Unfortunately for Stat Smith, He Had More House Signs in Everett than Votes

Thursday, September 6, 2018

In the case of Steven “Stat” Smith, the people of Everett were not willing to let bygones be bygones.  Thank God.

On Tuesday voters there decisively rejected Smith’s bid to regain his old seat in the Massachusetts House, a position he was forced from in 2012 by the U.S. Attorney because he’d abused the absentee ballot process.

Smith paid a $20,000 fine, was sentenced to four months in federal prison, and banned from running for public office again for a period of five years.  That ban was up in April.

Within days Smith was asking his townspeople to sign nomination papers to put him on the September 4 ballot in the Democratic primary for representative in the 28th Middlesex District.  He amassed more than 500 signatures in one weekend -- many multiples of the required number.
Smith ran an energetic, high-visibility campaign throughout the spring and summer.  He persuaded untold hundreds of Everett homeowners to put signs up promoting his candidacy.  You could not go a tenth of a mile without seeing a Stat Smith sign.  Smith even snagged the editorial endorsement of the newspaper of record, the Everett Leader Herald!

It was all for naught. 
When the votes were tallied Tuesday night, Smith was dead last behind the incumbent representative, Joe McGonagle, a well-liked and effective figure at the State House, and Gerly Adrien, a woman highly qualified for public office.  The results were: McGonagle, 1,968; Adrien, 1,800; Smith, 893. 

With no Republican opponent in November, McGonagle’s a lock for another term.
Smith was elected to the House three times.  I often bumped into him at the State House during his years there, 2007-2012.  He was a long-time friend of my late brother-in-law, Joe Curnane, Jr.  Joe thought the world of him.  Stat and I never had trouble finding something to talk about.  He was a good Everett guy, easy to like.  I liked him.

But I believe Smith’s guilty plea made him permanently undeserving of a vote for public office, any office.  Voting is the essence of a free and just democratic society.  Our system of government demands that the ballot be kept sacrosanct.
That is not to say Smith should never re-enter public life in some role, say as a member of the board of health or as a library trustee, or that he should be shunned in the community.   Smith paid the price for his crimes, two misdemeanor counts of voter fraud, and deserves every good chance at forgiveness and redemption -- as long as he isn’t trying to redeem himself, that is, through the local ballot box.

My first reaction to his candidacy was that Smith did not have a prayer.  Then I witnessed the steady proliferation of Smith house signs and started thinking, maybe I am missing something?
I kept expecting to see an ad in the local papers – there are three weeklies in Everett – or a flyer from the McGonagle or Adrien camps calling Smith out for having been a jailbird.  If such was produced, it escaped me.  Smith was getting a pass on his biggest weakness as a candidate!

I never expected to see a Leader-Herald editorial endorsing Smith. When it appeared just before the primary, on Thursday, August 30, the thought crossed my mind that the momentum might be shifting Smith’s way. I braced for a Stat comeback.
Turns out I worried needlessly. 

On Tuesday the voters of Everett restored my faith in humanity.  There’s a proverb that holds, “The judgment of the village is never wrong.”  Everett has a population of well over 50,000 but it is still like a village in many respects.  Everybody knows everybody.
Sitting on my desk is a copy of the pro-Smith editorial, headlined simply, “Smith for Rep.”  I read it again before starting to write this post.  Again, I marveled at how well it says basically nothing.  It has the feel of having come from the keyboard of a conscript whose heart wasn’t in it.  Here are three typical lines, followed by my comments in italic type…

“We believe he is the best choice because he is willing to work, and to work hard.”  80 percent of the Everett population qualifies for the legislature on that basis.
“Steven Smith has overcome trials and tribulations in his life.”  Where’s the person in Everett who, at 63 years (Smith’s age), has not overcome?

“He has worked hard and smart.” Except, of course, for that little absentee ballot caper.
“Smith for Rep” was written simply, which is usually a virtue in writing.  Had the Leader Herald wished to attain an even purer form of simplicity, it could have gone with a two-sentence editorial along these lines:

Yes, folks, a good smile has long been an element of success on Beacon Hill.  Stat gets our vote because he brushes and flosses.

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