The contest for District 1 councilor in Weymouth is drawing some extra attention this time because of the political affiliation of one of the contenders.
Dominic Giannone III is a lot like other candidates for local office who campaign with pledges to seek positive changes for their neighborhood and city, but with one notable distinction: He is a Communist.
Giannone is registered to vote as a member of the Green/Rainbow Party, but belongs to the Communist Party USA and has long been active in promoting its causes.
The 37-year-old union boilermaker is open about his political orientation; his campaign website mentions his membership in the Communist Party and his belief that “capitalism is the root cause of the economic crisis, poverty, discrimination, war, and environmental destruction.”
In an interview, Giannone said he was making known his status as a Communist as a matter of “full disclosure” to voters. But he added it is also a label he is happy to proclaim.
“I like to point out that the rich people already have two parties of their own, and working people need a party of our own. The Communist Party is clearly on the side of working people,” said Giannone, who is not aware of any other Communists seeking office recently in the state.
While local elections are nonpartisan in Massachusetts, Giannone’s status as a Communist may offer one of the rare occasions when a candidate’s party affiliations become a matter of interest.
His opponents in the race for the open north Weymouth seat are Democrats Kevin Harris and Angel Montanez, and Republicans Becky Haugh and former town councilor Victor Pap III. A preliminary on Tuesday will narrow the field to two candidates.
Town Clerk Kathleen A. Deree said that Pap sought to withdraw his candidacy last month, but too late to be removed from the ballot. Pap, who could not be reached, has stated publicly that he is not actively campaigning, according to Deree.
His opponents say they are not troubled by Giannone’s status as a Communist.
“I don’t think party matters in this election,” said Harris, a pharmaceutical/biotechnology consultant. “However, Nick has gone ahead and he identified himself as a member of the Communist Party. That’s just his way of expressing what his views are. I think it’s great how he is defining himself.”
“It’s not an issue, because you have to understand what he means behind it,” said Montanez, a retired Merchant Marine captain. “His values are clear in wanting to protect unions and blue-collar workers.”
“For me, it’s not an issue,” Haugh said. “It’s a nonpartisan race. . . . I’ve talked to Nick. He seems like a nice guy. I wish him the best of luck with whatever he is aiming for.”
While he has been a member of the Communist Party for less than a year, Giannone said he has identified as a Communist for much longer.
A 1993 graduate of Weymouth High School, Giannone’s activism has included protesting on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther whom supporters contended was wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer. Giannone has also demonstrated against the war in Iraq.
His political activism led to several brushes with the law. In 2004, he was arrested for assault and battery of a police officer while marching outside the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Giannone said the charges stemmed from an unfounded claim by police that he took a swing at Boston’s police superintendent during the incident, and that he was found not guilty in a 2005 trial.
In 1999, he was arrested in Weymouth on graffiti charges that he said were the result of his posting leaflets about a protest he was helping to organize at the high school in support of Abu-Jamal. Several days later, he was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct during the action.
Giannone said that the case was continued without a finding but that he served 10 days in jail. At the time, he was on probation for an arrest some years before for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. He said serving the jail time allowed him to have the probation dropped.
While he has not wavered in his beliefs, Giannone said he has “mellowed with age. I just don’t find myself in situations where I’m in confrontation with police much these days.”
He said he opted to seek local office because “you have to start somewhere. And I actually do care about my own community. . . . I want to represent my neighborhood, just to get the basic things we need.”
The veteran activist has a long list of ideas he promises to champion, including ordinances to require banks to meet directly with homeowners facing foreclosure before moving to evict them, and to allow the town to revoke the licenses of businesses found guilty of violating wage laws.
Haugh, who formerly served in the Marine reserves and as an active duty naval officer, is a former president of the North Weymouth Civic Association.
She said she would work to promote economic development as a way of bringing much-needed tax income to the town.
“I think we need a lot more revenue for our schools, police, and fire,” she said.
Harris is part of a community group that advocates for the reconstruction or replacement of a local seawall, and volunteers with groups that provide food for the needy in Boston.
“I bring a lot in terms of community activism. I bring a lot in terms of business experience,” he said, adding that he also offers a “new approach to politics” as someone who refuses campaign contributions and does not post campaign signs.
Montanez is a board member of the North Weymouth Civic Association and a member of the Weymouth Public Schools Safety and Security Committee, and the Fore River Watershed Association.
He said he offers his leadership background from his maritime career and civic work, and being retired, he says, “I have the time” to devote to the position.John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.