supported illegal immigrants over veterans.
The charge is grounded in a vote taken during debate on a veterans’ benefit bill to uphold the ruling of the House chair that a Republican amendment to give preference to veterans in public housing over undocumented immigrants was not germane to the bill and therefore out of order.
Rep. James Arciero, a Westford Democrat who was targeted with the same accusation by MassFiscal in 2014, called the claims “bush league” at the time. “It’s a smear campaign. To suggest the Massachusetts Legislature somehow supports illegal immigrants over veterans is absurd,” he said then.
MassFiscal Eecutive Director Paul Craney defended the 2014 mailers at the time as a “black-and-white” representation of the lawmaker’s voting record.
McGee told lawmakers in his Thursday letter that they did not have to even come to downtown headquarters to participate in the phonebank, but could do it from their districts with a computer. He also said shifts would be available on election day to help get out the vote for the two Democrats running.
Hay and Tran are running for the seat vacated by Stephen DiNatale, a Democrat who left the Legislature after being elected mayor of Fitchburg. Democrats are also trying to reclaim a seat in Peabody that the party held until the death of Joyce Spiliotis in 2014. Republican Leah Cole won that seat in a special and resigned last year mid-term to focus on her nursing career.
Peach is running against Democrat Thomas Walsh, a Peabody city councilor and former state representative who is trying to return to the Legislature.
— Written by Matt Murphy
Copyright State House News Service