In the House, Democratic Principles Matter Less than Democratic Incumbents

One might have thought, in this blue state and in this year of the woman, that the activities of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus would not come under criticism from the highest-ranking female leader in the House of Representatives.

One would be wrong. Here’s the story.

The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, founded in 1971, is a non-partisan organization committed to increasing the number of women elected to public office who support a woman’s right to choose.

The Caucus recently announced a number of candidate endorsements — female members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.  Six of the endorsed candidates are challenging incumbent Democratic members of the House.

The Speaker pro Tempore of the House, Representative Patricia Haddad, apparently regarded these challenges to incumbent Democrats as an affront. She sent a private email to her fellow House Democrats on behalf of her colleagues in the Caucus of Women Legislators (a similarly-named group consisting of female members of both parties in the House and Senate) to clear up any confusion between the two Caucuses. And not stopping there, she went on to speak for her fellow female legislators, telling the six challenged Democratic incumbents that “the women of the House would never work against a colleague,” and to announce that, because of its endorsements, she would not be accepting the backing of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.

Five of the six challenged House incumbents are male. The one female incumbent is Colleen Garry, who has been a steadfast opponent of abortion during her 24-year tenure in the House. This position, presumably, was the basis for the endorsement of her pro-choice challenger, Sabrina Heisey.

The day after Representative Haddad’s rather peevish email, the House passed a bill repealing a number of archaic statutes that might be used (perhaps by an unfriendly federal government) to call into question a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.  Representative Haddad’s leadership on the issue was lauded on the House floor, and the bill passed easily, 138 to 9. Two Democrats voted no – one of them was Colleen Garry.

(The text of Representative Haddad’s email is on the next page.) 

A NOTE FROM SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE HADDAD

To my Colleagues,

Some of you may have seen the endorsements sent out by the Mass Women’s Political Caucus recently. While this group is a non partisan non profit that is part of a national women’s group, it is NOT in any way associated with the Caucus of Women Legislators.

Your female colleagues – members of the Caucus of Women Legislators – want to dispel any misinformation you may have seen or heard on this topic. To be clear, the women of the House would never work against a colleague and have no affiliation with this group.

In fact, many of us that have received their endorsement have informed them that we wish to decline.  In the past, it has been one of the organizations I have raised money for. Today, I informed the President that I would not be helping them because of this.

Once again, this note is to dispel the misinformation out there and to make sure our male and female colleagues, who were affected, know that they have our support.

Pat Haddad

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