Maintaining for weeks that she would not endorse candidates in either the closely-contested U.S. Senate race or the tight and contentious 6th District congressional run, Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk has now urged support for three Democrats — spurred, she said in a Facebook post, by the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, which ravaged New Jersey and New York while also downing trees and killing power to some 5,000 Gloucester customers last week. And Congressman John Tierney’s re-election campaign touted the announcement Sunday as the mayor’s firm backing of its candidate, saying that it “capped off ... a great day” in Gloucester in Saturday, when Tierney was also joined on the campaign stump by retiring Democratic congressman Barney Frank.
In her Facebook comment — posted Saturday, then wisely distributed Sunday by the Tierney campaign, which is locked in a race with Republican challenger Richard Tisei — Kirk said that, “as mayor of a coastal city, Hurricane Sandy has forced me to pause and think about the reality of climate change and the devastating impact on communities which easily could have included Gloucester ...”
“With this issue as the catalyst, today via Facebook I have come out in support of the Democratic party ticket for our district (Obama, Warren, and Tierney),” Kirk’s post concluded. While many other mayors and elected officials around the North Shore had announced their endorsement of candidates in both the Senate and congressional race, Kirk — an avowed Democat, though Gloucester’s city elections are non-partisan – had avoided making endorsements in either of this year’s top state races. In an Oct. 23 letter to the Times, she wrote: “I’m planning to stay neutral in both the congressional and U.S. Senate races this year, and won’t be endorsing candidates.”
“Endorsements have always made me uncomfortable, because the office of the mayor has to work with whoever is elected, and with whatever political party is in favor at any particular time,” she added.
Kirk said Sunday that her support for President Obama, Warren and Brown was largely meant to support the Democratic Party platform on climate change.
“I didn’t really mean it as backing any single, specfic candidate – it’s a little late for that,” she said. “I posted it to shed light on the values that the Democratic Party has regarding this issue,” she added, whike conceding that those values and emphasis regarding climate change match the ideals of the three candidates she named and was effectively endorsing.
“Already, Gloucester is on the leading edge in doing our part to promote clean energy with three wind turbines being constructed in the city as we speak,” Kirk’s Facebook post read. “Soon all the power used for municipal buildings will be derived from wind energy.
The turbine projects benefited from the Obama administration’s federal stimulus package, and will save the city millions of dollars. In looking at the Republican vs. Democratic positions on climate change, I feel strongly that the Democrats are facing facts in a responsible manner as I have tried to do as mayor.”
“I’m being opportunistic, I admit it,” Kirk said Sunday. “I’m being opportunistic to shed light in an issue that I don’t think has been sufficiently addressed in this campaign cycle. It’s an issue that hasn’t been talked about much – and we have to be aware that Gloucester is withing striking range of one of these storms.”
Despite her desire to steer clear of endorsing specific rcandidates earlier, Kirk also defended Tierney’s work on behalf of the fishing industry – and against Tisei’s criticism of it — in the same Oct. 23 letter to the Times, saying that she was “really bothered to see Richard Tisei come into Gloucester a few weeks ago and use our fishing community to take cheap political shots at a congressman who has a long record of standing up for our fishermen.”
“Too many of us work too long and too hard on this complicated issue to let that go unchallenged,” Kirk wrote.
In Sunday’s distribution of Kirk’s Facebook post, Tierney campaign spokesman Grant Herring wrote that “our great day (Saturday) in Gloucester was capped off by an endorsement from Mayor Kirk.”
Frank, whose district includes the fishing port of New Bedford, and who has teamed with Tierney in pressing the case for the region’s commercial fishermen against excessive government regulation and law enforcement, had previously endorsed Tierney in his bid for the ninth term, but added his voice to Tierney’s last-minute campaign push over the weekend.
Tisei also received some high-profile support as the bitter campaign headed down the home stretch. He was joined on his campaign trail Friday in Saugus by former New York mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Kirk’s last formal endorsement of any higher-office candidate came during the 2010 special election run, when she endorsed Congressman and former Somerville mayor Michael Capuano for the state’s U.S. Senate seat after the passing of Edward M. Kennedy. Capuano lost out to Attorney General Martha Coakley in the Democratic primary in the race for the seat that ultimately went to Scott Brown.
Times Editor Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3438, or at email@example.com.