Tran, Cronin trade salvos over experience, ethics
Senator stresses record; challenger focuses on disciplinary action
SEN. DEAN TRAN of Fitchburg said at a Thursday night debate that he deserves to be reelected because of his experience and accomplishments on Beacon Hill even though his reputation there took a hit earlier this year when his Senate colleagues voted unanimously to strip him of his leadership position and boot him from his office for using State House staffers to do campaign work.
Throughout the hour-long debate on FLAP TV on Facebook, Tran stressed his many years of government and business experience and his ability to bring home the bacon for his district – $44 million in earmarks, grants, and bond projects. By contrast, the senator said, his Democratic rival, John Cronin, is a political newcomer who brings little to the table.
“He has no experience whatsoever,” said Tran, who served on the planning board and city council in Fitchburg before winning the Senate seat in a 2017 special election. “Mr. Cronin has nothing to offer. Even worse, he wants you to vote for him but prior to this year has never voted in a regular local election and he has never voted in a state or federal election.”
Cronin, a graduate of West Point who served two tours in Afghanistan and is currently studying for a law degree, said his life experiences in the military have prepared him for a leadership role on Beacon Hill. He said Tran is the one lacking in leadership skills, hammering away at the disciplinary action the Senate took against Tran in March and demanding to know whether the senator is the subject of a criminal investigation, as press reports have suggested.
Tran said he is not the subject of a criminal investigation, “as far as I know.”
Cronin kept returning to the disciplinary action taken by the Senate, which barred Tran from using his State House office for the rest of this term and from conversing with his staff except by email. “We are in a crisis right now and we need leadership and Sen. Tran can’t speak to his team because the Senate and his colleagues don’t trust him. Sen. Tran has failed his test of leadership,” Cronin said.
Tran, while acknowledging the allegations against him cut to the core of his character, did not accept blame for what happened. “My colleagues in the Senate made their decision based on false information provided by my political opponents, which I was never given the opportunity to contest,” he said. “I did not do anything intentionally wrong with respect to my staff and volunteers on my campaign.”
Tran slammed Cronin for refusing to focus on the issues and instead dredging up tabloid stories that he knows are false.
“You’re sitting in your parents’ basement scrolling through comments on social media about things that didn’t happen. I have too much respect for the people I represent to stoop this low,” he said.
“These are the actions of an evil, despicable, immature, and desperate campaign,” Tran said. “In fact, Mr. Cronin, your campaign should be listed under the national registry of hate.”
The candidates did discuss some issues. Cronin, for example, said he favors passage of the millionaire tax, which would assess a 4 percent surcharge on income over $1 million. Cronin said some redistribution of wealth is needed to help communities like Fitchburg and others in the Senate district.
Both candidates said they opposed the Senate’s police reform bill, which is currently in conference with the House as the two branches try to resolve differences between two bills. Cronin thought it was a mistake to do away with qualified immunity for officers trying to do their jobs, while Tran said the bill went too far. “We are not in Minnesota,” he said, referring to the police killing of George Floyd. “Let’s give the men and women in blue the credit they deserve.”
Both candidates generally allowed the other to talk without interruption. The only point of contention on debate etiquette was Tran’s decision to refer to Cronin as candidate Cronin. Cronin objected midway through the debate.
“You’re talking to a combat veteran. I’d appreciate it if you called me Mr. Cronin. I call you senator. I wonder if you could reciprocate the respect,” he said.
Tran complied for the rest of the debate, referring to his opponent as Mr. Cronin.
To read an earlier story on the race, click here.