Say It Ain’t So, Joe! McGonagle Refuses to Debate, Silent on ‘Safe Communities,’ Engaged in Questionable Canvassing Tactics

The first rule of running for reelection is that the incumbent must be transparent, accountable and willing to engage all challengers. It seems state Rep. Joseph McGonagle of Everett missed that day of campaign school. 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). None of this is good for Everett or the larger political discourse.

McGonagle is the only one of three Democrats on the September primary ballot who refuses to debate. Just about a week ago, candidate Gerly Adrien sent certified letters to McGonagle and Stephen “Stat” Smith asking that they participate with her in two or even three debates so voters can compare and contrast the candidates at a time when Everett’s representation on Beacon Hill is crucial.

“One of my opponents [Smith] called me the same day he received the letter and is committed,” Adrien said. “However, the incumbent has not given any type of call or follow-up. It’s a sad day when the people are not able to hear our own state Representative be able to present himself…What is he hiding?”

State Rep. Joe McGonagle (D-Everett).

As a veteran of political campaigns, I can say with certainty that an incumbent’s refusal to debate his opponents speaks volumes about that elected official. Obviously, a state representative is supposed to be responsive to the voters. McGonagle’s unwillingness to debate is a violation of that responsibility.

Being unwilling to debate is only one example of McGonagle’s radio silence on a key issue. With the controversy over President Trump’s border migration policy raging, there’s been renewed attention at the Statehouse over measures to make Massachusetts a “safe communities” state. The initiative would limit the state’s law enforcement officials’ and other state organizations’ cooperation with ICE as it pertains to immigrants.

State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Middlesex, Worcester) has introduced an amendment to the Senate budget bill to address the issue. “Safe communities” is also supported by Everett state Sen. Sal DiDomenico. Multiple calls from The Everett Stimulus to McGonagle’s Beacon Hill office have not been returned. Again, silence from McGonagle on an important issue facing Everett.

There is an area concerning Everett immigrants that McGonagle is apparently willing to talk about, at least through his campaign canvassers. Reports from Everett’s immigrant communities are that McGonagle’s “doorknockers” are telling them that McGonagle is promising to work hard to fix TPS. The TPS program—designed to protect immigrants who cannot return to their native land safely for many reasons—has expired for many Everett immigrants, particularly Haitians.

It’s great Everett’s state representative is concerned about the city’s immigrants. The problem is, McGonagle can do absolutely nothing about TPS—not a single thing. It’s a federal program. He is a state representative.

Everett City Councilor Anthony DiPierro, who is running McGonagle’s campaign says he knows nothing about any of his canvassers being told to talk about TPS. “I can confirm that no canvassers have been told to say that or anything of similar. We have been and will continue to focus on the Representative’s accomplishments,” he said.

Wonderful. It would be nice if McGonagle would have the guts to return a phone call on a sensitive issue or participate in debates with Adrien and Smith. His silence is deafening except, apparently, when he is pandering to a community that could make or break his reelection on an issue about which he can do nothing.

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