To combat criticism that he’s less progressive than his Democratic primary opponents, Jake Auchincloss has been emphasizing his opposition to President Trump. His campaign brochure says he was “one of the first Democrats to call for Donald Trump’s impeachment” and someone who “stands out as the leader most ready to fight back against Donald Trump.”
But those claims contradict Auchincloss’s record as a Newton city councilor. On that panel of two dozen local officials, he distinguished himself as one of the few who refused to vote for a resolution calling for Trump’s impeachment.
In 2017, the Newton City Council, in a largely symbolic 17-6 vote, encouraged Congress to impeach the president. Auchincloss was one of the six who voted no; one councilor was absent.
“How can you claim to be the best person to fight against Trump when you couldn’t even be bothered to vote for a nonbinding resolution?” asked fellow City Councilor Emily Norton, who is supporting one of Auchincloss’s rivals in the Fourth Congressional District race, Ihssane Leckey.
The Auchincloss campaign’s communications director, Yael Sheinfeld, noted that Auchincloss said publicly that Trump should be impeached, but he did not believe the Newton City Council should be involved.
“He voted against the council resolution because he didn’t believe it was the role of the Newton City Council to step into a role assigned to Congress,” she said.
However, the year before, Auchincloss tried to intervene in another matter over which council had no purview. In 2016, he defended the free-speech rights of students who drove through a school parking lot waving a large Confederate flag out the car window. He filed a resolution urging the superintendent not to punish them.
His effort did not pass the council, and school officials — who said disciplining students was their responsibility — assured the public that any punishment was unrelated to the flag.
Auchincloss said in a recent statement that it was a mistake to try to distinguish between the symbolism of the Confederate flag and protected free speech, and that he would not do so today.
“My privilege allowed me to see this as a free-speech issue, but I should have focused on the bigger, more important truth: The Confederate flag is a racist symbol of hate that has no place near a school ― or, frankly, anywhere in our society,” he said.
Auchincloss, who was endorsed Friday by The Boston Globe’s editorial page, has faced increasing criticism from progressive competitors in the race. He’s one of nine candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in the Sept. 1 primary to succeed US Representative Joe Kennedy to represent a district based in Brookline and Newton.
In addition to Auchincloss, a Marine veteran, and Leckey, an immigrant and former Wall Street regulator, they include:
* Dave Cavell, an assistant attorney general and former Obama speechwriter.
* Newton City Councilor Becky Grossman.
* City Year founder Alan Khazei.
* Former Brookline Select Board member Jesse Mermell.
* Epidemiologist Natalia Linos.
* Ttech entrepreneur Christopher Z. Zannetos.
Competing for the Republican nomination are two Air Force veterans: Julie Hall of Attleboro and David Rosa of Dighton.
Last week, some of Auchincloss’s competitors criticized his 2010 Facebook post regarding the Quran: “So we can’t burn their book, but they can burn our flag?” He argued he was being sarcastic.
Politico also revealed Auchincloss’s past social media post panning the City of Cambridge for “taking PC too far” by changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Auchincloss said he regrets both statements and that he will support Indigenous People’s Day in Newton.
“As a white man, I recognize that I need to interrogate my own privilege,” Auchincloss said in a statement. “I’ve gotten this wrong, years ago, in tone-deaf social media posts that could cause offense to Indigenous and Muslim communities.”
Last week, when Mermell accused him of diminishing her accomplishments during a debate, he issued a statement trained on Trump.
“My record, and my message, of ensuring Donald Trump’s dangerous and hateful politics don’t stand is resonating with voters, and it seems lots of my opponents are realizing that, too, so they’re trying to tear me down with misleading attacks,” Auchincloss said. “In this campaign and in Congress, I’ll keep my focus on fighting against Trump and his dangerous agenda.”
Auchincloss used similar language in a campaign brochure mailed last week that says: “Back in 2017, Jake was one of the first Democrats to call for Donald Trump’s impeachment.” That mailer also quotes Newton City Council President Susan Albright as saying: “In a crowded field of Democrats, Jake Auchincloss stands out as the leader most ready to fight back against Donald Trump.”
The mailer also notes in all capital letters: “Jake Auchincloss is a Democrat.”
The Globe has reported that Auchincloss worked for the Massachusetts Republican Party and registered as a Republican when Governor Charlie Baker was running for office in 2013 and 2014.
Past campaign finance records and a copy of Auchincloss’s old LinkedIn profile show he was being paid by the Massachusetts Republican Party. On LinkedIn, Auchincloss previously identified himself as Republicans’ deputy statewide field director for Mass Victory 2014.
He registered as a Democrat again after he was elected as a local official in Newton in 2015.
By June 2017, Newton residents were asking the City Council to take action to register their discontent with President Trump. Five other Massachusetts municipalities, including Brookline and Cambridge, had already taken similar votes, urging Congress to impeach him.
At the time, Auchincloss called Trump an “abomination” to the country and the Constitution.
“But the Newton City Council should focus on roads, schools, and municipal services,” Auchincloss wrote in an e-mail update that he circulated to Newton residents at the time. “Nationalizing local politics undermines the resilience of federalism. I will not be voting in favor of the resolution.”
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.