EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 4, 2013

Editorial: No defense for boorish attack on Garcia

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Democrats have shown themselves to be exquisitely attuned to perceived political attacks against women, going so far as to label Republican policy initiatives part of a “war on women.”

But when one of their own unleashes a boorish, sexist attack on a Republican woman whose only sin was to announce a run for a congressional seat held by a Democrat, their silence is deafening — and embarrassing.

New Hampshire state Rep. Marilinda Garcia, R-Salem, last week announced she would run for the 2nd District seat held by Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, D-Hopkinton. Garcia has more than three terms in the New Hampshire Legislature, bachelor’s degrees from Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Garcia could give Kuster a strong challenge in a competitive district that has swapped political parties several times in recent congressional elections.

We welcome a competitive race for any political seat, giving voters on all points of the political spectrum a shot at having their views represented.

Garcia is strongly conservative both fiscally and socially. And apparently this offends state Rep. Peter Sullivan, D-Manchester, a progressive, who lashed out at Garcia on his Twitter feed. Rather than offer a reasoned critique of Garcia’s policy positions, Sullivan opted for a childish attack on his fellow legislator’s appearance.

“She’s Al Baldasarro (sic) in stiletto heels, a lightweight and O’Brien clone,” Sullivan tweeted. “Bill O’Brien + Kim Kardashian = Marilinda Garcia,” he posted.

Baldasaro is the Republican state representative from Londonderry. O’Brien is the former Republican House speaker.

It is outrageously insulting to compare a woman of accomplishment to an airheaded celebrity like Kardashian, a reality show “star” famous for her sex tape, a marriage that lasted for days and her unending supply of revealing outfits.

The attack drew national attention and criticism of Sullivan. But Sullivan, a Central Catholic graduate, refused to apologize.

“I want to apologize to Kim Kardashian for comparing her to a right-wing extremist like Marilinda Garcia,” he tweeted.

Kuster told a Boston television station that such derogatory comments from members of either party have no place in politics. But the Democratic establishment in New Hampshire has been largely silent on the incident.

Imagine the parties reversed, and that a Republican legislator had made such disparaging, sexist comments about a Democratic candidate. The howls of outrage from Democrats would be enough to wake the dead.

This apparently isn’t Sullivan’s first run-in with Garcia. According to the NH Journal website, Sullivan was privately reprimanded in 2012 by then-Speaker O’Brien for barging down an aisle in the House chamber and knocking another legislator to her seat. The toppled legislator was Garcia, the website says.

NH Journal has a copy of the letter O’Brien sent to Sullivan. In it, the speaker calls on Sullivan to “show your colleagues the respect and dignity to which they, and you, are entitled on the House floor, regardless of party affiliation, ideology or beliefs.” He noted it was the second time Sullivan had to be admonished for “inappropriate behavior.”

Sullivan, as a legislator, has no obligation to approve of Garcia’s politics. He is, however, required to treat his legislative colleague with dignity and respect.

He owes Garcia and the people of New Hampshire a sincere public apology.