In the normal course of events, politicians are first elected to office and then they get arrested. But here in the bizarro world of Valley politics, first comes the perp walk, then comes the nomination papers.
Local Tea Party hero Bill Gunn
Yet an arrest record may actually work to the advantage of William Gunn of Ware, who will officially announce this weekend that he is running for U.S. Congress against incumbent John Olver. Gunn came to national attention last month when he was arrested in the balcony of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. for yelling at the lawmakers below to "Kill the Bill" meaning the government healthcare takeover legislation which was under consideration at the time. Gunn and his companion in civil disobedience, Dave Sanders of Wilbraham, became instant folk heroes among the very active Tea Party movement here in the Valley. Gunn summarizes his campaign platform as follows:
I am running for the position of United States Representative for the first district of Massachusetts. I am currently collecting signatures and I can use all the help I can get.
We are going to oust John Olver, and the PEOPLE are going to take back the house. The house of representatives is supposed to be comprised of CITIZEN REPRESENTATIVES; people like you and me. It is time to show a renewed reverence for the Constitution and bring spending under control and actually CUT SPENDING ON EVERY GOVERNMENT PROGRAM.
The tax burden needs to be reduced, and if any are going to pay an income tax, ALL must pay an income tax. Only then will the majority of the people start voting for fiscal restraint.
Can Gunn win? Olver has faced better known challengers in the past and won re-election handily, but this is an unpredictable year when the winds of change are blowing at gale force. Gunn will also get a ton of free publicity when his case goes to trial. I put his chance of victory at fifty-fifty.
However former State Representative Christopher Asselin of Springfield is unlikely to be able to turn his former arrest record into a political plus, but that hasn't stopped him from announcing that he will be running to reclaim his old job. As explained by Masslive:
With 18 months in prison, $140,000 in restitution and one major corruption scandal behind him, former state Rep. Christopher P. Asselin is primed for a political comeback.
Breaking a long public silence, the 40-year old Democrat announced on Monday that he is considering running for his old seat in the 9th Hampden District, which straddles the Springfield and Chicopee border.
Asselin, the youngest son of a well-known political clan, won two terms on Beacon Hill before being named in a 122-count indictment accusing him, his father, mother, wife, four siblings and others of looting the taxpayer-financed Springfield Housing Authority for a decade.
After pleading guilty to bribery, theft and fraud conspiracy charges in 2007, Asselin was given an 18-month prison term. His father, Raymond, director of the authority until 2004, was ordered to serve 10 years behind bars.
Here is the first half of an interview with Asselin yesterday on the Bax and O'Brien Show, in which Asselin comes out swinging by essentially accusing incumbent Sean Curran of being a liar and a phony.
Here's the second half, where O'Brien asks Asselin about his alleged "mental issues":
Can Asselin rise from the ashes? Well, Springfield makes up most of the district, and Springfield voters are notorious for electing and re-electing bad guys, so it's impossible to say that Asselin has no chance. But incumbent Curran is popular, and is sure to remind voters of all the sordid details of the Asselin scandal. I would put Chris Asselin's chances at no better than one in three.
But to top it all off, after a sordid domestic scandal last year devolved into incidents of public violence that sank the re-election hopes of Agawam Mayor Susan Dawson, most observers thought that her political career was over. Not so, apparently, as Dawson is now running for State Senate! But hey, if Gunn can be arrested in the halls of Congress and run as a hero, and Asselin can walk out of prison and announce his own race, then why shouldn't Dawson run as well? Agawam voters adore dirty politics and she was the mud-wrestling queen they loved to hate. The electorate may choose Dawson just for her future entertainment value.
I took this picture in Northampton's Haymarket Cafe early this morning.
Portraits on the Haymarket wall.