Race for 1st Middlesex district turns bitter


With just 13 days left before the state’s primary, the candidates for the 1st Middlesex district state senate seat are lobbing bigger accusations against each other. On Monday, the Doherty campaign released a statement against Donoghue stating that she is a hypocrite when it comes to illegal immigration.

According to the flier, Donoghue willingly accepted a case against an individual, Lilliana Rivera, who was supposedly indicted for conspiracy to create and sell alien registration receipts and social security cards. The document goes on farther to state Donoghue was fundamental to Rivera receiving a substantially reduced sentence. The effect is that Donoghue is portrayed not only as soft on illegal immigration, but someone who misleads the public.

On its face, the Doherty campaign’s assertions are alarming to say the least. Factually, the campaign’s claims against Donoghue are half-truths.

The first claim: The flier seemed to indicate that Rivera was a key player in creating the forged alien registration receipts and social security cards.

One of the statements made was that Rivera was indicted for the federal charges of conspiracy to produce and sell false alien registration receipts and social security cards. To support this claim, the flier included a copy of a federal court’s filing for the case. The filing describes, in detail, the role of each person involved in the operation. It even lays out the offenses the individuals were charged with, of which Rivera was one out of two people indicted.

The document, which the Donoghue campaign says isn’t accurate, details the specific charges that Rivera faced. Though Rivera was found to be a part of the operation, she was found to play a minimal role. Namely, Rivera’s role was to transport the fake ids from the people who created them to the people who would buy them. In regards to specific offenses, she was charged with possession and transportation of falsified documents.

This information was verified by Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Donoghue campaign. According to Yunits, Rivera was forced to transport the ids because one of the people involved abused her. “Rivera got involved because one of the people who created the ids was her boyfriend. She was in an abusive relationship with him and he forced her to transport the ids. Rivera eventually sought a restraining order against her boyfriend.”

The second claim: that Donoghue willingly accepted the case when she could have refused.

Looking at the court document alone, it makes mention that the lead attorney was Donoghue and that she was retained. In legal speak, a retained lawyer is an attorney that been paid to take a case.

Yunits explained that wasn’t true. “Eileen speaks Spanish and was often assigned to cases to where one of the parties involved didn’t speak English. Rivera didn’t know a lot of English, so Eileen was appointed to the case. She only represented Rivera and not the individuals who actually forged the documents.”

What seems particularly odd is that the listed firm Donoghue was supposed to have been working for at the time, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, didn’t exist when the case was being processed.

The third claim: that Donoghue was responsible for Rivera’s reduced sentence.

The court document shows that Rivera was charged with possession and transportation, which are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a) and 1028 (a) (2). In reading the text of 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a), a person who knowingly possesses false alien registration receipt cards or other documents can be fined, imprisoned or both.  According to the same section, a person can’t be imprisoned for more than 10 years for this violation if the offense wasn’t committed to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking. A person charged with transporting such documents can’t be imprisoned for more than 15 years, according to the terms of 18 U.S.C. 1028 (b).  It is also possible to be fined under this statute. Under both sections, no one can receive a higher sentence unless the offense was completed in order to commit international terrorism or drug trafficking.

The attached document included with the flier makes no mention of either terrorism or drug trafficking in list of charges against Rivera.

Notice that both of these sections of the United States Code establish maximum sentencing limits for these offenses. With that in mind, it’s possible that Rivera was given a lesser sentence because she wasn’t a major player. Or maybe her lesser sentence has something to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney General, as evidenced by the included court document, dropped one of the charges against Rivera.

Why Rivera got a lesser sentence is murky at best given the court document is possibly inaccurate and nearly 20 years old at this point.

“This is another attempt by the Chris Doherty campaign to smear Eileen Donoghue’s name and reputation. Eileen worked hard to ensure 6th Amendment rights for everyone when she was an attorney,” remarked Yunits.

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Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 2


Probably the most perplexing issue that was mentioned was transparency, which has come up repeatedly since the beginning of the race. This is one topic that isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

The disagreement started back in May when Donoghue challenged Doherty to post a list of donors on his website. Though it is hard to tell precisely when each candidate posted these lists, both campaigns seem to claiming that they posted their list first. In fact, today the Doherty campaign issued a press release applauding the Donoghue campaign for listing their donors online.

What could be of interest to the voters is not when the lists were posted, but from where the donations originated. Donoghue’s list, which can be linked to at the top of her home page, is nine pages long and appears to list over 350 donors. Of the listed donations, all which look to be individual contributions, a fair amount come from outside the district. The list that Doherty posted, which can be found on his contributions page, looks to contain over 300 individual donations. Like Donoghue, he too is receiving donations from outside the district.

In the end, this is going to be a race about nuances. Both candidates have similar stances on the issues, but their approach to the topics are somewhat different. If voters want a candidate to take a big leadership role, then the district could lead towards Donoghue. Or the district could lean more towards Doherty if voters want a highly collaborative candidate.

Transparency concerns raised during first Doherty-Donoghue debate, part 1


Tuesday’s debate between Chris Doherty and Eileen Donoghue, both Democrats from Lowell, was surprisingly fair to both candidates. Radio station WCAP, or 980 AM, allowed both Doherty and Donoghue equal time to respond to the questions though both occasionally exceeded the allotted time. This was the first of several debates that has been scheduled before the primary.

On most of the issues, both candidates gave similar, if not identical, answers to the questions they were asked. On the issue of illegal immigration, both candidates went on the record as not supporting illegal immigration. Both stated that they would enforce current laws. In regards to the recent $35 million loan that went to Lawrence, both candidates expressed support as it included safeguards to ensure that the Commonwealth was paid back.

Both candidates spoke out against allowing cities and towns raising local taxes above Proposition 2 ½ allowances. This is an important issue in light of the state reducing local aid by 4%, which means that cities and towns will need to find creative ways to solve their budget problems.

However, Doherty and Donoghue did not completely see eye to eye on every issue.

When the candidates were asked whether or not they supported Patrick’s recent CORI reform bill, Doherty said he doesn’t support the legislation, while Donoghue’s answer wasn’t as straightforward. Donoghue seems to support some, but not all, of the provisions as she claimed her response wasn’t exactly a yes or no answer.

When asked about what they would do to stimulate the economy, Donoghue stressed the importance of helping to lower health care costs for small businesses and that state regulations are tough on small businesses. Doherty talked about promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, which comprise the STEM program.

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First Doherty-Donoghue debate on 8/16


In the race for the 1st Middlesex district, Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) will face off in their first debate tonight.

The debate is scheduled to take place today in Lowell. It is to be aired on radio station 980 AM from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Be sure to tune in as it is bound to get very interesting very quickly.

Both candidates have slightly different stances on the issues, so tonight will be the first chance for voters to discover what makes each candidate unique. So far, both are courting small business owners in an effort to win their vote. To that end, Doherty would likely support measures that would allow small businesses to delay payment of their filing fees in order to help them get off the ground. Donoghue is slightly more focused on helping local businesses by working with small businesses to drive down their costs associated with health insurance. In this sense, Doherty seems to follow more of a hands off approach (he seems to prefer small businesses work together on their own to increase competition), whereas Donoghue appears to take a more proactive role.

Doherty fundraiser on 8/12


Tomorrow night will see the Chris Doherty campaign hold a large fundraiser in Lowell in order to keep drumming up support for the candidate. As the days wind down to September 14th, the state’s primary, Chris Doherty’s campaign is promoting seemingly endless events.

The fundraiser is to take place in downtown Lowell at Hookslide Kelly’s on Merrimack Street from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

Of the confirmed guest list, many appear to have some connection to the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The university, which is also known as UMASS Lowell or ULowell, is one of Doherty’s (D-Lowell) alma maters. He has also graduated from Suffolk Law School.

Though Doherty enjoys widespread support, many of his supporters are from the university. Several months ago students from ULowell organized a rally for Doherty at Brew’d Awakening, a local coffee shop. Support for Doherty overwhelmed the small business as more than 100 people, mostly students, crowded inside and lined the street in order to speak with the candidate.

The event is open to the voters living within the 1st Middlesex district. For those who are interested in attending, the campaign requests be emailed to chrisdohertyforsenate@gmail.com or to call 978-656-9982.

July political developments, part 2


With the immigration debate being a big issue, protesters took action across Massachusetts.  Opponents of Arizona law S.B. 1070 marched at the National Governors Association meeting that was held in Boston.  The Boston City council backed off of its boycott of Arizona-based businesses after receiving heat.  A poll conducted by the Boston Herald revealed that many residents were frustrated by the boycott.

July also saw the burgeoning Tea Party movement split in half.  This division came to pass after several groups within the movement were associated with outspoken critics of the president and current policy. Mass.-based chapters seem determined to carry on despite the criticism the movement has received.

July also saw the expansion of unemployment benefits.  For Massachusetts, that meant that approximately 70, 000 residents gained financial help for a few more months. The bill passed by a vote of 272-152 in the House.  Senator Brown proposed an alternative funding source for the measure but his amendment was not passed.

On the casino gambling front, state legislators that supported the bill faced firm opposition.  The problem seemed to have begun over the House’s introduction of slot machines at all of the race tracks, or “racinos”, which both Patrick and the Senate refused.  The stalemate lasted until the last possible moment when the House and Senate agreed to slot machines at only two of the racetracks.  Though that version passed just before the end of the session, its fate is not yet determined because Patrick doesn’t support the current version.

Just as the legislature was wrapping up its current session, both the House and the Senate passed measures in favor of a national popular vote.  As a result, Massachusetts is now part of a “pact” with five other states to give all of their votes to the candidate that wins the national popular vote.  A major sticking point, according to opponents, is that it ignores the stated amendment process contained within the U.S. Constitution.

Slot machine dilemma stalls other issues


The slot machine controversy seems to have caused a figurative fender bender as other key pieces of legislation are also being delayed. With four days left in the legislative session, the great casino debate still hasn’t been resolved. In the process, advocates for different bills are left biting their nails as they watch the session wind down.

The Boston Globe reported today that supporters of Stop Handgun Violence are worried that their efforts might end up in vain. The group, founded by John Rosenthal, supports a bill that could tighten handgun purchases. That piece of legislation is now in jeopardy as well because the House and the Senate are so embroiled over slot machines.

Other bills that could be jeopardized include the proposed tax holiday. Though it is possible that the measure might not be passed because of budget concerns, it seems more likely that the slot machine debacle could be to blame. The President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, Jon Hurst attests to the trouble the gambling legislation is causing. Hurst stated that advocates are closely watching the casino bill because it’s, “’…having an impact on a whole lot of other activity.’”

In light of virtually endless contention, it could be argued that the controversy is proof that the gambling bill might not be as effective as described. If the bill can actually bolster the economy, then why hasn’t it passed? After all, union giant Teamsters 25 organized a major demonstration on Beacon Hill in favor of casinos. Plus, both versions of the bill received popular support in both the Senate and the House.