Saturday, July 20, 2024

I recently received a mailer from the Cambridge Citizens Coalition profiling its 11 endorsed candidates for election for the Cambridge City Council this fall. To be a well-informed voter, I decided to research each candidate independently to see if I would be interested in voting for them, and if I could trust the recommendations of this organization. While several of the endorsed candidates seemed like they may be reasonable neighbors, even if I didn’t agree with every one of their policy decisions, the words and actions of others were so off-putting that it would be very hard for me to consider voting for any of the candidates on the list.

The CCC has endorsed Robert Winters as a “civic leader,” but his history is troubling to say the least. His Twitter account is a compendium of far-right ideology. None of this is a mistake, he’s liked and tweeted hundreds of racist, transphobic, anti-immigrant, anti-abortion and other vile posts over the years. (I don’t have links to every post because he seems to have scrubbed his Twitter account of some tweets.) He says he’s a registered Democrat but proudly supported Charlie Baker.

He doesn’t much seem to like other Democrats. Or women in general. He called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “fascist-in-training” and Cambridge’s federal representatives Ayanna Pressley an “embarrassment” and is unhappy with Katherine Clark. He liked a tweet calling Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first black woman to hold the position, the “dumbest” in history. It’s clear he has a problem with women in power, especially women of color. And religious diversity? He’s said that “Islam and democracy rarely mix well” and that he’d rather have a military takeover than Islam in power. It must be hard for him to live in Cambridge given that our mayor, Sumbul Siddiqui, is Muslim.

In 2022, he added a local drag queen event at the Cambridge Public Library to an online right-wing list, which caused the Cambridge police to have to use resources to keep Cambridge residents safe. He has interacted regularly with far-right groups online such as Libs of Tiktok. He’s even defended out-of-state far-right groups staging events such as the “straight pride parade” in Boston. His online presence puts him to the right of Ron DeSantis.

Yet the Cambridge Citizens Coalition is happy to endorse him as a “Cambridge civic leader.”

Others on the list aren’t much better. Take Carrie Pasquarello, whom the CCC endorsed for her “international work” (it’s unclear what this work is or how it is relevant to the city). Her online presence may not be as long, but where she does show up, it’s just as vile. She’s retweeted accounts called “Neo-Aryan” and liked many anti-LGBTQ tweets and anti-Muslim tweets, interacting with many pro-Trump, far-right online users. In a city where just 6.4 percent of people voted for Trump, the CCC is glad to endorse someone who almost certainly did.

Cathy Zusy has stayed quieter online, but she’s hardly in line with Cambridge values. While she may be a registered Democrat today, it was not long ago that she was on the other side of the aisle; she was a registered Republican in 2013 (and perhaps more recently). CCC seems happy with a slate with multiple right-wingers, which is not at all representative of the Cambridge I live in.

The other eight candidates? It’s hard to know. Do they hold similar views but just have quieter online presences? Are they going to work with our state and federal representation, or antagonize them? Or will they renounce their endorsement on this list and the CCC’s slate in general? I’m all ears.

The CCC advertised an event to meet this “remarkable group of candidates.” While I don’t know the political leanings of all of them, in the case of Winters, Zusy and Pasquarello, their views certainly are “remarkable” for Cambridge, or really anywhere within a civil society. I would urge the CCC to look closely at the candidates they have chosen to endorse, and consider the company they keep.

I, for one, will be looking at other candidates to represent me on the City Council.

Ari Ofsevit, Arcadia Street