Former school committee member Donna Colorio is running for city councilor at large in Worcester. Two years after she was voted out off the school committee and Michael Gaffney was kicked out of the city council by Worcester voters, Colorio is aiming to bring us back to Trump-like politics and smears.
If you want to lead a city, shouldn’t you be able to spell its name?
Until now, most people in Worcester hadn’t heard anything from Colorio since she was ousted from the school committee two years ago. As of Oct. 23, the average Worcesterite probably knows her as “that woman running for office but who doesn’t know how to spell the city’s name.” Indeed, a mailer was sent out by a PAC at the behest of the Colorio campaign asking voters to elect her to the “Worchester (sic) City Council.”
According to the legally-mandated statement of who paid for the mailing, the shadowy “Massachusetts Majority Independent Expenditure PAC” funded it. The flier suggests that we can learn more information about the PAC by visiting www.ocpf.us – the website of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which oversees most elections in the state. There’s very little information there, but the flier does list the PAC’s chairman and top contributors.
Most support coming from out-of-town ultra-rich
Perusing the list of those who paid for Colorio’s mailer gives one an idea of why its writers can’t seem to grasp the spelling of the city’s name: they’re not from here. Instead, they’re a bunch of extremely wealthy men from the Boston area, using their money to influence our election. The list includes Gregg Lisciotti, the PAC’s chairman. He’s the closest to being from Worcester, geographically, as he lives in Leominster. Lisciotti is a failed Republican candidate for Congress in the 1st Congressional District (and he really failed at that; his name didn’t even appear on the ballot) and millionaire real estate developer. He’s also donated thousands of dollars to other Republican candidates, as well as to a PAC that wanted to strike down a law against lying about political opponents.
Another of Colorio’s supporters is Robert Hale, the wealthy CEO of Granite Telecommunications, “one of the largest privately held telecommunications services companies in the U.S. and Canada – a $1.25 billion-dollar revenue-earning business, with 1,800 employees in 14 offices nationwide,” according to one article. (The article notes that Hale was able to pull himself up by his bootstraps, having only received an $800,000 investment from his father, “the original U.S. importer of Laura Ashley products,” to start the business.)
There is also Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, both Boston-based multi-billionaire executives with a company called Wayfair, Inc. Shah is the CEO. This is the same company at which employees staged a walkout over the corporation’s selling $200,000 worth furniture to furnish Trump’s border internment camps for migrants. Shah said a few months this past September that he hopes to hire “non-political” employees in the future for his company, which seems to have a some racial issues as well.
Rounding out the list of wealthy out-of-towners supporting Colorio are Raymond Stata, a multi-millionaire Republican donor from Waltham, and Daniel Quirk, a millionaire who runs a string of auto dealerships and lives in Braintree.
Indeed, Colorio’s Worcester base is very weak. According to her campaign’s financial data, available on the OCPF website, of the 78 individuals and campaign committees who donated directly to Colorio’s campaign (as opposed to the Colorio-controlled Worcester City Republican Committee or the PAC that sent out the flier), only 42 or about 57 percent – are from the city, while 32 are from out of town.
Colorio has never had $7,000 in her account, about what the mailing the businessmen bought her costs. That means that single mailing accounted for more than everything she’s raised combined. Businessmen from out of town are paying for her campaign.
Extreme right fanatics
So who supports Colorio locally? It’s hard to tell, because there are so few who do it publicly. Given that Colorio seems to be a representative of the Trump-ite extreme right (see below) and out of town billionaires, it seems that she’s adopted the strategy best suited to her campaign: focusing very little on herself, and, instead, tarring with falsehoods her opponents.
Clearly, her biggest opponents in the current race for city council are Etel Haxhiaj and Tony Economou. She came in eighth place in the recent preliminary election, just behind the others mentioned. To win a spot on the council, she needs to jump ahead of them, to come in sixth place, since there are six seats up for grabs.
I’m not sure what she has planned for Economou (I do not share his politics, but he is a decent person), but Colorio has begun smearing Haxhiaj as, of all things, a Communist, including by associating her with the author of this blog.
Colorio is the chair of the Worcester Republican City Committee, and the chair of that organization has direct control over its Facebook page,
as the city found out when Colorio’s organizational and ideological predecessor, Michael Gaffney, was its chair. On that page was posted, likely by the candidate herself, a picture of Etel Haxhiaj with Attorney General Maura Healey, as well as a picture of me with the Attorney General at the same event with a caption stating, “America fought wars against Communists, and now voters are contemplating elected (sic) a communist to City Council? Is Worcester ready for capital flight and breadlines?” The picture has a caption stating that Haxhiaj is “too extreme” for Worcester. (Apparently, Colorio mixed up Haxhiaj and Maura Healey, the Attorney General, unless she’s trying to imply that Healey is herself a Communist.)
I have already detailed in a previous post my long history into and out of the Communist Party, and that is available here. I would challenge anyone to find anything I’ve written or said in the past decade or so that is “too extreme” for Worcester or, for that matter, most of the U.S. If you’re going to write off all ex-Communists, you’ll have to forego listening to a lot of people, from Lucille Ball to Tupac Shakur to the founders of National Review and the neoconservative movement, those crazy Reds who made up much of the Bush administration. Even more deranged than calling me a Communist is characterizing Etel Haxhiaj as one: this is a woman who experienced life under Albania’s Party of Labor, perhaps second only to North Korea’s Worker’s Party as the most brutal enforcer of the failed Communist system. With her family, she fled not to Cuba or China, or even a European social democracy, but to the United States of America.
Actual extremists: they’re in Colorio’s camp
While visions of Communist extremists frighten the minds of Colorio and her Republican City Committee, actual extremists, from the other side of the spectrum, are in our midst. They come in the form of Colorio herself and her enablers. She is a founding member of the Worcester branch of the Tea Party (video of a meeting here), the movement that formed the basis of Donald Trump’s rise to power. She has been feted by far-right organizations, including the Coalition for Marriage and the Family, which attempted to turn back the clock on same-sex marriage. Upon her school committee campaign win, the Campaign congratulated the “longtime pro-marriage activist.”
The whole WRCC page that Colorio runs is something essentially a hodge podge of Trump-supporting insanity. Within the past few days, Colorio and co. have posted an obsessively
large amount of media about Mitt Romney’s recently-unmasked secret Twitter account, posts comparing CNN to dog feces, and all kinds of memes appropriate to the fringe elements of the Republican Party.
Especially hypocritical for those who tar her opponents as Communists, they’ve posted a
picture of Trump smiling with the North Korean dictator. The meme implicitly condemns Clinton, Bush, and Obama for going to the DMZ and not palling around with Kim, whose regime is by far the worst of all the Communist regimes to ever have existed, aside from, perhaps, that of the Khmer Rouge. That’s right: Haxhiaj gets condemned by Colorio for being at the same event as me, while at the same time cheering on President Trump for normalizing one of the most evil regimes in the history of the world.
Obviously, we can’t trust this person.
Colorio’s strategy, and how to beat it
Clearly, Colorio is an extremist from the Trump wing of the Republican Party, actually part of the group that paved the way for Trump to seize control of the GOP. Her committee’s page openly demeans Mitt Romney, the moderate, anti-Trump former governor of this state. This says a lot about Colorio’s Republicanism. Her goal seems to be to get herself on the city council by sending slick mailers paid for by billionaire from out of town while throwing red meat to the thousand or so right-wing fanatics within the city’s limits.
It should be noted that Colorio is also running for mayor, against Joe Petty. Obviously, she isn’t going to win that: Petty is popular, having received more than twice as many votes as Colorio in the primary. Running for mayor is another tactic, and a generally good one, for people who want to win a council seat: Colorio throws her name in for mayor, aiming to win votes from everyone who doesn’t like the incumbent, of which there are always a few thousand, under any administration at any given time. Her hope is that securing a portion of those voters is enough to push her over the top onto the council, even though she has no chance of becoming mayor. Still, though Colorio has no chance of winning that seat, it’s important that Worcester votes overwhelmingly for Joe Petty (despite any disagreements), so that he doesn’t just win, but decisively trounces the extremist Colorio, sending the message that the kind of politics she represents are absolutely rejected by the people of Worcester. And it is vitally important to ensure that Colorio be kept off the council, because it is obvious who she’ll represent: right-wing fanatics like herself, and billionaire out-of-town businessmen.
Worcester – Worchester? – can do better.