Shawn Dooley, Rebecca Rausch Wrangle Over Trump, Healey, Abortion, Plastic Bags In Massachusetts Senate Race Debate 

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From plastic bags to Maura Healey, Donald Trump, and abortion, two Massachusetts state legislators clashed in a recent debate.

State Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Wrentham) and incumbent state Senator Rebecca Rausch (D-Needham) went after one another in a Norfolk, Worcester, and Middlesex District debate hosted by Charles River Regional Chamber president Greg Reibman on October 17.

During the debate, Dooley tried to frame himself as a liberal Republican, distancing himself from conservative figures and reprimanding some conservative beliefs, while Rausch generally embraced a liberal worldview. 

However, when asked by Reibman if she wants Massachusetts to ban plastic bags, Styrofoam, plastic straws, coffee stirrers, nips, and plastic bottles, Rausch refused to provide a yes-or-no answer.

“I want to come up with a comprehensive statewide solution that makes sense for all of the people who are involved here,” Rausch said. “That includes business owners, it includes producers, and it absolutely includes our families and workers.”

Meanwhile, Dooley rejected the idea that any of those six plastic products should be banned by the state.

“I’m not in favor a statewide ban on any of those,” Dooley said. “Right now, I’m a small government guy. I think that it’s more important that we continue to educate the community and educate different communities because every community is different, and I think different businesses have different needs — just like different communities have different needs and this one size-fits-all, we-know-best-for-you, we’re-gonna-come-down-from-Beacon-Hill and make this proclamation all at once is dangerous and it’s been very, very frustrating.”

Rausch also tried to defend herself when it comes to Maura Healey. Along with state Senator Mike Brady (D-Brockton), Rausch is one of two incumbent Democratic state senators who has not received a Healey endorsement. 

Reibman asked Rausch why she has not been endorsed by Healey.

“I’m here to talk about what I’m hearing from voters and the important things to them in this race,” Rausch said. “I’m endorsed by more than half of the state Senate and every Democratic state rep in the district, and I’m also, Greg, and I think this is particularly important, endorsed by more than 50 local leaders hailing from every single town in this district. Every single one. But the most important endorsement in this race is the endorsement of the voters.”

Conversely, Dooley, who is also not endorsed by Maura Healey, called Healey a friend and said he thinks he would work well with her.  

“I think it’s telling,” Dooley said of Healey not endorsing Rausch. “I think relationships matter. I have a great relationship with Attorney General Healey. I’ve known her for years. We’ve done a bunch of things together. We have a personal friendship when I see her. I give her a hug. And I think that matters. I know I accomplished a lot of things because of my relationship with Charlie Baker and before that, Deval Patrick, because I had a personal relationship with him as well, and I think that’s one of the things that differentiates us.”

While Rausch played defense when it came to plastic bags and Maura Healey, the same happened with Dooley when speaking about Donald Trump and abortion.

Reibman asserted that Dooley voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020. Dooley rejected the premise and used the opportunity to take shots at both conservative people and ideas, calling Trump supporters and pro-lifers horrible people.

Here is what Dooley said:


I haven’t voted for Donald Trump twice. My opponent has decided to make that up and put that in her mailers and everything along those lines. I don’t recall seeing her looking over my shoulder while I was in the voting booth. I’ve been pretty critical of President Trump. I actually ran against Jim Lyons in order to try to take back the party from the extremists. I’ve been pretty much out front on this from the beginning.

My opponent, for whatever reason, wants to run against Donald Trump. That’s great. She should’ve ran for president, and that would’ve been wonderful. But the reality is this race isn’t about Donald Trump. She’s just trying to throw this out as a distraction. She’s trying to say, ‘oh my God! He voted for Trump!’ And I’m like ‘I didn’t vote for Trump, so’ — but, whatever. If I voted for Trump, I’m probably not endorsed by Bill Weld. I’m probably not endorsed by Charlie Baker. If I was actually this horrible person that was this right-wing Trumper and this anti-abortion person and anti-LGBTQ, I guarantee you Maura Healey would be endorsing my opponent.


In response, Rauch correctly pointed out that a November 2020 article published by The Boston Herald about Dooley’s failed Massachusetts Republican Party chairmanship bid said that he voted for Donald Trump in 2020. 

“Let’s also be clear that there was an article published, written by Lisa Kashinsky, in The Boston Herald in November 2020 that said, and I quote ‘Dooley voted for Trump’,” Rausch said. “So I’m not looking over anybody’s shoulder. You go to the voting booth, you do your thing. But that’s what the reporters, that is part of the public record. If that report was incorrect, then I think my opponent needs to have a conversation with the folks at the Herald.”

On abortion, Dooley, who told NewBostonPost in November 2020 “I’m a pro-life guy”– two days after The Boston Herald reported that he voted for Trump — said that the U.S. Supreme Court was wrong to overturn Roe v. Wade. He said the decision was wrong not because of anything in the United States Constitution, but because Roe v. Wade had stood for 49 years. 

He touted the fact that pro-lifers aren’t happy with his record on abortion and called abortion “freedom.”

“It’s interesting,” Dooley said. “The hardcore pro-life people say I’m too pro-choice people and the hardcore pro-choice people say I’m too pro-life. I voted with Charlie Baker on his amendment to the ROE Act which would have codified Roe v. Wade. I supported codifying Roe. I felt it was settled law, I still think it is settled law. I disagree with the Supreme Court decision from the standpoint of taking away a right after it’s been around for 50 years. Maybe if in the early ’70s, they said it was a state’s rights issue, that’s a different thing, but to do it this late in the game, I disagree with for what that’s worth. And so I do. I support a woman’s right to freedom — whether it’s reproductive freedom or anything along those lines.”

Conversely, Rausch touted her pro-abortion record.

“I want by saying clearly that young women can stand on their own two feet and I fervently believe in and support our young people in this Commonwealth, and young women,” she said.

Rausch also touted her endorsements from Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Equity Now (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts), and EMILY’s List. 

“I am the pro-choice candidate in this race,” Rausch said.

Dooley has represented the Ninth Norfolk District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 2014; Rausch has represented the Norfolk, Worcester, and Middlesex District in the Massachusetts Senate since 2019.

Neither Dooley nor Rausch could be reached for comment on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

The towns in the Norfolk, Worcester, and Middlesex District include:  Bellingham, Dover, Medfield, Milford, Millis, Needham, Norfolk, Plainville, Sherborn, and Wrentham.

The debate, in full, is available to watch below:


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