The State Senate race to replace Sen. Antonioni took a stranger than fiction turn last week. Seems Rep. Knuuttila called for a private meeting with his opponent and the incumbent last Friday at which he informed both of them that he was quitting the race…he wished Rep. Jen Flanagan luck…hugs all around…oops!…new week, new story…he now denies calling for OR attending the meeting and says he is still in the race!…
GOOD ADVICE FOR REP. KNUUTTILA: 1) Never have a witness at a meeting you may deny or renege later, and 2) Don’t lie to reporters. it’s a bad habit to get into and always backfires!
The Worcester TELEGRAM got the scoop on this one:
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Former state rep denies he’ll quit
Rival says Knuuttila talked of bowing out
By John J. Monahan TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
Former state Rep. Brian Knuuttila of Gardner, who insisted yesterday that he is continuing in the race for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Robert A. Antonioni, met with his Democratic opponent and Mr. Antonioni on Friday and, according to them, informed them he had decided to quit the race.
Mr. Knuuttila said yesterday he never told Mr. Antonioni or state Rep. Jennifer L. Flanagan, D-Leominster, who is facing Mr. Knuuttila in the Democratic primary, that he had decided to quit the contest and said there had been a “misunderstanding” on their part.
But yesterday both Ms. Flanagan and Mr. Antonioni said they did not understand why Mr. Knuuttila had told them Friday he was quitting the race and was claiming yesterday that he had not told them that.
“Brian told me he was not going to run. It was very cordial,” Ms. Flanagan said. She said the conversation took place at the offices of the Gardner Chamber of Commerce, during a meeting that Mr. Knuuttila requested.
“He called and asked me to meet with him on Friday and I did, along with Sen. Antonioni,” Ms. Flanagan said. “We sat down and had a conversation. He told me he was not going to run for the Senate for some reasons I am not going to specify,” she said.
“At the end of the conversation, he gave me a hug and said I would make a great senator.”
Mr. Antonioni gave a similar account, including a description of the hug and the congratulatory comments that she would be a great senator.
He said Mr. Knuuttila told them that he had decided not to run for the Senate against Ms. Flanagan. They said he told them he believed he would have trouble competing with Ms. Flanagan in raising money, and also mentioned that he was considering moving to Florida.
Mr. Antonioni said Mr. Knuuttila told them “all he wanted” was for Ms. Flanagan to make peace with Worcester County Sheriff Guy W. Glodis, because Mr. Glodis had been supporting Mr. Knuuttila even though Ms. Flanagan had backed Sheriff Glodis when he ran for sheriff.
Mr. Knuuttila works as general counsel at the Worcester County Sheriff’s office under Sheriff Glodis.
Yesterday, Mr. Knuuttila initially denied that he even met with Mr. Antonioni and Ms. Flanagan on Friday, and said he had no idea how any rumor that he was leaving the race might have gotten started.
“No” he said when asked by a reporter, “Didn’t you meet with them?”
After an interruption during a telephone interview, he then said, “I apologize. There was a discussion,” and he acknowledged that, in fact, he had met with the Ms Flanagan and Mr. Antonioni.
Also, while he maintained that no discussion of his leaving the race took place at that meeting, Mr. Knuuttila later acknowledged that his exit from the race was discussed at the meeting. He insisted, however, that there was a “misunderstanding” over whether he told them he had made a final decision to quit.
At one point yesterday, Mr. Knuuttila said he had not even, at any point, considering dropping out of the race. “No, I did not have second thoughts about running last week,” he said. At that time he attributed what he called “rumors” about his dropping out to “some desperation tactic on the part of people supporting my opponent.”
Later, however, after being told of Ms. Flanagan’s and Mr. Antonioni’s account of the meeting, Mr. Knuuttila acknowledged that he did meet and talk with them about concerns he had that Ms. Flanagan might outspend him many times over and that he might find that campaign funding advantage “insurmountable.”
“We told them if that fiscal information was correct, things looked pretty bleak for us,” Mr. Knuuttila said of the conversation at the meeting.
“We didn’t come out and say we were formally out of the race. We didn’t come out and say that … It was never actually said. I was looking at it very seriously based on the information we had, because of the huge margins,” Mr. Knuuttila said last night.
“I did not say I was dropping out of the race. There was a misunderstanding and I don’t know what to say more about that misunderstanding,” he said.
Over the weekend, Mr. Knuuttila said, he changed his thinking about getting out of the race. “I ended up re-evaluating it,” he said. He said he plans also to continue working for the sheriff’s office and said that he owns property in Florida and may eventually retire there.
For her part, Ms. Flanagan said she plans to carry on her campaign. “When I heard he was not running, it really didn’t change my campaign at all,” she said.
Yesterday, the secretary of state’s office confirmed that Mr. Knuuttila supplied enough certified signatures to be a candidate and his name and Ms. Flanagan’s name will appear on the Sept. 16 primary ballot in the contest for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.