Candidate for State Representative Says He's Only as 'Gimmicky' as Rosa Parks


You know the election needs to end when a race for state representative in Massachusetts descends into a fight about whether Rosa Parks was too gimmicky. But that’s pretty much what is happening between Independent Mike Connolly and State Rep. Tim Toomey after their debate Tuesday. Connolly is running a “no money” campaign, meaning he’s not fundraising, to emphasize that he wants to eradicate the influence of money from politics. BostInno’s Steve Annear reports that after Toomey and the Republican candidate Thomas Vasconelos called his campaign a gimmick, Connolly rather inartfully responded:

“I think my campaign, sure there is a marketing element to it, but it’s also grounded in substance, take Rosa Parks for example, when she refused to get out of her seat, in some ways that was a gimmick. If she really wanted the bus to take her where she was going, she would have got up and moved when she was asked to leave. But what she was doing is, she was trying to make a point, and that’s what we are trying to do with our campaign.”

So … yikes. Toomey has obviously jumped on the opportunity to say he “was genuinely stunned” by the line. Allow us to interpret Connolly a bit here because what he may have meant to say is that while Rosa Parks has occasionally been portrayed as an old lady who was simply tired the day she refused to give up her bus seat, she’ll point out that she was only 42 and, in fact, already a civil rights activist with a good sense of what she was doing. And she and others saw her arrest as a good case around which to rally a boycott and a legal challenge to the law. In short, she had some good P.R. sense. Connolly tells Annear:

I am not saying she is a gimmick or what she did was a gimmick and it makes me cringe to even say those words … What I was conveying, is there is substance in taking an action that throws attention to an important issue.

The problem obviously is that “gimmick” is a bit pejorative-sounding. And even if it weren’t, people tend not to appreciate when politicians draw comparisons between themselves and important historical figures. (See: Newt Gingrich pretty much once every other day.) Anyway, though he says it’s unlikely Connolly will find any electoral success, the Phoenix’s Chris Faraone, who also recapped the debate, calls this race “one of the most exciting spats anywhere.” A good old-fashioned fight over Rosa Parks’s legacy will do that to a race.