Curiouser and curiouser. As you probably know if you’re following the MA-05 race, at a recent debate Jamie Eldridge questioned Barry Finegold about Finegold’s co-sponsorship of a bill that would have required a 24-hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion. Short version: Finegold later withdrew his support, and the MA affiliates of NARAL and Planned Parenthood are both satisfied that Finegold is reliably pro-choice. (See more background at Lynne’s and Dick Howe’s places.)
That, however, hasn’t stopped EMILY’s List from sending out, and then refusing to retract, an email wondering “whether a Finegold victory in the fifth congressional district House race would further tilt Congress away from support for a woman’s right to choose.” The Tsongas campaign has also refused to back down:
[Finegold's] campaign issued a statement yesterday that called the e-mail “patently false” and reiterated his support for abortion rights.
The campaign released a copy of a letter it sent to Tsongas calling on her to have EMILY’s List retract its e-mail and to issue a public apology.
Finegold also asked Tsongas to distance herself from a negative tactic “that shows voters their elected leaders care more about using falsehoods and distortions to score ‘political points’ than working together to solve the big problems we face as a nation.”
Katie Elbert, a Tsongas spokeswoman, said the Lowell Democrat has received Finegold’s letter but would not ask EMILY’s List to retract the e-mail or apologize.
“He’s asking that in an attempt to change the subject,” Elbert said. “Everything in the e-mail is what was reported this week.”
Asked if Tsongas believes the doubts raised about Finegold’s commitment to abortion rights, Elbert said, abortion rights should be on a par with other serious issues in the campaign.
“Niki believes that an issue as fundamental to a woman’s freedom as a woman’s right to choose warrants the same level of serious discussion,” Elbert said.
Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY’s List, said Finegold’s gaffe should give pause to abortion rights supporters. Her group would not apologize.
“We’ve completely and accurately portrayed Finegold’s record,” Malcom said. “I don’t see why we should apologize for his mistake.”
This strikes me as pretty poor conduct on the parts both of EMILY’s list and of the Tsongas campaign. Jamie Eldridge, whose questioning started the whole thing, thinks so too; here’s a statement he released today:
Vigorous debate and discussion about matters of public policy are not only fair game in a campaign but are in fact necessary for democracy to work. The candidates in this Democratic Primary have legitimate differences on the issues, and the voters deserve to know those differences.
When a campaign or supporters of one of the candidates knowingly misrepresents the stance of another candidate that is plainly wrong and destructive to the process.
At a recent debate I questioned Barry Finegold about his co-sponsorship of the “Woman’s Right to Know” bill. Within 24 hours he and his staff had clarified that he did not support the proposal and both Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts issued clear statements confirming that he is a pro-choice candidate. I am satisfied and I believe anyone who had a question on this matter ought to have been satisfied.
I am disappointed to learn that an organization supporting Niki Tsongas sent a fundraising email across the country specifically designed to mislead its members and misrepresent the position of Barry Finegold. I am even more disappointed the Tsongas campaign has refused to renounce the tactic and distance itself from the organization.
To Niki Tsongas I would respectfully suggest that this kind of action hurts campaigns and, when done to other Democrats, hurts our party. Barry Finegold did the right thing and fixed a mistake. It is time for Niki Tsongas to do the same thing.
Finegold made a mistake by co-sponsoring the waiting period bill. He has acknowledged his mistake, and he has withdrawn his support. It’s now time for Tsongas and EMILY’s List to back off.