Imagine you’re a part of a big extended family, one with lots of cousins. Let’s say there are, oh, 160 cousins in total, and they come together for a big reunion. Some are office professionals, some are tradespeople, some artists, some teachers, some stay-at-home parents, maybe there’s a farmer or two. Almost all are successful, happy, and contributing to their communities in some way.
But maybe one out of the 160 cousins has been a chronic troublemaker the last many years. Sometimes in trouble with the law. Sometimes making an embarrassing public spectacle of themselves, even getting caught in the local paper doing so. Frequently just being incredibly shady.
That has been the 28th Middlesex state house district – i.e. the City of Everett – lo the last many years. Quick history lesson:
2007-2013: Stephen “Stat” Smith
After more than a decade occupying a variety of local Everett offices, Stephen “Stat” Smith became State Representative, succeeding longtime State Representative and former Everett Mayor Edward Connolly, who passed away in office. Smith was concluding his third term as State Representative when:
On December 20, 2012, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced that Smith had agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of deprivation of rights under color of law for his role in a voter fraud scheme in which Smith cast absentee ballots for voters who were ineligible or unaware of ballots being cast in their names. It was announced that Smith would resign effective January 1, 2013. As part of his plea agreement, Smith will not be allowed to run for public office for five years.
Suffice it to say, the episode concluded Smith’s tenure as State Representative. (For now… keep reading.)
2013-2015: Wayne Matewsky
Following the Smith resignation, there was a special election, which was won by Smith’s aide and longtime Everett Common Council member Wayne Matewsky. While it took Smith three terms to hit a legal brick wall, Matewsky went from zero to sixty almost immediately:
Shortly after winning the Democratic nomination, Matewsky received negative attention for allegedly mocking a disabled child in a restaurant and berating staff for seating him near the child. In December 2013, two former campaign workers sued Matewsky seeking payment for services provided. On January 30, 2014, he was arrested on a civil warrant for failing to pay $446 to one of his former campaign workers.
Believe it or not, Matewsky proceeded to run for re-election in 2014. Matewsky lost the Democratic primary to Joseph McGonagle, who had served as an Everett City Councilor and maintained a construction business.
2015-present: Joe McGonagle
To McGonagle’s credit, he has never had to plead guilty in a voter fraud scheme like Stat Smith did. He has never been caught mocking a disabled child and has never been arrested for failing to pay an employee, like Matewsky had. That said, that’s not a very high standard. A more stringent standard may find McGonagle to be not so pure of heart.
In 2016, as McGonagle was mounting his first re-election bid, he found himself a primary challenger in the person of hospital grant manager and progressive community activist Gerly Adrien. With relatively little campaign cash and relatively little name recognition to start, she still managed to work her way to a 60-40 race against the relatively well-known and well-funded incumbent. The hard vote count was 1,773 to 1,150.
McGonagle is now mounting his second re-election bid, running for a third term. And challenger Gerly Adrien, equipped with a bit more experience and name recognition and perhaps a touch of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez inspiration, has announced that she’s back for another round. But can she flip 312 McGonagle voters or mine Everett for 624 new votes? We shall see; but, in the meantime, McGonagle is showing shades of his predecessors as he fails to bathe himself in magnanimous primary glory.
Strike 1 on McGonagle: refusal to debate and silence on an important policy
McGonagle has so far refused to debate his two primary challengers, has grown silent on where he stands on “Safe Communities” efforts on Beacon Hill and reportedly has had door-knocking supporters telling members of the immigrant community he will fix Temporary Protected Status (TPS). […] The problem is, McGonagle can do absolutely nothing about TPS—not a single thing. It’s a federal program. He is a state representative.
Refusing to debate is a bad look. Refusing to disclose your position on a very high-profile piece of legislation impacting your constituents, also a bad look. Telling voters you can fix a federal policy at the state level is just dishonest.
Strike 2 on McGonagle: possibly muscling Gerly Adrien out of a community event
In a possible violation of state ethics law, officials at Everett City Hall have denied a state representative candidate a chance to have a booth at the city’s Independence Day celebration while securing one for the incumbent state rep. State Rep. Joe McGonagle was declared a participant in the event from the very day the celebration was announced. […] Adrien has been trying to register as a booth sponsor for quite some time now. […] The Everett Stimulus contacted the city solicitor’s office and spoke to Assistant City Solicitor Keith Slattery. Slattery said “the city decided” that there would be no political activity allowed at the Independence Day event. He dismissed an argument that McGonagle having a booth is inherently political because he is running for reelection. […] Slattery went on to say “we may permit it [political activity] at other events.” In other words, the decision to exclude Adrien is completely arbitrary. The city is not required to keep her out, they are choosing to.
I find it exceptionally hard to believe that Everett city officials would go out of their way to give Gerly Adrien the runaround without encouragement or even direction from McGonagle. To be continued, I suppose.
Strike 3 on McGonagle: outright bullying
Thus far in this 2018 election cycle in Everett, state Rep. Joseph McGonagle could be accurately described as unavailable and unresponsive. After an interesting, rainy Saturday afternoon in Everett Square, we can add petty and rude to the list.
The McGonagle campaign scrambled to assemble a group of people holding signs for the incumbent when it learned a competitor had organized a free-ice cream, meet-and-greet for the square. That’s to be expected in politics even this early in the campaign. What’s not expected is for McGonagle’s sign holders—and McGonagle himself—to actually stand in front of table set up by Democratic challenger Gerly Adrien, blocking her sign holders’ access to passing traffic. Things got worse from there. […]
Just how worried is McGonagle about his reelection chances? Well, rushing to assemble a group of sign holders just because his opponent is holding a meet-and-greet, and then standing in front of them—including the kids getting the free ice cream—speaks volumes. (And by the way, the McGonagle campaign also promised hot dogs for people stopping by, but there wasn’t nary a frank to be found.)
Having your crew of goons surround your opponent’s table when she’s handing out ice cream to kids is, if I’m being frank, a total scumbag move, on top of being super bizarre. But, hey, at least McGonagle hasn’t had to plead guilty to anything yet like his predecessor Stephen “Stat” Smith did, right?
Oh, speaking of former State Representative Smith, you might recall mention earlier of Smith agreeing to a five-year ban on running for public office as part of his plea deal. Well, that five-year ban expired at the beginning of 2018. And Smith is running for public office again – for his old State Representative seat – in the Democratic primary against McGonagle and Adrien!
So, 2018 in Everett will see a three-way Democratic primary for State Representative between shady, entrenched insiders McGonagle and Smith and progressive community activist Gerly Adrien. Perhaps instead of Adrien having to find 600+ new voters to eclipse McGonagle, McGonagle just has to shed 600 of his voters to Smith to make this race neck-and-neck. (Obviously, dynamics will be much more complex than this numerical simplification, but you get the point.) Further, as Everett grows more diverse, it would surprise no one (at this point) to see a trend similar to New York’s 14th Congressional district in Queens and the Bronx where relative unknown Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earned an upset victory against consummate insider Joe Crowley this week, and that’s before one considers any shadiness-fatigue that Everett Democrats may be suffering at the hands of their run of State Representatives.
If Everett would like a respite from its decade-long run of ethically-impaired State Representatives, Everett Democrats may be well-advised to nominate Gerly Adrien for State Representative on September 4.
If you would like to support Gerly Adrien for State Representative from Everett’s 28th Middlesex district:
Gerly Adrien’s website: https://www.gerlyadrien.com/
Like Gerly’s campaign on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/voteforgerly/
Follow Gerly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GerlyAdrien