Friday, September 29, 2006

Mazzarella inserts himself into guv race

Leominster mayor Dean Mazzarella is back at it again. I guess it's been a while since he's been on the front page, so he dropped a dime to the Telegram and Gazette and the Sentinel and Enterprise to express concern over Deval Patrick's decade-old statements on convicted rapist Ben LaGuer's attempts to be freed.

Now, my first reaction was that the mayor is just looking for a reason to get in the papers again. Let's face it, the guy likes the publicity. No event is small enough for a presser. You may recall, he called a news conference in the spring to rebut a TV mini-series about the bird flu. But others wonder if he's trying to knock Patrick down a peg in his run against Kerry Healey. Another theory suggests that Mazzarella is providing cover for Mitt Romney's controversial appointment of Assistant DA James Lemaire to a judgeship.

Frankly, I think it's a combination of three factors:

1. Mayor Mazzarella strongly believes that LaGuer is guilty and he's genuinely concerned that a Patrick win could be a factor in the effort to overturn his conviction. Mazzarella was a rookie police officer on the Leominster police force when the victim in the case was raped and beaten and was one of the first officers on the scene. In the recent interview with the Sentinel, he remembered "looking in the back of an ambulance at someone who was beaten for 12 hours. You know, it was a pretty violent crime." I'm sure my opinion would be heavily influenced by witnessing a victim in that state of distress.

2. The mayor has decided to support Lt. Governor Healey, and he knows he has an issue that could resonate with voters. Let's face it, to anyone who doesn't read much past the headlines or the first couple of paragraphs, the idea of Patrick supporting the efforts of a convicted rapist will just reinforce Healey's attack that Patrick is "soft on crime." It doesn't really matter what the details of the case are, or the reasons behind Patrick's position a decade ago if folks won't research an issue deeply enough to understand all of the elements.

In his interview with the Sentinel the mayor said he voted for Chris Gabrieli and presented his vote as a sign of his independence (He campaigned for Romney four years ago). But it could also be that Mazzarella is lining up behind Healey, as I expect many independents in Leominster who voted for Gabrieli and Reilly will. It wouldn't shock me to find that Mazzarella is being a covert surrogate for the Healey campaign in an area of the state which could be the key to the race.

3. The Mayor sees an opportunity to increase his profile. As I mentioned previously, the Mayor likes to be in the news. Certainly because of his involvement in the case, he has an interest in the case, and as the leader of the city, he has a bully pulpit.

I think it's instructive that he called reporters from the two local papers to express his reservations about Patrick's position. If he were only worried about Patrick's statements, I'm sure he could have called Patrick privately to discuss the issue. I mean, he is the mayor of a very important city not only in the region, but to the campaign. I'm sure Patrick would have either returned his call or arranged to meet with him when he was in the area. Add to that the fact that this issue was covered in the papers a month ago during the primary and the mayor had the opportunity then to address it if he wished.

I'd say the mayor had a reason to air his concerns publicly. I'm just not sure which reason was his most important.

Update: Further demonstrating my point about basking in the limelight, Mazzarella has been hitting the Boston talk radio circuit.

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