Needham Town Hall

Democrats in Needham have been trying to heal the division between Smulowitz and Harkins supporters.

On Wednesday there was a “Democratic Unity” meeting at a private home in Needham. In attendance was John Walsh, the Democratic Party Chair, and a large number of old guard Needham Democratic activists. Peter Smulowitz was there, and though Lida was invited she didn’t show.

Smulowitz spoke to the group. He explained that he had called Lida after the election, but didn’t ask for her support because it had been shown to him in various ways that her support would not be forthcoming.

Peter called her again this Wednesday morning and reported that they had a good conversation – one he wished would have happened sooner. And he expressed sincere regret about the choice of words in his mailer. If he could do it again he would not have used the words “pocketed cash,” that he expressed this to Lida and apologized for what it suggested.

Attendees agreed that though feelings were hurt, as Democrats they had more in common than the controversy which is dividing them. This is an important election and there was a recognition that without unity, it was Democratic priorities that would suffer. There was some agreement that divisions like this, if they are not dealt with, can end up dividing Needham Democrats for decades. After all, it was divisions among Democrats in Needham that helped Scott Brown get elected to the very same Senate seat. It’s time to break that cycle.

There was some consternation that many Democrats were going to support Ross, putting their personal hurt feelings ahead of common policy interests that affect the whole community. Many in attendance also expressed some frustration that Harkins, and a few of her supporters were fanning the flames. Some also expressed the view that, while they thought Harkins had been unfairly treated, that her behavior since has caused them to lose some of their high regard for her.

Peter said that he would make himself available to any Needham Democrat who wants to talk about the issue with him, and urged people in the room to reach out to others and let them know also that they can get in touch with him to talk about it with him personally.

There was a sincere effort on all sides to try to come together before election day.


Smulowitz and Ross Debate

The Needham Times Endorses Ross

The Needham Times on Thursday endorsed Ross. The editors expressed some disagreement with Ross on some issues, like the Casino bill and didn’t support all of his tax cutting proposals. They praise him as principled legislator, and ethical person who is able to work across party lines.

The Times also expressed “some misgivings” about Smulowitz. They question the way he handled the rift with Ross, and why he didn’t reach out to her sooner, questioning if this isn’t a sign that he isn’t a good ‘coalition-builder.’

The Needham Times has kept a sharp focus on the controversy, covering it in detail since the primary. On Wednesday they posted a poll about it. Though not scientific the poll does hold some hope for Smulowitz. The great majority of respondents seem to side with him.

The Needham Times, and editor Greg Reibman in particular, have been drawing some criticism for their coverage. Many people in Needham have been asking if the Times isn’t putting too much attention on a personal squabble, instead of on the real issues of the campaign – the sharp policy differences between the two candidates. Ross has long been a strong a supporter of the Casino bill, Smulowitz is against it. Smulowitz is for funding more Democratic priorities, while Ross has long put an emphasis on tax cuts and reducing the role of Government. These are important issues that will affect the public long after the current controversy is forgotten.

The Times editors defend themselves that this is a legitimate story about what kind of leader Smulowitz will be.

There is a video of a debate between them from May 4th at Norfolk Cable.

It Will be up to the Voters to Decide What Issues Matter Most

In the primary, Smulowitz brought up a legitimate issue about Harkin’s campaign contributions. It was up to the voters to decide how much weight to give those allegations. Now, it’s up to the voters again to decide what is more important – policy differences between Ross and Smulowitz, or a perception that Smulowitz’ attack on Harkins was unfair.

More  than the original mailer, it’s how Smulowitz has handled it since which is more troubling to voters. Now they get to decide if this is indicative of the kind of leader Smulowitz would be, or if it’s just a public relations mistake by an inexperienced candidate.

Wednesday’s meeting went a long way toward healing the division among Needham Democratic activists. Whether that message gets out to the wider voting public remains to be seen.