Shaunna O’Connell, Welfare Queen, Goes for her Third Term

It’s been a while since we checked in on the race for State Representative in the Third Bristol District (Taunton and Easton), where Republican Shaunna O’Connell is seeking re-election to her third term.

As you may know, Representative O’Connell has made a big name for herself by raising at every opportunity the spectre that public benefits, like welfare, are going to people who don’t deserve them, like immigrants. She’s a regular on the pages of the Boston Herald, and lately, as her website informs us, she’s taking her signature issue national on Fox News. Her Fox hosts are as uninterested as she is in mentioning the fact that the entire welfare program in Massachusetts accounts for less than one percent of the state budget, or in exploring whether other issues affecting her constituents may also be deserving of attention.

This year her electoral opponent is Taunton native and Gold Star brother Keavin Duffy, Jr., who won the Democratic nomination as a write-in candidate and who believes that the growing income inequality in Massachusetts is an issue that the residents of Taunton and Easton may also be interested in.

Candidate Duffy has challenged Candidate O’Connell to debates and has gotten under her skin recently by pointing out that she has sponsored legislation that would replace the state government employee retirement system with a voluntary 401K style plan. This observation provoked an angry response from her campaign manager, who stated unequivocally that during her time as a State Representative “she has not filed any legislation or amendments regarding changing pensions.”

Hmm. Except that she has. Here it is in black and white (and you can find link to this amendment on the State Legislature’s website here):

Representatives Webster of Pembroke, Adams of Andover, Levy of Marlborough, Lyons of Andover and O’Connell of Taunton move to amend the bill by adding the following section…

The provisions of [the state employee retirement law] relating to defined benefit plans shall not apply to any employee hired after July 1, 2011. They shall be covered by 401 (K) coverage with the state, county, city or town providing a 7 per cent match….

Obvious and categorical misstatements like this one are the kind of thing that prompt additional scrutiny of a candidate’s positions. Further on his letter, for example, the campaign manager says this: “O’Connell has been a fighter for the workers of the district. She crossed party lines to vote for the minimum wage increase.”

Well, that’s true enough, so far as it goes. But it does omit the fact that Representative O’Connell also voted in favor of an amendment that would have increased the minimum wage by a much smaller amount. A fully accurate statement of Representative O’Connell’s view on the minimum wage issue would disclose that she favored an increase from $8 per hour over three years to only $9.50 per hour, rather than the $11 per hour that was enacted into law. In other words, Representative O’Connell thinks that when the minimum wage is fully phased in 2017, workers making that amount — including those who are her constituents — really ought to be earning $3000 less per year.

Not surprising that one side is eager to debate the issues of importance to the citizens of the Third Bristol district and the other side is eager to go national on Fox News.

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