METHUEN — An annual gathering of city politicians took a divisive turn over the weekend when members of a local labor union handed out attack fliers targeting mayoral challenger Jennifer Kannan for among other things not graduating from high school.
One flier suggested she was “voted most likely to succeed in Methuen politics” without a high school diploma. Another highlighted her family ties to the city payroll, and a third suggested she was influenced by Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua while voting on the city solicitor issue earlier this year.
The fliers were paid for by Laborers International Local 175, which represents about 75 Public Works employees and 10 School IT workers in Methuen. Union members handed the fliers out to a sellout crowd Saturday at the Methuen Senior Center for the annual pancake breakfast hosted by the Methuen Democratic City Committee.
Kannan said the breakfast “took a negative turn” when the fliers were handed out. Kannan also criticized her opponent, Mayor Stephen Zanni — who she believes is working “hand-in-hand” with Local 175 Business Manager Michael Gagliardi.
“Steve brought this element to a positive event,” Kannan said. “People were just ripping them up and throwing them on the floor.”
“I thought it was unfortunate that these people would hurt my family when I’m trying to run a positive race for mayor,” Kannan said. “I think it’s negative campaigning. In my opinion there’s no room for that here in Methuen.”
Zanni distanced himself from the fliers yesterday, stating his campaign had no involvement.
“I do not condone this type of campaigning,” said Zanni. “I definitely disapprove of it. Whatever (Gagliardi’s) doing, I’m far removed from that.”
“There’s not one person on my campaign that’s involved with that at all,” said Zanni. “I wish (Kannan) would tell the truth. ... This negative campaigning, I don’t believe in it. I have nothing to do with it.”