Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise: Fitchburg mayor backs Gifford in 3rd District race

Fitchburg mayor backs Gifford in 3rd District race

By Amanda Burke

Sentinel and Enterprise

July 10, 2018

FITCHBURG — Mayor Stephen DiNatale endorsed Rufus Gifford in the race for the 3rd Congressional District, citing the former diplomat’s political experience and shoe-leather campaigning as reasons for his support.

The Gifford campaign announced DiNatale’s endorsement in a Monday press release, wherein the mayor was quoted as saying Gifford “will deliver the most for the people of Fitchburg.”

He said in the statement that Gifford, a former U.S. ambassador, “is willing to use that national clout” to address local issues like modernizing infrastructure, creating jobs and revitalizing downtown.

“Rufus has invested in relationships with the people of Fitchburg and made himself accessible, and that makes a difference,” DiNatale said in his statement. “It’s clear Rufus has prioritized Fitchburg and he’ll be there for us.”

In a Monday interview, DiNatale, referring to the nine other Democrats still vying for the party nomination, said he was backing Gifford for “being in town more than anyone.”

“He demonstrated, right from the very beginning, a real commitment to the city,” said DiNatale.

The mayor said Gifford, who served four years as U.S. ambassador to Denmark and a decade as a senior aide to President Barack Obama, has an advantage of knowing “players in Washington.”

While he said Gifford’s association with the Obama administration, whose work the current administration has been working to unravel, “could be a drawback,” Gifford has the experience “to navigate the complexities of government.

“The bureaucracy in Washington doesn’t change from administration to administration,” he said. “It’s knowing who to call, how to get in and gain access. He already knows how to do that.”

DiNatale vowed to “do whatever I can to help candidate Gifford get elected.” He and Gifford will deliver public remarks together at a Wednesday afternoon campaign event in front of Research Results on Main Street.

According to the Gifford campaign, DiNatale’s endorsement is the first from a district mayor for Gifford.

Gifford opened a Worcester County campaign office on Main Street in May, becoming the only candidate with a campaign outpost in Fitchburg..

It hired School Committee member and former DiNatale intern Aidan Horgan as that office’s field organizer.

Horgan said he met Gifford at a “meet and greet” in Fitchburg and agreed with his vision for restoring trust in government.

Gifford, a Concord resident, will be the best advocate for increasing funding for upgrading Fitchburg infrastructure, said Horgan.

‘What Fitchburg needs’

“What Fitchburg needs the most is people that believe in it and really see the potential that the city can have and he really sees that. He believes in the city of Fitchburg,” he said.

Other local officials who endorsed Gifford include Rep. Stephan Hay, City Councilor Beth Walsh, Democratic City Committee Chair Patricia Vacca.

Walsh said she donated to Gifford’s campaign after traveling to Denmark last summer and meeting locals familiar with his work as an ambassador, and who spoke highly of him.

“That said a lot about him that, people from Denmark, where he was the ambassador, thought so much of him,” she said Monday.

Walsh said she agreed with his stances on helping working-class families, economic development and school funding, and also brought up Gifford’s local campaign office.

“I think that he’s going to be very connected to this area and that’s what we need here,” she said.

Gifford will likely pick up additional local endorsements.

Walsh said “a lot of the people who are friends of the mayor, friends of Bill (McSheehy) and of mine” support him.

Fitchburg State University political science Professor Paul Weizer called DiNatale’s endorsement “unsurprising.”

“Gifford has, more than any other candidate, focused on Fitchburg,” he said.

Reaching out to the city has been a “major part” of Gifford’s strategy, according to Weizer.

By endorsing Gifford months before the Sept. 4 primary, DiNatale ensured Fitchburg remains a campaign priority, said Weizer.

Endorsements matter less to voters now than in years passed, he said.

Weizer said that if Gifford is unsuccessful in cinching the nomination whoever does wins will “gladly” accept DiNatale’s support.

DiNatale said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, with whom he worked as a state representative, called him “on several occasions” urging him to support Dan Koh, Walsh’s former chief of staff.

The calls were unsuccessful.

“He’s an impressive young man,” DiNatale said of Koh. “Not quite as seasoned, but nonetheless a very impressive individual.”

DiNatale said he “probably would” throw his support toward the candidate who wins the nomination.