The general consensus in politics and government is an incumbent elected official has a moral and ethical obligation to debate their legitimate opponents: They should explain their record, their goals for the future and why they should stay in office. This is not the case with Everett state Rep. Joe McGonagle who has avoided debating his two opponents, particularly if the sponsoring group is made up largely of people of color or has strong diversity.
Another reason McGonagle is making a mistake avoiding opponents Gerly Adrien and Stat Smith? The optics say McGonagle cannot defend his record on Beacon Hill.
• July 18, “Coffee with the Candidates,” hosted by Zion Church. Senior Pastor Bishop Robert Brown is a well-known community figure who always works hard to make Everett an inclusive, welcoming city. Adrien and Smith attend. McGonagle begs off. That’s an insult to Bishop Brown.
• July 31, “Our Revolution Everett” holds a debate at the Village Grill. ORE is diverse, fairly new group that challenges the status quo while working to register voters and increase voter education. Adrien and Smith attend, McGonagle turns his back on the group.
This snub was particularly insulting because the McGonagle camp claimed the event was “not credible” because some members of the group had already declared their support for a candidate other than McGonagle. Even if that is the case, he should have showed up and made his case as to why he is the best candidate—persuade, don’t run and hide. And oh, as far as credibility, the forum was moderated by a sharp, well-prepared high school student. Did McGonagle think the fix was in on the student’s part?
• This coming Tuesday, Parlin Library. The Everett Democratic City Committee sponsors a debate moderated by Sue Flicop, President of the League of Women Voters of Newton. McGonagle has committed to attend this one. We should all be grateful.
• August 20, a coalition of community groups led by La Comunidad hold what will be the last forum before the Sept. 4th primary. McGonagle has not committed to attend and word is, he won’t. It’s interesting that the sponsoring groups list immigration as an important issue (the candidates for the 7th District Congressional seat are invited as well). McGonagle’s canvassing supporters have reportedly been telling immigrants in Everett he will “fix TPS (temporary protected status).” It’s a federal program. He can nothing about it. Further, McGonagle has failed miserably in supporting things he can vote on, such as “Safe Communities.”
The common cop out for incumbents refusing to stand behind their record is that they would prefer to make their case directly to the voters, that any voter can approach them and talk about their voting record. The problem with that is it can and does lead to the incumbent telling different things to different people—basically pandering to whomever they are speaking. (See the TPS claim above).
When politicians stand and face the voters at candidates’ forums, they are on record, for everyone to see. It’s sink or swim. McGonagle should have the courage to do so.