When legislators buried the marriage amendment without a vote at the November 9 Constitutional Convention, it was a good sign that pols have nothing to fear politically from same-sex marriage opponents. But a clearer sign came days earlier, in a relatively obscure race on the South Shore, where “traditional marriage” defenders tried — and failed — to influence the outcome.
LAST-DITCH EFFORT: In the Plymouth 12th District, opponents of same-sex marriage paid “volunteers” to distribute campaign material in support of the Republican candidate, for a total cost of $1750.
That race featured underdog Democrat Tom Calter and Republican Olly DeMacedo, both fighting for the House seat being vacated by Democrat Thomas O’Brien in the Plymouth 12th District. DeMacedo, a long-time Plymouth selectman and brother of State Representative Vinnie DeMacedo, came out of the primary with a 30-point lead in the polls in a heavily Republican district — one of the few that Kerry Healey carried in the governor’s race.
Yet by the weekend before the general election, that lead was down to single digits, Calter says.
That’s when three people leaped in with a last-minute, stealth effort to sway the election — one that neither candidate even knew about until informed by the Phoenix last week.
Those three people are Walter Weld of Dover, Tom Shields of Beverly, and Tom Breuer of Winchester, none of whom reside in the district. Weld is chair of the Massachusetts Family Institute’s (MFI) board of directors; Shields is the former chair of VoteOnMarriage.org; and Breuer, along with his wife, Carol, has financially supported MFI and MFI-approved candidates. The three, as well as their wives, were among the 30 original signers of the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that was recently tabled by the state legislature.
On the Saturday before the election, they printed several thousand brochures urging people to vote for DeMacedo, and paid about four dozen people — mostly college students from outside the district — to take the materials door-to-door. They even paid the canvassers, a rarity in politics, since campaign volunteers usually do the door-knocking.
One canvasser, who was paid $880 for the day’s work, was Paul Craney, deputy campaign director for VoteOnMarriage.org. Another, Mike Miltenberger, a Harvard junior and chair of the Massachusetts Alliance of College Republicans (MACR), got $275. Another $250 went to MACR’s vice-chair, Brian Gwozdz, a sophomore at UMass Amherst.
Altogether, Weld, Shields, and Breuer forked out $6725 for canvassing, and another $1125 for printing costs.
As for what they were distributing, both Shields and Weld tell the Phoenix that they did not actually see the material. Breuer could not be reached for comment.
“It was just encouragement to vote for DeMacedo, who has values that I support,” Weld says.
“When I’m asked by a friend to help out for a campaign who supports our values, I’m glad to do it,” Shields says.
All three reported the costs as independent expenditures with the secretary of state’s office. Organizations are allowed to spend unlimited money this way, as long as they don’t coordinate their activities with the campaigns.
DeMacedo says he knows the trio, but “was unaware that they did anything” for his candidacy. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”