Armini Fends Off Rivals’ Questions About Past Support for GOP
As the 8th Essex District Democratic primary for state representative draws to a close, candidates’ tensions are running high, supporters and detractors are pushing out letters to the editor at a fever pitch, and information promoting individual candidates–and some disparaging others–is flowing to Marblehead Beacon.
On Friday, individuals associated with two of the campaigns provided information to Marblehead Beacon that they believe undermines the strength of candidate Jenny Armini’s commitment to the Democratic Party and progressive values.
The campaign of one of Armini’s opponents shared records detailing past financial contributions made by Jenny Armini to Republican candidates along with information regarding her voting history. The voting data was gleaned from “VoteBuilder,” a popular and trusted platform used by Democratic campaigns around the country to, among other things, identify those most likely to vote in specific elections. The company provides, for instance, data on races in which voters pulled ballots, if and how individuals are registered (e.g. Democrat, Republican, Unenrolled, or Not Registered), and other key data points that allow candidates to make targeted decisions vis-à-vis door knocking, mailings, and phone banking.
According to the VoteBuilder records provided to Marblehead Beacon there were three races since 2000 in which it appears Armini–then an Unenrolled voter–pulled a Republican ballot. Once was 22 years ago, when, for part of the year, she was still a registered Republican, as she has acknowledged in previous statements. Then, two years later, as an Unenrolled, she pulled a Republican ballot in the statewide primary that included a heated contest for lieutenant governor between Kerry Healey and Jim Rappaport (Shannon O’Brien, Tom Birmingham, Robert Reich, and Warren Tolman were competing that year for the Democrats’ nomination for governor). Finally, according to VoteBuilder, in 2008, she pulled a Republican primary ballot where the top of the ticket was Mitt Romney versus John McCain for president (as opposed to the Hillary Clinton-versus-Barack Obama Democratic ballot).
Armini has noted in past statements that while she worked for Republicans earlier in her career, she has always been a supporter of progressive causes such as abortion and LGBT rights. Another source close to a different Armini opponent contacted Marblehead Beacon to highlight that Armini, in her first job on Capitol Hill some 28 years ago, worked for Congressman Jim Saxton, who voted in favor of several pieces of pro-life legislation prior to and during her time working for him. “I never have been and never will be anti-choice,” said Armini when reached for comment. “My long record of fighting for women’s reproductive rights is unimpeachable,” she continued, adding that her work in Saxton’s office, which included a trip she took with a congressional delegation to Israel, was focused on issues pertaining to the Middle East.
With respect to Armini’s financial support of candidates, Marblehead Beacon completed an analysis of contribution records available through the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) (available online from 2002 to the present), and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) (1980 to present). According to those records, Armini has donated a total of $8,142.60 to all politicians and political causes, of which $6,667.60, or 82%, has gone to Democrats or progressive political organizations. In Massachusetts, those have included the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (to which she donated multiple times beginning in 2006 and on whose board she sat), Ayanna Presley in 2009, and Suzanne Bump in 2010. According to FEC records, Armini has never donated to a Republican running for a federal office. However, a search of the OCPF database shows that Armini donated a total of $1,475 to Massachusetts Republicans from 2002 to 2010. Her donations included one to her former boss, Governor Jane Swift, and others to Richard Tisei, a Republican endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey, and gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney.
Reached for comment about her rivals’ questions concerning her voter registration, Republican ballots pulled, and donations to Republicans, Armini said, “Long before I officially changed my party registration from Unenrolled to Democrat in January of 2017, I passionately supported Democratic candidates. I have said repeatedly throughout this campaign that I am a proud Democrat.” Armini’s values, she said, “stopped aligning with the Republican Party’s long ago.” She went on to say that it’s been 22 years since she was a registered Republican, and highlighted her efforts with “many other committed Democrats from Massachusetts, including Elizabeth Warren, to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump,” a campaign in which she went door knocking in New Hampshire. “Mining old votes is a last-minute attempt to slow my surge to the finish line. I am confident voters will see through this,” she said.
Armini added that if anyone has any questions about her political evolution–an evolution she notes both Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton experienced–she is available to speak with people. “Whether it’s about candidates I’ve supported, money I’ve donated, or anything else, please do not hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to sit and talk with you. I am running a transparent campaign, and if I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will bring that same spirit to the State House.”
With respect to the recently shared information contained in this story, a source close to Armini’s campaign spoke with Marblehead Beacon. “It is disappointing that no candidate raised these issues during the last forum,” said the source, who went on to say, “they are referencing information in the public domain. I can’t imagine they only just now discovered it. Why hide behind anonymous operatives when they had the opportunity to question Jenny face to face? That strikes me as cowardly at best, and it certainly reeks of eleventh-hour desperation.”
UPDATE: September 4, 2022: 1:31 PM:
In an effort to be fair and equitable to all the candidates, Marblehead Beacon reached out to Armini's five opponents about their own registration status, but we are unable to verify their statements at this time. Below are their statements:
Slavit Baylis's campaign: "Always a Democrat!"
Tristan Smith's campaign: "Tristan has been registered as a Democrat since he was first eligible to vote at 18 years old."
Terri Tauro: Tauro disclosed that the Marblehead Democratic Town Committee altered her earlier this year that she was Unenrolled, prompting her to change her registration to Democrat. "I did not even realize that my 18-year-old Independent self was registered Unenrolled. I have never voted for a Republican and have always taken a Dem ballot. Nothing to see here."
Doug Thompson: "Always been registered as a Dem that I can recall."
Polly Titcomb: "I have been a registered Democrat at least since I moved back to Massachusetts in 2008. Prior to that, I voted in other states and cannot remember if I was registered with the Democratic Party, but I am positive that I have never been a registered Republican, nor have I ever voted for any Republican candidate in any race at any level."
Editor’s Note: The author of this story, Lena Robinson, and her family have been close to candidate Jenny Armini and her family for more than 25 years. Robinson’s husband, Dwight Robson, has donated to Armini's campaign. Marblehead Beacon co-founder Jenn Schaeffner is on the steering committee of the group PowerUP!, on which candidate Terri Tauro serves. Prior to launching Marblehead Beacon, Schaeffner contributed to Tauro's campaign.
Editor's Note: A link has been added to the article in the paragraph that includes reference to Armini's work on Middle East policy.