The third in the series of debates between candidates for state representative in the Sixth Worcester District took place last night in Southbridge. The first was held in Charlton and the second in Dudley.
The opponents, incumbent Peter Durant and challenger Kathleen Walker squared off in the McKinnon Council Chambers in Southbridge Town Hall. The debate was sponsored jointly by the Southbridge Democratic and Republican Town Committees.
For most of the debate they sparred over their differing perspectives on the role of state government and issues of employment.
The most interesting part of the evening, however, was the incumbent’s apparent discomfort (one might even say outrage) over a mailing sent out relating to his record.
Although he disingenuously said that he took Ms. Walker’s word that she had nothing to do with the mailing, he wasted no effort in attempting to imply that she was morally obligated to distance herself from it.
He used terms such as disgusting, half-truths, innuendos, and despicable to characterize the flyer.
In the process he indicated his intent to file a formal complaint against the organization responsible for the mailer, as well as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which he argued had funded the effort. He indicated that the fact that the SEIU had endorsed Walker implicated her in their dastardly plot unless she chose to repudiate it.
Now, I have over forty years of experience in the political realm.
Terms such as “disgusting, half-truths, innuendos, and despicable” are usually applied to attacks that relate to one’s personal life and/or family.
Here is the flyer in question (with my emphasis added):
The mailing specifically references a piece of legislation co-sponsored by Mr. Durant, House Bill 4034, An Act relative to reducing the healthcare burden on businesses.
From my limited experience, this appears to be a reasonable and justifiable criticism of Mr. Durant’s co-sponsorship of a specific piece of legislation by an organization that clearly opposed it.
It is hardly a personal attack. It is an issues oriented critique that is supposedly what all “high-minded” public office seekers wish political discourse would be confined to (irony intended).
However, Mr. Durant reacted as though he was being accused of engaging in human trafficking.
If he was willing to be a sponsor of this legislation he should be willing to explain the bill and the reason for which it garnered his support.
He should hardly shy away from his record by impugning another person’s reputation.
But, then again, perhaps one’s conduct under scrutiny is indeed the measure of the man.