8th District Rep Race Getting Heated
By Charlier Mckenna | August 30, 2022
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Infighting between the six Democratic candidates for the 8th Essex District has escalated in recent weeks as the primary date of Sept. 6 has drawn closer, and tensions appeared to come to a head with a letter signed by four candidates criticizing U.S. Sen. Ed Markey’s endorsement of Tristan Smith.
Smith was endorsed by Markey last week, and the letter, authored by Polly Titcomb and signed by Titcomb and the three other female candidates in the race, Terri Tauro, Diann Slavit Baylis, and Jenny Armini, essentially accuses Smith of using his father’s political connections to garner the endorsements of Markey and former U.S. Reps. Barney Frank and John Tierney.
“There is no Republican opponent in this race, and the six Democratic candidates all share substantially overlapping priorities and progressive values. Under such circumstances, we cannot understand why such a high-ranking official would be compelled to influence such a unique and promising contest,” Titcomb wrote. “At the same time, each of these endorsers have a long-standing professional relationship with Tristan Smith’s father, James Smith, a former representative and current owner/partner of the lobbyist firm, Smith, Costello & Crawford. Further, FEC and OCPF public campaign finance data reveal that James Smith donated to the campaigns of all the above-cited endorsers, some for decades. In certain cases, Smith’s partners at his lobbyist firm have similarly made personal contributions.”
In his response, Smith refrained from firing back at his opponents, instead saying he was “proud of the campaign” he has run thus far.
“I am proud that I have earned the trust of so many people who have been legislators at many different levels, and know me and know the job, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey, former Congressmen Barney Frank and John Tierney, and former state senator and Lynn Mayor Tom McGee,” he said. “I am equally honored by the broad-based and diverse support and endorsements I have earned from local leaders.” The candidates said they were “disappointed” by Markey’s endorsement because of what it reflects about the current state of politics — not because of how it could impact the race. Smith has also come under fire from Slavit Baylis for accepting lobbyist contributions to his campaign. In a statement, she alleged that Smith’s campaign reports rarely disclosed the fact that much of the money was coming from lobbyists.
“Smith has accepted campaign contributions from nearly every major lobbyist on Beacon Hill, but you would never know it from his campaign finance reports, where the word “lobbyist” rarely appears,” the statement said. “Local media had to cross-check his reports against the state’s list of registered lobbyists to confirm that he had received nearly $9,000 in lobbyist contributions from 47 different registered lobbyists. If a candidate chooses to finance their campaign using special interest money from lobbyists, voters have a right to know that before they cast their ballot.” In a statement, Smith’s campaign said they have been “more transparent than required” in disclosing campaign contributions.
“We report all contributions including the occupation and employer within 48 hours of depositing the check. The law requires the donor to list their occupation and employer. Like all campaigns, we report whatever the donor reports to us as their occupation and employer. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance monitors lobbyist donations regardless of how they are reported to OCPF,” the statement said.
Slavit Baylis also called out fellow candidate Doug Thompson after it appeared as though he exceeded the limit for funds loaned to his campaign, which he quickly remedied and described as a clerical error. “One of my contributions was mistakenly miscategorized as a loan when it was really a contribution. The OCPF file has been updated to reflect this,” Thompson said.
Thompson has also been criticized by Slavit Baylis for delaying reporting campaign contributions — as of Aug. 22 he had only disclosed contributions through June 30. The next day, contributions were updated. In a statement, he defended himself, writing that he agreed with Slavit Baylis on the need for campaign finance reform.
“I have been leading the call to get special interest money out of this campaign and increase public financing of campaigns. I am glad she has joined me. I have filed my contributions according to the state schedule and even earlier than the 8/29 deadline. I hope others do the same. Of course, none of my contributions are from lobbyists in accordance with my leadership on this issue,” he said.
At a Monday evening forum sponsored by Essex Media Group, publishers of The Daily Item and Marblehead Weekly News, Thompson was pressed about his contributions to his own campaign by Slavit Baylis.
Slavit Baylis noted that as an individual Thompson has funneled more into the campaign than many candidates have spent, and said she was “surprised” by the level of spending for a state representative campaign. In his response Thompson said it was important to him to make this level of investment in himself and his campaign.
“I’ve worked very hard my entire life to be able to save,” he said. “This is so important to me that I’ve made that investment in myself in this campaign, and to make sure that I’m not taking contributions from others that would influence me. It’s important that I have that independence.”
The race for the 8th Essex, which represents parts of Lynn as well as Swampscott and Marblehead, will be effectively decided on Sept. 6 as all six candidates are running as Democrats.
The seat has remained vacant since Lori Ehrlich took a position with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. State representatives serve two-year terms and are not subject to term limits.
The elected candidate will assume office on the first Wednesday in January 2023.
Charlie McKenna can be reached at email@example.com.
McKenna, Charlie. “8th District Rep Race Getting Heated.” Itemlive. The Daily Item, August 31, 2022. https://www.itemlive.com/2022/08/30/8th-district-rep-race-getting-heated/?utm_source=dailydigest%2BAugust-31-2022&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter.