Tonight’s debate at Nashoba Valley Technical High School made one thing quite clear: Eileen Donoghue and Chris Doherty agree on almost every issue. Moderator Michael Goldman did a nice job of establishing that early on. Both oppose the death penalty; both support choice; both support marriage equality; both support casinos; both oppose stand-alone slot parlors; both oppose MCAS as a graduation requirement; both oppose expansion of charter schools; both agree that municipal employee health plans should be changed only through negotiations and not by legislative action; both think chapter 40B should be reformed, not repealed; both oppose the roll back of the sales tax to 3%. The list goes on. With two candidates so much alike when it comes to the issues, how is a voter to choose between the two?
Eileen Donoghue points to her prior experience in city government. Both in the debate and in her campaign literature, her accomplishments as Mayor of Lowell and as a city councilor take center stage. Donoghue reminds us that when she first came on the city council, the city of Lowell faced severe economic challenges and asserts that her leadership and ability to work cooperatively with those in government at all levels and in business was central to the city’s amazing renaissance. She says that the Commonwealth is in similar straits today and that her experience would be of great value on Beacon Hill.
Chris Doherty has a different strategy. While he is obviously proud of and frequently mentions his work as a prosecutor in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office, the primary objective of his campaign has been to raise doubts about Donoghue’s credibility. He explained tonight that there are discrepancies between positions Donoghue has taken in this campaign and her past behavior. Specifically discussed tonight was illegal immigration. Doherty says that while Donoghue says during the Senate campaign that “illegal means illegal”, as an attorney she represented an individual accused of providing forged green cards to illegal immigrants. Doherty maintains that this and other discrepancies between Donoghue’s words and acts should raise doubts about Donoghue’s credibility in the minds of voters.
Donoghue counters by accusing Doherty of cherry-picking facts from her 30 year legal career and spinning them in a misleading and deceptive way. The case cited by Doherty occurred 19 years ago, Donoghue says, while she was employed as a Federal Public Defender and before she held elective office. Tonight Donoghue called Doherty’s tactic “reprehensible” and said that since there’s no real difference between them on the issues, Doherty is taking this and other facts out of context and distorting them in a sinister way to deceive the voters.
Two candidates very much in agreement on the issues; two strategies very different in their objectives. Only five more days until we learn which was successful.