Flinging Mud in MA-5: The Incumbent, AC/DC, and the Candidate with the Shamrock Tattoo


Last week, I wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal on the quixotic campaign of Sam Meas, a Cambodian immigrant and survivor of the Killing Fields running for Congress in Massachusetts as a "Reagan Republican." As I noted, Meas—who has limited money and political experience—will have a difficult time in getting beyond the September 14 Republican primary, which local election watchers predict will be handily won by Jon Golnik, a comparatively well-funded, moderate Republican whose staff includes veterans of the Scott Brown campaign. Various members of the Massachusetts Republican establishment explained that while Meas's story was compelling, he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell against Golnik.

After my short piece on Meas—which was by no means an endorsement of his candidacy or his views—I received dozens of emails, wondering why I would profile a guy who couldn't possibly win when Golnik, the candidate who supposedly had a shot at beating Democratic incumbent Niki Tsongas, deserved the attention (Answer: Golnik didn't escape a Khmer Rouge executioner). Indeed, as I acknowledged, quoting a local pollster, Golnik has something of a shot, provided a significant number of votes aren't siphoned off by independent candidates. After all, the district—MA-5—came out big for Sen. Scott Brown. And as Golnik effused on his campaign website, RealClearPolitics recently "upgraded our race from 'safely Democrat' to 'likely Democratic.'" In Massachusetts, against an incumbent with a famous last name, that's some achievement.

But as the race comes down to the wire, Golnik's opponents—it's unclear which ones—have been doing significant oppo research. This morning I received an anonymous email with a 22-page document attached—one that was also sent to various local media outlets in Massachusetts—containing court and police records detailing a 2001 arrest, in which Golnik was nabbed for driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. A Golnik staffer confirmed the authenticity of the documents; the Meas campaign strenuously denied having anything to do with the document dump.

According to the police report, a drunk, stoned, and shirtless (!) Golnik was pulled over on his way home from an AC/DC concert for "weaving" and driving on a flat tire. After being detained, he consented to a breathalyzer, blowing a rather impressive .18 (the portable breathalyzer initially gave a reading under the legal limit) and acknowledged, after the cops found rolling papers in his car, to having "smoked half a joint" while rocking out to the brothers Young. The arrest report also notes that Golnik has a shamrock tattoo on his thigh, the only detail that, in Massachusetts, will probably help him at the polls. As one observer of Massachusetts politics explained to me today, Tsongas would rather run against the inexperienced Meas than the more professional, Scott Brown-like campaign of Jon Golnik.

Though this certainly doesn't inspire much confidence in the Golnik campaign, who stupidly tried to ignore their candidate's previous indiscretions, it isn't a campaign-killer in the Bay State. As a friend said to me today, in reference to another drunk-driving Massachusetts politician, "well, at least no one died in Jon Golnik's car." And some enterprising journalist in Massachusetts should take this opportunity to quiz Golnik on whether or not he supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

From the police report:

The shirtless candidate
The Boy with the Shamrock Tattoo