NEWBURYPORT — Like every Memorial Day, at-large City Councilor Barry Connell marched in the parade on May 31.
He said yesterday he can't remember a better-organized or better-attended Memorial Day event in the city. But there was one part of the day that was marred, he said.
As the parade began from the Bartlet Mall, three supporters of congressional candidate Bill Hudak slipped into the parade and marched behind the City Council and other elected officials, Connell said. One was wearing a Hudak T-shirt, and two others were wearing campaign buttons, and they carried an American flag. They waved to the crowd and advertised Hudak's candidacy as the marchers walked the route, Connell said. Hudak, a Boxford Republican, is running against incumbent Democrat John Tierney in the fall election.
Following the ceremony in Brown Square, Connell said he noticed the trio again step in line with the other marchers as the parade continued down to the waterfront.
"They just had this cat-that-ate-the-canary look," he said.
Connell said he decided against approaching them and asking them which Newburyport group they were part of. All marchers are invited to take part in the ceremony, he said.
Instead, he asked veterans officer Kevin Hunt, who said they had no affiliation, and shared his disappointment and outrage that the three campaigners would slip into the event and use it as a chance to push politics.
Hunt could not be reached for comment yesterday, as he is away from City Hall until next week.
But Connell said the veterans agent sent Hudak two e-mails asking him about the campaigning. Hudak did not respond to Hunt, Connell said.
Hudak did not return a phone call seeking comment for this article.
Connell said yesterday Hudak supporters were also present at the city's Veterans Day ceremonies, handing out campaign literature and greeting voters.
Like then, Memorial Day is "not a political event," he said. "This is not a political day."
"Memorial Day is for people who have served in the Armed Forces and lost their lives," Connell said. "This is not the time for some chintzy political stunt. The people who are aware of it are outraged."
Connell said a candidate is responsible for actions taken by their supporters on their behalf.
"It's the responsibility of the candidate and no one else," he said. "If someone is offended by those actions, he owes them an apology. There are some things that are right, and there are some things that are wrong. If you're going to serve this district in Washington, you better know where that line is, and this fellow doesn't seem to have a clue."
Hudak is running in the September primary against Rob McCarthy of Saugus, who is also seeking the Republican nomination.