L’italien Makes Friends in Fox Flap
A Sun Staff report
THIRD CONGRESSIONAL District candidate Barbara L’Italien got a bit of a financial bump from her surprise appearance on Fox News last month.
Producers for “Fox & Friends First” thought they had booked Arizona congressional candidate Ann Kirkpatrick for a spot in July, and when the show’s hosts welcomed Kirkpatrick, L’Italien appeared via video conference and railed against the Trump administration’s immigration policy. It later became clear that the network had contacted Joe Katz, L’Italien’s communications director, because he had previously worked for Kirkpatrick. Katz went along with the booking as if he still did.
The brief, minute-long appearance that left hosts stunned went viral, drawing media coverage from across the country -- and dollars to L’Italien’s campaign.
According to the latest round of campaign financial reports released Friday, L’Italien received 199 individual contributions, more than she brought in on any other single day this cycle, on July 23, the date of the Fox interview. The next day, she brought in 144 individual contributions, the second-most on any day for L’Italien.
Donations on July 23 added up to $9,493.50, an above-average amount for a single non-deadline day, and that week as a whole resulted in more than $20,000 of donations.
Whether the appearance actually swayed any voters’ minds is entirely unclear, but the money in a race this expensive is bound to help.
BOSTON MAYOR Marty Walsh is fresh off a trip to Iowa, where he schmoozed with the Democratic faithful, all fueling speculation he’s testing presidential waters in the first state to hold nominating caucuses in 2020.
His former top aide, now 3rd Congressional District candidate, Dan Koh, has a spring in his step this weekend after a last week’s UMass Lowell-Boston Globe poll put him at the top of the 10-candidate field with the Democratic primary fast approaching Sept. 4.
The two will be reunited today as Walsh is scheduled to campaign with Koh in downtown Lowell beginning at 12:30.
Walsh will help the candidate launch his “canvass kick-off” from his Lowell campaign HQ at 61 Market St.
After the primary, Walsh is scheduled to come back to Lowell. He’s the headline guest for the Lowell Plan’s annual breakfast at the UML Inn & Conference Center.
THE LANAM Club in Andover is a private, wood-paneled enclave off Route 28 where some of the richest, influential business leaders in the Merrimack Valley members cut deals and plot strategy.
Occasionally, it hosts celebratory events.
The establishment abhors publicity, particularly the kind it will get early Monday evening.
Calling Gov. Charlie Baker’s support for conservative state lawmaker Rep. Jim Lyons “reprehensible,” Democrat for governor Jay Gonzalez announced earlier this month to protest outside the club Monday night where the governor will be supporting Lyons’s re-election campaign.
Gonzalez expects to be joined outside the Lanam Club by Tram Nguyen, a Democrat running against Lyons, and two candidates running for Congress in 3rd District, state Sen. Barbara L’Italien, of Andover, and Alexandra Chandler, from Haverhill.
“Governor Baker’s support of Representative Jim Lyons is reprehensible,” Gonzalez said. “Lyons’s hateful rhetoric and backwards thinking do not represent who we are.”
Unlike Baker, Lyons is a pro-life Republican who has fought in the Legislature against major new spending initiatives and opposed a transgender rights protection law signed by Baker that will be on the ballot in November for possible repeal. He also voted this year against banning gay conversion therapy. Lyons also appears in a Baker re-election ad on TV.
Still, the governor has often supported Republican candidates in local races who don’t share all of viewpoints, particularly on social issues. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
HOW WELL is Baker doing at his job?
That was one question posed to Democratic candidates in the 19th Middlesex District race for state representative during Wednesday night’s debate in Wilmington.
Mark Kratman, of Tewksbury, gave Baker a C+ rating, saying he is doing a pretty good job, but could improve in a couple areas, including the budget.
Mike McCoy, of Wilmington, gave Baker a B and Dave Robertson, of Tewksbury, gave Baker a B-.
Judy O’Connell, of Wilmington, gave Baker the highest rating of a B+. O’Connell said Baker has made significant progress in education, especially with special education initiatives. She also cited his commitment to addressing the opioid epidemic.
Wilmington resident Erika Johnson’s critical rating of Baker that stood out among the other candidates. From her perspective, Baker deserved no more than a D-.
“It’s hard to judge someone who doesn’t do anything,” Johnson said. “Gov. Baker is one of the last people to respond to anything going on. He talks out of both sides of his mouth. I mean, he’s running as a pro-choice Republican, yet he has an event on Monday with (Rep.) Jim Lyons, probably the most anti-woman, anti-LGBT candidate in the Statehouse right now.”
THE LATEST public poll from the 3rd Congressional District bodes well for Baker’s re-election chances in November -- and probably brings distress to his Democratic challengers.
The UMass Lowell-Boston Globe poll, released Thursday, surveyed Democrats and independents who are likely to vote in the Democratic primary on Sept. 4. Among that group -- not exactly right-leaning -- 72 percent rated the Republican governor as favorable, to 10 percent unfavorable.
That leaves Baker with a net 62 percent favorability rating among the group surveyed, even higher than popular Democrats such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (54 percent) and outgoing 3rd District U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas (60 percent).
As Democratic gubernatorial candidates struggle to match even Baker’s name recognition, his popularity among what would otherwise be the Democratic base creates even more of a challenge.
DRACUT SELECTMAN Tony Archinski opened the floodgates last week in an email to Sun editors in which he expressed his support for Barry Finegold in his race against first-time candidate Mike Armano for the 2nd Essex and Middlesex state Senate seat. Archinski said Finegold has a history of delivering for the town.
“I’ve known Barry for many years and Barry has always delivered for Dracut. He was our State Senator before Barbara L’Italien and he left to run for the Massachusetts Treasurer unsuccessfully,” Archinski said last Monday after a question and answer forum held at Town Hall. “I’ve always been a supporter of Barry and I’m going to continue to do so.”
That got us thinking -- what about the other selectmen?
“I haven’t looked at that race. I honestly haven’t,” Selectmen Vice Chairwoman Alison Hughes said last week.
Selectmen Chair Jesse Forcier declined comment.
Selectman Tami Dristiliaris said an email: “I haven’t made my decision as to which candidate I will vote for. I highly regard and respect both candidates. I am confident that either Finegold or Armano would represent our district well.”
After much hesitation Selectman Joseph DiRocco Jr. said that he’d support Finegold.
“They’re both good guys. It’s really difficult,” said DiRocco, Dracut’s former fire chief. “Mike Armano has worked really hard. Barry’s out there working really hard. I think they’re both an asset.”
DiRocco later added that they’re both good candidates, but Finegold reached out to him first.
RUMORS STARTED swirling last week about the future of the Lowell Spinners after the announcement of a Triple-A ballclub coming to Worcester -- only a 45-minute drive away.
What would a sparkly 10,000-seat stadium nearby for another Red Sox affiliate mean for the Single-A Spinners? Some have worried this will hurt the Spinners’ attendance in a few years when the Pawtucket Red Sox move to Worcester.
The rumor mill was hot with talk that the Lowell Spinners may no longer be affiliated with the Red Sox in 2021.
The scenario floating around: The Pawtucket ownership group wants to buy the bankrupt Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs, another New York-Penn League team that affiliates with Miami Marlins.
This would result in the Batavia team in Pawtucket, affiliating with the Red Sox. Then, Lowell would be affiliated with the Marlins, according to how the rumor plays out.
“There’s nothing substantive to that at all,” said former state Sen. Steve Panagiotakos, who represents Spinners’ owner Dave Heller.
Asked about the rumor, Heller also responded that the Spinners have a contract with the Red Sox through 2020.
“We’re very, very proud to be a Red Sox affiliate, and we’re going to do every single thing we can to remain that,” Heller said. “The best way is for the community to continue supporting the team, and for us and the city to continue making investments in the ballpark.”
A few days after the Worcester announcement, Spinners’ officials welcomed the state’s top economic development official to LeLacheur Park. While the Worcester development will include a 10,000-seat stadium along with two hotels, apartment units and retail spaces, Heller showed Jay Ash the economic development potential in Lowell with a boutique hotel, residential development and/or retail space.
Heller said the timing of the meeting, a few days after the Worcester announcement, was “completely coincidental.” The meeting had been planned for a number of weeks, he said.
CHRISTIAN KRUEGER is one of the youngest candidates in recent history for 14th Middlesex District state representative, and he’s got the snappy, say-it-like-it-is attitude to show for it.
A recent interview with the 24-year-old Concord Democrat had plenty of gems, especially where MassHealth is concerned.
“I don’t have insurance right now because I have to fax MassHealth a sworn affidavit saying that I live where I say I live, and I know I need to do that, because they sent me a letter to the address where I live,” Krueger said.
“Most people my age ask them where to find a fax machine, and they’re like, ‘What?!’” he added. “We’re using the cutting-edge technology of the 80s.”
Krueger said the state could save a people time and effort if it instituted something similar to what Facebook does when people try to run political ads “to confirm you’re not a Russian:” mail a one-time generated code the user could enter into the website.
But, there’s also problems with the website, which Krueger described as being “designed like an (M.C.) Escher painting and you can’t actually find any useful information on it.”
Krueger is running against Acton Democrats Tami Gouveia and Benjamin Bloomenthal in the Sept. 4 primary.
Contributing to The Column this week: Rick Sobey and Elizabeth Dobbins in Lowell, Kori Tuitt in Tewksbury and Wilmington, Amaris Castillo in Dracut, Alana Melanson in Chelmsford, Chris Lisinski in the 3rd Congressional District and Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott.