Sunday, June 24, 2007

Does This Happen Often?

Fifth District Candidate Rep. Barry Finegold has found himself in a bit of controversy after it was discovered that he appeared as a cosponsor of a bill that would require a 24 hour waiting period before a woman would be allowed to have an abortion in Massachusetts. That information came out during last week's debate, and fellow candidate Niki Tsongas used that bit of information in a fundraising appeal that went out through EMILY's List, a pro-choice political organization. Finegold has since claimed that his sponsorship was the result of a mistake on the part of his staff, and has removed his name from that bill. He's also called on Tsongas to stop using his unintentional support of the measure to cast doubt on his pro-choice record.

This comes just about a week or so after the confusion over whether Senator Paul Donato actually meant to cosponsor Senate Bill 123 got to the point where Senator Robert Hedlund, who filed the bill, had to issue a statement explaining how co-sponsors were listed. The confluence of these events makes me wonder how often legislators end up being cosponsors of bills they never either read or meant to lend their support to.

This might seem like a small matter, but I think it actually can affect the race. The differences between the Democratic candidates -- aside from Rep. Jim Micelli, the most conservative of the field -- are actually quite small. Sure Rep. Jamie Eldridge has staked out the territory furthest to the left, but Tsongas, Finegold and Lowell City Councilor Eileen Donoghue occupy a similar center-left space. If the other candidates can convince voters that Finegold is squishy on choice, that might be enough to cause undecideds to rule him out in favor of candidates whose records are unblemished.