Over 300 people attended the “Reformer’s Reception” held by State Representative Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) last Friday (September 20, 2013) at Benjamin’s Restaurant in Taunton, MA. Boston Herald columnist & WRKO talk show host Howie Carr was a special guest at the standing-room-only event with State Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) acting as the evening’s master of ceremonies. Also in attendance was Boston Herald Lone Republican columnist Holly Robichaud, State Representatives Jim Lyons (R-Andover) & Keiko Orell (R-Lakeville), Taunton Mayor Tom Hoye, GOP State Committee persons Barbara Bush, Bill Gillmeister, & Mark Townsend, Taunton Republican City Committee Chairman Gene McCaffrey, Miss Taunton 2013 Ashleigh Chaves, Republican state senate candidate (& “Three Strikes” activist) Les Gosule, Republican state representative candidates Jeff Bailey & Shaun Dooley, former GOP candidate David Steinhof, & three (3) candidates running for the Taunton City Council.
Prior to introducing O’Connell, Diehl lauded her “courage” in taking on “difficult” issues such as obtaining welfare data on benefit balances from the state Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), forcing the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to disclose to the public information on its pension system, & resisting tax increases at a time when the state’s Department Of Revenue reported that tax revenue had come in higher than projected.
O’Connell then used Diehl’s introduction as a foundation upon which she detailed to her approving audience some of the unusual steps she took to get what she wanted. For example, when the DTA insisted that O’Connell pay $800 to obtain the data she sought, the statuesque beauty didn’t bat an eye when she coughed up the money. “They thought I wouldn’t call their bluff,” she observed with a wry smile. The audience loved that moment & several others like it. Before the night was out, O’Connell would receive at least three (3) standing ovations from the star-struck audience.
During the course of her speech, O’Connell called for an audit of the DTA & pledged to push a “bill of rights” for businesses in Massachusetts that would included – among other things – a year’s notice for any tax or fee increase, mandatory public hearings on tax increases (along with cost/benefits analysis on any regulation that impacted business), & update/streamline laws that regulate independent contractors. She stated that because she was “not a seat warmer” & was never going to be a part of the “go-along to get-along crowd”, she said she “expects” the Democrats to send “a cruise missile” her way in the form of a candidate hoping to unseat her in 2014. She thanked her supporters for assisting her in her mission to “restore integrity”, promulgate transparency, & “fight” on behalf of the state’s taxpayers.
O’Connell also gave a special shout out to Carr for his efforts to highlight her work in exposing fraud & allowing her to frequently go on his radio show in order to take her case directly to the public. As if on cue, Carr took a break from hawking his books (copies of “Rifleman” were flying off his table) to give a heartfelt endorsement of O’Connell the person & the type of public servant she represented. The talkmaster declared that O’Connell’s fights with Beacon Hill “resonated” with his radio fan base & that the power brokers on Beacon Hill “hate her” because “she rocks the boat”.
Carr said he was assured by O’Connell that she would stay in the legislature to fight the good fight & forgo any appeals for her to run next year for state-wide office (such as the office for Lt. Governor). He pointed out that few people of integrity had the stomach to endure both the “hard corruption & the soft corruption” that he said was endemic on Beacon Hill. “We need more people like her in the legislature,” opined Carr in a rare moment of seriousness.
After the event was over, I overheard Carr say that he & his team had “sold a lot of books”. A person manning the table for the group pushing the initiative petition to repeal the gas tax expressed his satisfaction that “a lot of people” were “happy” to sign his sheets. The electricity in the room for O’Connell dissipated only after members of the audience left the building to return to their respective homes. It remains to be seen whether or not O’Connell’s strong show of support will translate into a successful re-election bid next year. But her record of accomplishments and the passion of her supporters should give her an edge against any “cruise missile” lobbed at her by her political opponents.