Cry of 'lies' in crossfire of Senate Dist. 30 race

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It’s gotten hot in the closing days of the Senate Dist. 30 primary contest, although the crossfire isn’t between the two candidates, but rather endorsed Democratic candidate Mark McKenney and the RI Values Project.

At issue is a mailer that some District 30 constituents received last week comparing positions between incumbent Jeanine Calkin and McKenney on birth control, keeping guns out of school, access to safe and legal abortions and fair pay for women for equal work. The flyer gives Calkin a check on all four issues. McKenney is given all Xs.

McKenney calls the flyer “all lies” in a counter mailer. The piece goes deeper into his positions on each of the issues and takes Calkin to task, adding that, “no candidate should be elected on the basis of blatant lies and is a newcomer to the community concerned about pushing an extremist agenda.”

Calkin said she played no part in putting out the flyer and did not see it until after it had been mailed. Furthermore, she said the RI Values Project, made up of Planned Parenthood and the RI Coalition Against Gun Violence, is not working on her campaign.

McKenney questions how the RI Values Project could have characterized him as not supporting keeping guns out of schools when he answered a coalition questionnaire in which he said he would vote for legislation to keep guns out of schools. McKenney supplied the newspaper with a copy of the questionnaire marked with his responses.

Katherine Kerwin, coalition director of communications, said she didn’t play a role in the flyer. Asked why the coalition endorsed Calkin when McKenney favors gun controls, Kerwin said, “she has a proven track record.”

A similar stance was taken in a statement issued by Linda Finn, CEO of the project.

“In the mailing, we placed a check mark next to Senator Calkin’s picture on the four values-based actions we know she will continue to proactively take when she wins this election. The ‘X’ marks next to Mr. McKenney’s name with the image bearing a question mark are there because these values have not been a visible part of his platform at all,” she said.

It continues, “Mr. McKenney has had several months to make these issues a part of his campaign. Not once have we heard him say, ‘I will fight to keep guns out of schools,’ or ‘I will fight to protect access to safe and legal abortion,’ or ‘I will fight for fair pay for women,’ or ‘I will fight to protect access to birth control.’ These issues are clearly not his priorities, and we are frustrated about the lack of progress on Smith Hill enough to demand a fighter for these values, who will stand up under pressure.”

McKenney responded to this assessment via email, saying,

“I’ve made clear the positions I’ve taken on guns, throughout this campaign. I’d support bans on military style assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and concealed carry – by anyone but peace officers – in schools.”

“My response to Linda Finn’s own survey is unequivocal: ‘Would you be willing to publicly support a ban on guns in schools?’ – I stated ‘yes,’” McKenney said.

“She then puts out a mailer saying that my opponent supports keeping guns out of schools, and I do not. That’s simply not true. No matter what kind of spin she puts on it.”

McKenney shared an email sent by Kerwin following completion of the questionnaire thanking him for his position, yet disclosing they would be supporting Calkin. McKenney is good with that, just not what happened afterward.

“I understand that they want to stick with someone who has supported their positions,” he said. “But where our positions are the same – and I’ve told you so – just don’t lie about them.”

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