Voters Don't Seem to Be Holding Social Media Slip Against Rep in Mayor's Race

Thursday, September 21, 2017

If you’re running for public office and make a slip on social media, even a small one, it can take months to live it down.  Just ask Paul Heroux, who’s running for mayor of Attleboro and is the favorite in the race after Tuesday’s preliminary election in the town.

Three months ago, on Facebook, Heroux sent this message to a former girlfriend, thinking it was for her eyes only: “What you don’t know was behind the scenes I applied for a couple of jobs.  I have several job opportunities available to me in New York.  I don’t want to run for mayor.  I’d much rather go down there and rebuild with you.  I’m pretty sure that’s not an option though, for you that is. What do you say?”
Heroux accidentally posted the message publicly.  Within minutes, his political adversaries learned of it, and, within an hour, they were distributing print copies of it around town.  Heroux found out and promptly removed it from Facebook.  This all happened in the early morning hours of June 22.

With his commitment to a mayoral campaign questioned, Heroux did the best he could to explain away the situation.  According to an account in the Sun Chronicle newspaper, he said that he had made it clear when he first announced he was running for mayor that it was not a move he ever envisioned for himself. There are other goals in life he wanted to pursue, he told the Sun Chronicle, but he saw it as his duty to run.
The question dogged Heroux’s campaign and will continue to pose a problem for him until the final election on November 7, although probably not a fatal one.  On Tuesday, he topped the ticket in the preliminary, receiving 2,217 votes -- 251 more than the incumbent, Mayor Kevin Dumas, who received 1,966 votes.  The third-place candidate in the preliminary, retired Attleboro Fire Chief Ronald Churchill, got 587 votes.

You can be sure that Dumas, who’s been mayor for 14 years, will campaign hard to hold onto his job and not hesitate to remind voters that, mere weeks ago, Heroux was musing about starting a new life for himself in New York, so how seriously can he be taking this mayor thing?
On the last day before the preliminary, Heroux, interestingly, turned to Facebook to demonstrate how much he wanted to be mayor, posting an account of how he had just been bitten by dog while out on the streets campaigning.  The story was accompanied by photos of a bloody, torn sock and of Heroux in a medical office. 

“I have been bitten six times knocking on doors,” Heroux wrote.  “I still love dogs.  But if anybody ever questions whether or not I want to be mayor, they really should think again.”
Paul Heroux is one of the most highly educated members of the legislature.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from the University of Southern California, a master’s in criminology from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s in international relations from the London School of Economics, and a master’s in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  He’s 41 years old and has been in the House since January of 2013.  He’s at the point in life where most men and women do some very hard thinking about the direction of their lives and careers.  By deciding to stay in politics, he may well be closing down permanently routes to some very lucrative and exciting alternatives to public life.  I don’t feel bad for him because his political adversaries have been tormenting him with questions about his commitment to public service.  He brought the problem on himself. 

But it’s no big deal, and certainly no evidence of a character flaw, that he was privately weighing other options.  (Who, by the way, reading the message to the former girlfriend cannot be touched by the cautious hope of a reignited romance and a new life together in the capital of the world – the idea that he’d ditch politics for the woman he still loved but who may not love him?  Heroux, of course, is a Democrat.)  If I were a resident of Attleboro, I would not hesitate to give him my vote for mayor.


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