State Senate hopeful says write-in rival made inappropriate remarks

  • Chelsea Kline, Democratic candidate for State Senate, drops off nominations papers in Hatfield. GAZETTE file PHOTO

For the Recorder
Published: 5/27/2018 11:33:23 PM

NORTHAMPTON — State Senate candidate Chelsea Kline has called out one of her write-in rivals for inappropriate comments and touching during a state Democratic Party recently.

Kline initially made the allegation in a Facebook post without identifying the perpetrator, but on Thursday she said it was David Murphy.

Murphy said he and Kline spoke over the phone on Thursday afternoon and he apologized to her for doing or saying anything that offended her, and that it was not his intention.

“We had a very nice conversation and she accepted my apology,” he said. “We’ve pledged to work together to make sure that people are aware of these kinds of situations. Everyone deserves to be treated respectfully.”

Kline said people in power need to lead by example.

“It was a very positive and productive conversation,” Kline said. “He acknowledged that he made a mistake and didn’t mean to make me uncomfortable. I invited him to pledge to change his behavior and also to call out this behavior whenever he sees it, to really be an ally.”

Kline, the Northampton Democrat who is the only candidate on the ballot for the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester Senate seat this fall, first made the accusations in a Facebook post last Monday.

She wrote in the post that at a May 20 political event, one of her male challengers told her she looked “stunning” and “even more beautiful” than photos in articles about her candidacy. She went on to say that the opponent “didn’t know a thing” about her or her candidacy.

“These things happen to women all the time, but I’ll admit I was pretty shocked to get it from an opponent,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, this is one experience that’s far too common.”

In an interview with the Bill Newman Show on WHMP Thursday morning, Kline identified Murphy for the first time. She said she did not name him originally because the issue is not about Murphy as an individual. Rather, she said, she posted about it because it is a “pervasive problem” and “systemic issue” that shows the barriers women face in running for office.

On the Newman show, Kline said that at the event, Murphy rubbed her arm, back and shoulder and “felt very entitled” to invade her personal space. She said he did not want to talk about the issues, focusing instead on her appearance and charm.

“This behavior happens all the time. I can’t tell you how often I have to deal with this,” Kline said on the show. “And this behavior permeates politics.”

On Thursday, Kline said she felt “shocked and angry” after the interaction with Murphy at the Democrat of the Year cocktail party honoring Rep. John Scibak, D-South Hadley, on Sunday. She said she made the public Facebook post because focusing on women’s appearances instead of their work is found not just in politics on Beacon Hill but in all facets of life.

“This is everywhere,” Kline said. “The more that we can name it, call it out, the more we can change the culture to be respectful to all people.”

Murphy, a Newton lawyer who worked as general counsel in the state Senate for five years, said he feels the people he worked with in the Statehouse are “honorable, noble people with the best interests of their constituents at heart.” But he acknowledged there are issues with gender equity in the broader society.

“We live in a society where there are inequities. I’ve spent my career trying to fight against those inequities,” Murphy said Thursday. “Do I think women are underrepresented in politics? Absolutely. And I think it’s important that everyone is represented.”

Kline said she made the post in order to “call out” the behavior that made her uncomfortable, move past it and get back to focusing on the issues and tenets of her campaign. She said she had not meant to cast aspersions on other candidates, considering it to be a broader issue than the specific person and specific comments.

There are four other write-in candidates for the Democratic nomination for the seat left vacant after the resignation of Sen. Stan Rosenberg, its longtime representative.

Northampton City Council President Ryan O’Donnell, Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services Director Steven Connor of Northampton and Northampton resident Jo Comerford, a campaign director for the progressive advocacy organization, David Morin of Amherst are the other candidates.


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