Saturday, April 24, 2010

Well, La-Di-Da, Lida

State Rep. Lida Harkins seems to be in grace deficit. I try to ignore this — particularly as she was one of our Left Ahead! podcast guests last month — but she just won't stop. The latest is over at the Needham Times.

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.

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Anonymous said...

Regardless of your opinion of Ms. Harkins' reaction to the dirty and dishonest campaign she faced, Mr. Smulowitz has fessed up to using untruths in his materials, and Ms. Harkins has served her constituents with dignity and devotion for over 21 years. We need to keep things in perspective. Using "doctored" materials isn't admirable and was in violation to the pledge of "no negative campaigning" that both candidates took at the beginning of this race.

massmarrier said...

We ended up more impressed with her after the podcast and of course already appreciated her stance on SSM. I've seen nothing to support your assertions, but they aren't the issue here.

Yeah, she got roughed up and yeah, she lost. What's relevant now is how she reacts and exits the scene. A spiteful, emotional response aimed at hurting him and the party is not the way to go.

massmarrier said...

Strong feelings abound here. A letter to the editor of the Needham paper fustigates Smulowitz for loose terminology (pocket the contributions instead of just accepting them). The writer, a former state Rep., absolves Harkins but damns the description of her accepting and keeping the donations.

It seems Smulowitz was accurate but could have expressed his point better. Neither view of his flier changes that Harkins took and kept money from questionable sources and now chooses the worst way to deal with her defeat.

I keep thinking she'll realize she's a Dem and act like it.

Unknown said...

I agree completely. Smulowitz was really quite restrained in what he said about Harkins.

Iver the yeats she has taken more lobbist money than all but a very few legislators. She takes it from tobacco lobbyists - and recently was accepting it from casino lobbyists. And in return she changed her position on casinos.

I covered it here:
Masschusetts Election 2010

Harkins lack of grace is in sharp contrast to Christy Mihos. Despite an even more heated campaign ahead of the Republican convention, Mihos was sure to make peace with Baker after the convention.

Smulowitz is facing a tough race against Ross, and Harkins, as Chair of the Democratic Town committee should be putting her party ahead of her personal feelings. Either that or at least resign from the Committee.

This shows a growing schism between a new wave of progressive Democrats like Smulowitz and the current set of incumbent Democrats which keep getting caught in political scandals - finance and otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"I keep thinking she'll realize she's a Dem and act like it. "

Let's hope! As a Democrat, I'm stunned that she's throwing us all under the bus. She and others around town (like the letter writer you cite above) seem intent on picking at the wound over and over rather than thinking about what's best for the district and the Party.