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September 16, 2013

In Newburyport, anonymous election flyer tactic draws outrage

Unsigned mailer decried by candidates, COW

NEWBURYPORT — Hours before voters go to the polls in tomorrow’s preliminary election, the three mayoral candidates are expected to meet this afternoon at City Hall to denounce an anonymous citywide mailing critical of Mayor Donna Holaday that sparked widespread outrage among voters over the weekend.

The mailing, with a Boston postmark and a misspelling on its address page, implores residents not to vote for Holaday, stating she will not protect the waterfront from commercial development, a flip-flop from four years ago when, as a city councilor running for mayor, she campaigned for an “open” waterfront. Holaday recently acknowledged her position regarding waterfront development has evolved since then.

But in the hours that followed the flier’s arrival in mailboxes across the city, candidates Gregory Earls and Dick Sullivan Jr., along with members of Citizens for an Open Waterfront (COW), scrambled to deny responsibility for it. Both Earls and Sullivan have stated their opposition to private development on the 4.2 acres owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.

Yesterday, while speaking to voters and picking up a few items at the downtown farmers market, Holaday bashed the mailing, saying it misrepresented her stance and featured an out-of-date image of a development proposal no longer on the table.

Around the same time, Earls and Sullivan both criticized the mailing, with Earls going as far as calling it “unfortunate” and an affront to the way politics are conducted within the city.

“It’s very unfortunate, it certainly doesn’t help me,” Earls said, adding he would never send out an anonymous mailing.

Earls said he also visited the farmers market yesterday and spent considerable time campaigning in strategic areas in the city.

Sullivan, a retired firefighter, said while he believed Holaday’s change of heart regarding waterfront development was a worthy topic of debate, he has kept his campaign positive, upbeat and focused on the issues.

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