Friday, October 27, 2006

The case against Claire Freda for state rep.

Since April, I've been expecting the race for State Rep between incumbent Jen Flanagan (Democrat) and City Councilor Claire Freda (Claire Freda) to heat up, but it has been unnervingly quiet. Until this week. Apparently Freda has been saving up her ammunition for the final two weeks: out of the blue, the campaign has exploded in a full-on assault of nastiness.

Last night, the Sentinel and Enterprise hosted a debate at city hall and it was ugly. I watched the last two-thirds of it on local access TV and let me tell you, I had to shield my five-month old son from the contempt coming off the screen and out of the speakers. The thing should have been rated TV-14 (hate).

One thing that was clear is that Claire Freda thinks that she deserves to be state rep, that she should have won the Dem primary in 2004, and that young pretty Jen Flanagan has no business holding the seat she's been wanting for years. So Freda made two tactical decisions: she would leave the Democratic party (despite having been a member of the State Democratic Committee), and she would run on a platform of opposing anything and everything Flanagan has done over the last two years, regardless of value.

As such, Freda's campaign has been an entirely negative one. She has yet to provide a rationale for why she should be elected. As far back as April, Freda questioned Flanagan's priorities in passing legislation to provide for more school nurses across the state. Never mind that it takes a good legislator to pass a bill when it has no obvious constituency in the state house. In Freda's narrow world, a legislator's only responsibility is to the 43,000 residents of our city, the children of Massachusetts be damned.

Freda's contempt for the representative and the school nurse measure is so strong, that she suggested last week that Flanagan pushed the bill because she is beholden to others:
"Who told her school nursing was a priority? Her mother who is a nurse? Mary Jane (Simmons, former state representative who Flanagan was an aide for), who used to be a nurse, and all the Mass. Nurses Association that have been pushing her for a couple years," Freda said.
Suggesting that a former state representative who died in office while proudly representing this city is a special interest no different from a union group is unbelievably crass and shameful.

She followed that up with a smear mailing suggesting that Flanagan advocates letting level 3 sex offenders attend state colleges. In response to Flanagan's claim that banning sex offenders from attending college when they return from jail would be unlawful, Freda said "hiding behind the Constitution on that isn't appropriate."

Hiding behind the Constitution? Last I knew, state reps were supposed to uphold and defend the Constitution, not take stands on issues for political gain. But Freda believes that Flanagan would have been better off to demagogue the issue instead of defending the constitution.

In the debate last night, Freda criticized Flanagan for working on issues facing the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg, the state prison in Gardner, the Worcester County House of Corrections, and other projects in surrounding towns. She even criticized her for hiring an aide who lived in Winchendon (the horror!). It is clear that Freda believes that a representative's only concern is inside the borders of the town she lives in.

I'm worried that Freda would have a hard time representing us in Boston. It seems like she'd go absolutely crazy having to travel through Lancaster, Harvard, Littleton, Acton, Concord, Lincoln, Arlington, Cambridge, and Boston to get to the state house. I can't imagine what that commute would be like after a few years of Freda representation; it sounds like in her world, the roads, bridges, and services in each of those cities and towns would completely crumble because all of the money was funneled to Leominster. I've got an idea. Let's move the State House to Leominster too!

Oh, and let's not forget the tired, old, "the Democratic party isn't the same party I grew up in" tripe. She's trotted that out a couple of times as well. She thinks the party is too liberal, that it doesn't represent the same values it did when she was growing up. that it doesn't speak to the issues of working families, and so on and so on. Let's be honest about this: She doesn't think gays should marry, women should have the power to choose, or minorities have the same opportunities for work that the rest of us have.

Claire Freda is a Mitt Romney Republican, and she should admit it.

She's also solely negative. If Jen Flanagan had said at the debate last night that the sky was blue, Freda would have responded that:
  • Flanagan was obviously an out-of-touch liberal because she believes the sky is a color represented in the rainbow flag of the gay and lesbian movement, and that traditional Democrats like herself are alienated by the idea of the gay blue sky;
  • Flanagan's mother and the late former rep Mary Jane Simmons were both nurses who wore blue scrubs, so Flanagan is obviously beholden to the special interests of moms and dead reps;
  • Freda has noticed the sky in Fitchburg is blue when she has peered over the border, so Flanagan obviously cares more about the sky in the surrounding towns than the sky in Leominster. LEOMINSTER FIRST!
For Flanagan's part, based on the debate last night it doesn't appear that she was expecting the campaign to turn this nasty. She seems incredulous that the items she is most proud of have been attacked for being out of touch. Because she was not ready for this sort of nastiness, she seemed a little defensive during the debate last night. She had a little bit of that sneer and swagger that combined with her youthful looks and Leominster accent made her come across as a petulant teenager arguing with her mother over curfew.

In her closing statement, Flanagan outlined all of the things she has done for the city in her two years and made a good case for why she should be reelected. She would have been better served to hammer those points for the entire hour, rather than try to parry the criticisms of her issues. Jennifer Flanagan has been a credible legislator and will represent Leominster proudly for the next two years if we are smart enough to send her back to Boston.

Since Claire Freda is concerned only with Leominster, we would do well to leave her on the city council where she belongs.

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