Mayor Taunton O’Connell disowns email on ‘Marxist-Socialist hellish landscape’


TAUNTON – In early June, some Tauntonians were surprised to receive an email, apparently from Mayor Shaunna O’Connell, which contained divisive and highly partisan messages – something rare for the mayor.

The email, sent from the [email protected] email address, listed “Shaunna O’Connell” as the sender.

In early June, an email was sent, apparently from Mayor Shaunna O'Connell, which contained divisive partisan messages.

The body of the email was tame and focused on the mayor’s proposed reform of the city charter.

A fundraising post at the bottom was the first sign of inconsistency in the post. Above a “Donate Now” button linked to a fundraising page for the Mayor, read “Stop Democrats From Destroying America. Donate $ 25 TODAY!”

In early June, an email was sent, apparently from Mayor Shaunna O'Connell, which contained divisive partisan messages.

But what really caught the attention of some recipients was the message that appeared when they tried to unsubscribe from the mailing list.

The page contained a photo and quote from Founding Father Thomas Paine, and appeared to be the unsubscribe page for a political marketing firm called the Common Sense Council. It then had four paragraphs that tried to persuade the recipient of the email not to unsubscribe.

The second and most eye-catching paragraph reads:

“We know we send a lot of emails. We do it for STOP THE DEMOCRATS to turn this country into a marxist-socialist infernal landscape.

In early June, an email was sent, apparently from Mayor Shaunna O'Connell, which contained divisive partisan messages.  The unsubscribe page was even more extreme.

In a private Facebook group, the Tauntonians expressed their disapproval of the inflammatory message in the email and the unsubscribe message.

“The local elections must remain non-partisan, it’s sick and 100% false! Really ashamed of whoever sent these emails!” wrote local Democrat Timothy Silvia Jr.

“What’s this in the name of Marjorie Taylor Greene?” wrote Mark Doherty, Elector of Taunton.

“This inflated and confrontational rhetoric has no place in our community,” local Democrat and city councilor Barry Sanders said of the matter. “Mayor O’Connell preached unity and collaboration. I expect her to explain how her name came to be associated with this, to clarify that she condemns it and take action. necessary to ensure that his campaign is not associated with these negative elements in the future. ”

Sanders’ prediction was correct. Asked about the email, O’Connell said she was very upset about it. She said her campaign committee recently hired a new marketing firm to raise awareness in Taunton, but the campaign went awry.

“On this company’s very first email for me, they cut and pasted my city charter information into the body of another client’s email who was showing up for Congress,” he said. she said in a press release.

As soon as she learned of it, O’Connell said, she fired the marketing company on or around June 7. She said she was in the process of finding a new business.

“As a longtime Tauntonian raising my family in my hometown, I very much appreciate the fact that I was elected by a diverse mix of voters, consisting of independent voters, Democrats and Republicans. ‘Would never knowingly approve a communication that disrespects or alienates some of the very people who voted for me, ”she said.

Mayor Shaunna O'Connell greets veterans, family and friends at the re-dedication ceremony of the Taunton Desert Shield / Desert Storm monument on Sunday, November 1, 2020. Taunton Gazette |  Mike Borden

“I am deeply sorry that this error has occurred and I intend to put in some additional safeguards to ensure that a marketing company I have hired does not make such a glaring mistake again. My principle director has always been about putting people above politics, and it remains so today. Over the past 11 years, I have helped thousands of people from all walks of life. “

Taunton Democrat and City Councilor Phil Duarte said he spoke to O’Connell about the email right after learning about it.

“Unfortunately, divisive rhetoric has become the norm for marketing companies. Based on my tenure on city council, I can certainly say that Mayor O’Connell has been someone willing to work beyond the lines. party to tackle the issues facing our community, ”he said in a statement.

“We might not agree on everything, but in the end, Mayor O’Connell showed me that she was ready to look for areas of agreement on which to collaborate and do what’s in. the best interest of the town of Taunton and it’s locals. ”

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Brian Frederick, chair of the political science department at Bridgewater State University, said such polarization of messages in the email is rare in local politics, but not in national politics.

“While people identify with Democrats or Republicans, nonetheless, in a local environment, you don’t see as much partisanship,” he said.

Frederick said he could imagine why this type of message backfired and why the mayor would want to walk away from it.

“Typically you are in a fairly politically competitive city like Taunton and you want to try to get support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents,” he said. “Sending a message that much of your constituency is Marxist and Socialist and wants hellish scenery isn’t going to go very well.”

When running a campaign, said Frederick, even if a candidate wins with this type of message, it can be detrimental in the long run as it will have generated a lot of ill will, which will make the government process more difficult. .

But, said Frederick, some political marketing companies might not campaign for local elections frequently, so they instead use the same game manual they use in national elections, ignoring the potential consequences.

Trying to tie Marxism and socialism to Democrats is a tactic Republican campaigns have begun to use more often since the 2016 election and the rise of openly Democratic socialist senator Bernie Sanders, Frederick said.

This tactic picked up even more in the years that followed after the election of openly Democratic Socialist Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and because some of the Black Lives Matter leaders declared they were openly socialists, he said. he declares.

Across the aisle, Frederick said, some Democrats have used a similar tactic in trying to portray Republicans as fascists.

“It could be an effective strategy elsewhere in the country, but it will not work well in a community like Taunton,” he said.

While Frederick said it was unlikely that anyone in O’Connell’s campaign saw the email and unsubscribe message before it was sent, he said he was likely that a campaign staff member thought the post was acceptable or just didn’t pay attention to the details.

“In some cases, [the candidate] can know and they can feign ignorance, but I think the most common scenario is where they just don’t know what’s going on because they are delegating these responsibilities to campaign staff, “he said. said. “So I think it’s very plausible that the mayor I didn’t know that was the message that was being conveyed.”

Yet, Frederick said, decisions such as which messages to use in campaign emails are often made in a black box, so it’s impossible to know who actually created the message. And if something doesn’t work well, it’s usually the marketing company that takes the brunt.

“If something is controversial, the campaign will distance itself,” he said. “So who is really telling the truth?


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