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Notes from the Fifth Congressional District race

Posted by Your Town  September 13, 2013 11:25 AM

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Here are some notes from the campaign for the Fifth Congressional District. The mostly suburban Fifth District, which runs from Winthrop to Woburn to Southborough to Holliston, is heavily Democratic so the winner of the party’s Oct. 15 primary will be the favorite in the Dec. 10 special general election.

In a sign the race for the Fifth Congressional District seat is heating up less than five weeks before the Oct. 15 special primary election, State Senator Karen Spilka on Wednesday began an Internet ad campaign promoting a video that portrays her as a fighter for the average person in the face of big business.

Spilka campaign manager Eric Hyers said the new effort, the campaign’s first paid media push, is backed by at least $10,000 on targeted websites.

The one-minute video tells the story of John Crowley, who lost his wife, Jenny, to breast cancer soon after she gave birth to their child.

“Our life insurance company refused to pay,” he says, speaking to the camera. A graphic in the video explains the insurer “exploited a loophole in Massachusetts law to deny payment.”

Crowley says he asked Spilka for help. Spilka, speaking to the camera, says, “I fought the life insurance companies.”

“We passed the law, we changed the law,” she says. “And no family will ever have to go through what John’s family suffered.”

The video had been released earlier this month to supporters, but is now part of a paid campaign.

A face on bureaucracy

After visiting a Cambridge Head Start location, state Senator Katherine Clark decried sequestration, the automatic cuts in federal spending that have led to reductions in funding for some social programs.

“The most startling thing about our visit today is: there were no children there,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. Because of cuts in funding from Washington DC, the program had to open two weeks late, had 30 fewer slots for kids and had to lay off workers, Clark said.

“Today was really seeing how dramatic these cuts are,” she added.

Later at the Watertown forum, she discussed the issue and said the budget process in Congress was not working.

“We have to bring good fiscal stewardship back to the US House and back to Congress,” she said. “It is a system that is broken.”

Students ask questions

About 70 people, mostly students, filled a Harvard University auditorium on Monday night, and asked questions of five of the Democratic candidates vying for the Fifth district seat.

The event, organized by the Harvard College Democrats and cordial in tone, was attended bycandidates Will Brownsberger, Clark, Peter Koutoujian, Martin Long, and Carl Sciortino.

After a student asked a question, each candidate there stood and gave a short response.

They addressed issues from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act to the potential of US military action in Syria as students leaned in attentively, took notes, and snapped pictures with smartphones.

Maisano and Spilka did not attend the event. A Spilka spokesman said she had prior campaign commitment in Sherborn, another municipality in the Fifth District. A Spilka aide attended the event and spoke on her behalf.

After the question-and-answer portion of the event concluded at about 9 p.m., candidates mingled with students as campaigns staffers handed out literature and signed up volunteers.

The president of the Harvard College Democrats, Simon Thompson, moderated the forum. He said the event had been planned as an informal meet-and-greet, but morphed into a larger forum because of high interest from students and because of the imminence of the Oct. 15 special primary election.

Many students interviewed after the event said they hadn’t settled on a candidate, but liked that they got to hear from so many of them.

Alex Wirth, a Harvard student who asked a question about Markey’s vote on the resolution to authorize the use of force against Syria, said he was pleased with how thoughtful all of the candidates were in their responses.

“I think they all gave informative answers,” he said, adding that the exchange offered a “fascinating insight” into broader foreign policies issues.

Harvard freshman Tyler Parker, a self-described “moderate” Democrat from Florida, said after the forum that he “felt like Carl Sciortino is probably the strongest candidate.” But the 18-year-old liked others as well.

Taylor J. Barnard, a Tufts University senior and the president of College Democrats of
America, was also in the audience Monday night. A registered voter in the district, he said he was excited with the crop of candidates.

“I honestly don’t think we can go wrong,” he said.

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