AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, July 28, 2017
Candidate's Talk Show Perfomance Not A Hit...
If You Want To Be the Mayor...
by Bill Gouveia for the Sun Chronicle
State representative and mayoral candidate Paul Heroux has a tough fight coming up this fall when he takes on three strong candidates vying to become the next mayor of Attleboro. One happens to be seven-term incumbent Mayor Kevin Dumas, and some are hoping for an exciting final election between these two proven politicians.
But so far in the very early stages of what some believe will be a particularly intense and nasty campaign, Heroux’s biggest problem has not been the mayor or his other worthy opponents. It has been himself.
Unless he starts concentrating a bit more on not figuratively shooting himself in the foot, Heroux, D-Attleboro, might just find himself continuing to hold on to his current job, where he has been a solid representative for his district.
Running for mayor in Attleboro is a bit different than running for the state Legislature. In fact, running for local office is a whole different ballgame than seeking a state legislative seat. While in this case the constituency is largely the same, the attention paid and the expectations demanded from the two positions are much different.
Heroux is particularly good at constituent service, and gets high marks from most for quickly responding to issues and problems brought to him by voters and citizens in his district. But the spotlight fixed on the mayor’s office is brighter and more intense locally than that focused on the person representing the Second Bristol District on Beacon Hill.
Heroux has already had an unfortunate personal situation come up during the campaign, an inadvertent posting he made on Facebook. It was an innocent error, and should not make anyone less likely to vote for him. But you have to be careful in the age of social media.
Now Heroux has made headlines by walking out of an appearance with local radio talk host Dave Kane. After apparently accepting an invitation to appear with the often controversial Kane, Heroux stormed out in anger before the interview was complete.
Kane was tough on the candidate, referring to him as a “genius” and constantly interrupting him. At one point Heroux warned that if the interruptions continued, he would walk out. Kane replied that the silence would be an improvement. So Heroux did exit, and allegedly called Kane a “jerk” while doing so.
In today’s national political climate, this is small potatoes. President Trump dishes out worse than that before breakfast, and has it returned before lunch.
But the standards are different on the local level. With few exceptions, if you can’t take the heat – well, you have to find another room to inhabit.
Heroux had to know, or should have known, the type of environment he was walking into. And he had to be – or should have been – totally prepared to deal with the situation.
Was Kane out of line? Most would agree he was. It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time, by his own admission. But the radio host is not a candidate. He is not seeking to represent the people who listen to him. They are free to turn the dial (do people still actually “turn” dials anymore?) or shut him off.
Local officials meet with frustrated and angry constituents almost every day. They must deal with a skeptical press and aggressive media types. When they accept the burden of office, they quickly learn one thing they cannot do (without resigning) is walk away in anger. It is their job to deal with problems, not storm away from them.
Kane threw out the bait, and Heroux bit hard. While his “toughness” may have made some supporters happy, it did little to help win over undecided voters. It was unprofessional, especially coming from someone who generally personifies professionalism.
Had he simply said “Mr. Kane, you are not letting me answer your questions. Thanks for the opportunity, but I prefer an actual conversation” and left without making the “jerk” comment, it would have been a much different situation.
Heroux deserves credit just for going on the show. But losing your cool on a radio talk show is not a great start to a possible mayoral tenure.
It was exactly the kind of attention a radio host loves, but a potential mayor doesn’t need.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook