I thought this was something long-term politicians learned early. Grace and manners in defeat are essential. You want voters to remember you well if you want to run for anything or be public in any way. Moreover, her refusal to endorse the fellow Democrat who beat her in the special election race for Scott Brown's state senate seat puts her vanity ahead of the party. That's particularly damning in that district that by rights should revert to a Dem.
The primary winner, Peter Smulowitz, did play hardball toward the end of their primary race. He sent out a flier that pointed out that Harkins had accepted contributions from three former House Speakers who are under indictment or convicted of ethics violations or related money crimes. Plus, when she knew of their alleged corruption, she kept the funds.
Wash My Hands
Now, after losing the primary, Harkins certainly knew the expected and right and civilized thing to do was to congratulate the winner and endorse him in the final. Instead, she says, "I’m staying out of the race altogether." Low brow and low class...
Asked by the Needham reporter if she'd endorse the GOP candidate, Richard Ross, Harkins replied that she was chair of the town Democratic Committee. Because she respected the position, she would not endorse a Republican. Yet, as chair of the Needham Democratic Committee, she has no problem screwing the party out of spite.
If you have a mind to listen to her podcast, you might also click Smulowitz' version. It was also last month and is here. Both of these were before the flier incident.
Also, shortly before the primary, she pitched herself in a BlueMassGroup diary. She included her 21 years in the House and that she has nine grandkids in public schools. To the donations, she wrote:
The assumption that my position as a leader in the State House means that I was in some way involved in the behavior of past Speakers is completely unfounded. I have always valued my independence and fought for the issues that I believe in.A nice little boy would not criticize his elders, particularly a granny of nine. Yet, Smulowitz is an ER doc as well as political contender. He thought the ethics issues would be fair game, likely after the executive branch here championed ethics reform following the latest Speaker's indictment in a series of them.
A piece in the Boston Globe cited the figures. As well as donations from Sal DiMasi, Harkins got:
- $1,600 received from Charles Flaherty (1996 tax evasion guilty plea) at $200 a year for the last eight years.
- $200 in 2002 and $400 in 2004 from Thomas Finneran (indicted 2005)
To Smulowitz, facts are facts. Before the primary, he said, "My opponent took campaign contributions from three different, three consecutive indicted speakers."
Woe is me!
Her take is very different, as in, "I’ve never been cited for wrongdoing in over 30 years of public service. It’s disappointing that Peter feels he has to smear my record to make him look good." I'd note here that the I've-never-been-caught defense is often not the wisest tack, even when you are clean. It makes people wonder.
Understandably, Harkins was miffed when accused by association with her donors, her disgraced donors. It appears any chance of her taking the blow in stride disappeared when she lost the race. Unfortunately, we hear her still accusing Smulowitz of "gutter politics" and being "slanderous."
I suppose it's possible in 21 years of General Court politics and several earlier as Needham School Committee's that this is the worst campaign charge she's faced. If so, she's been damned lucky.
Smulowitz didn't make up anything or even twist the truth. It was up to the voters to decide whether accepting and keeping money from convicted and indicted Speakers is OK or wrong.
He no doubt knew that Harkins wouldn't like having to explain those awkward truths and they'd never be BFF afterward. However, he probably didn't consider that Harkins would spit on the party as well as him if she lost.
Well, I hope someone like MA Dem Party Chair John Walsh can play uncle to this grandmother. She's not too old to learn a little about losing gracefully.
Tags: massmarrier, elections, Harkins, Smulowitz, senate, Massachusetts