By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB. 2, 2012….Freshman Republican Rep. Paul Adams, redistricted by his colleagues out of his Andover-based seat, has decided to challenge state Sen. Barry Finegold in the fall rather than run against another freshman, Republican Rep. Jim Lyons, or follow through on his earlier pledge to move and run in a new majority-minority district in Lawrence.
Adams announced his candidacy for state Senate on Thursday with an emailed letter to constituents after weeks of speculation about his plans among members of the Legislature. Adams failed to return multiple calls from the News Service about his re-election plans since entering a settlement agreement last month with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance over alleged campaign finance violations during his first run for office.
In the letter, Adams whacked Finegold for serving in the House and Senate when a 25 percent sales tax went into effect and local aid to cities and towns was cut by hundreds of millions of dollars during the recession.
“For 16 years, my opponent, Barry Finegold, has voted to tax, regulate, and spend. His votes have damaged the state economy, eliminated thousands of jobs, and lowered your standard of living. The legislation he supports demonstrates how badly he’s grown out-of-touch with the Merrimack Valley,” Adams wrote.
The Senate district where Adams and Finegold will compete includes Lawrence, Andover, Dracut and Tewksbury.
Adams did not return a call for comment on Thursday. Finegold was unavailable for comment.
The redistricting process last year resulted in the Andover precinct in which Adams lived being moved into the 18th Essex District, represented by Lyons. The new 17th Essex – the seat Adams currently holds – includes just three Andover precincts instead of six, eight precincts in Lawrence and one in Methuen. The district would no longer include parts of Tewksbury, as it does now.
Adams, 30, told the News Service in October that he would move “about three miles down the street” and compete in the newly configured 17th Essex rather than run against Lyons. The new district was hailed by House Democrats as one of 10 new majority-minority districts created by the redistricting plan with the addition four precincts in north Lawrence.
“I have every intention in running for re-election,” Adams said. “I currently represent six of the precincts. They gave me a few more. Many Lawrencians already know me as their neighbor and voice on Beacon Hill,” Adams said at the time.
It was unclear on Thursday if and to where Adams had moved.
Adams won election to the House in 2010 in a district formerly represented by Finegold who gave up the seat to run in 2010 for the state Senate. Adams significantly outspent his Democratic opponent during that campaign, but last month was hit with a $1,000 fine for disguising excess campaign contributions from family members after receiving $45,000 in loans from his parents and brother.
Despite Lawrence’s status as a Democratic stronghold, Adams maintained in October that he was competitive during his last campaign in Lawrence and “relates well to the Hispanic community.” Adams said he speaks fluent Spanish and Portuguese, spent time working in Brazil as a Mormon missionary and later worked in Venezuela, and said his fiancé is of Mexican descent.
“I look forward to getting to know the people in North Lawrence better,” Adams said.
In his letter on Thursday, Adams said he received more votes than Finegold in 2010 in precincts where the two currently overlap, and cited the strength of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, who took 59 percent of the vote in the district during his race against Attorney General Martha Coakley, as reasons he can win.
“While serving as your state representative, I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the fiscal health of our commonwealth, the continued unemployment and part-time job crisis, and the culture of corruption on Beacon Hill,” Adams wrote, vowing to oppose Gov. Deval Patrick’s budget that includes higher spending and tax proposals and lamenting the “unaccountable supermajority” on Beacon Hill that “steamrolls debate” and “pilfers your tax dollars.”
Though Adams settled with OCPF over the alleged campaign finance violation, he lashed out in the disposition agreement against what he described as a “statutory scheme” prohibiting family generosity.
The agreement stated that Adams, his parents and his brother believe “there is nothing at all perverse, unnatural, or corrupting about a pattern of family generosity rooted in the deepest yearnings of parental or fraternal hearts, and that what is unnatural, and ultimately corrupting, is a statutory scheme construed so as to prohibit such generosity within a family, and whereby parents and siblings are deprived of a most basic right to provide financial support to a child or sibling merely because that child or sibling might at some unspecified future date become a candidate for public office.”
Adams said that the $39,000 gifted to him from his parents and brother was to replace income he lost when he gave up his job before deciding to seek a seat in the House, and he considered the money to be his to spend as he wished. His attorney, former U.S. attorney and Republican Party chairman candidate Frank McNamara, told the News Service the money was not given to Adams by his family with the intent that it be spent on a future campaign.
Adams said the year-long OCPF review “itself attested to the difficulty of interpreting the vague and overly-broad definition of ‘contribution’ contained in the Commonwealth’s highly complex and technical campaign finance law . . . in the context of gifts from immediate family members.”
He wrote that questions about gifts from family members under campaign finance law represent a “novel question of law” and an issue that he “could have hardly anticipated,” but he has not responded to questions about whether he intends to file legislation to address the perceived ambiguity.
Under the settlement agreement, Adams and his parents as a unit each paid the state $1,000 and his brother paid a $2,000 fine.
Adams also agreed to forgive the $45,000 loan listed as a liability on his campaign finance account. OCPF took into consideration the timing of the election year gifts to Adams and the agency wrote that it has “consistently interpreted the limit as applying to contributions made by a candidate’s family members, other than a spouse.”