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In race for state auditor, candidates come under fire for evolving views

Accusations flew in the state auditor debate moderated by WBZ's Jim Keller between Republican nominee Anthony Amore and Democratic nominee state Senator Diana DiZoglio.WBZ-TV

The two candidates for state auditor have offered contrasting pitches to voters over the past few months but faced similar questions about the consistency of their beliefs over the years.

Anthony Amore, the Republican nominee, casts himself as a practical, nonpartisan professional in the mold of Governor Charlie Baker. But his vote for former president Donald Trump in 2020, as well as deleted social media posts, paint a picture of a more conservative figure than he portrays, critics say.

Democratic state Senator Diana DiZoglio, meanwhile, is known for crusading on women’s issues on Beacon Hill, bucking party leadership and challenging lawmakers on their handling of sexual harassment allegations and nondisclosure agreements.


But early in her legislative career, she was known as a conservative Democrat who sometimes aligned with Republicans and who declined to spell out her stance on abortion rights to advocates considering candidate endorsements.

With election day on Tuesday, here’s a look at how the candidates for auditor general have evolved.

Amore, the only statewide candidate Baker has endorsed, has vowed to carry on his brand of moderate Republicanism and serve as a check on an increasingly liberal Beacon Hill. Amore describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal and supports access to abortion.

But a look back at deleted Twitter and blog posts reveal a harder-edged conservatism. Tweets obtained by the Globe and authenticated by the Amore campaign show Amore defending Trump against sexual harassment allegations, retweeting an insulting post about Senator Elizabeth Warren, and in one instance calling a group of Muslim men “donkeys.” Some of the posts came up in a recent debate, with DiZoglio criticizing him for deleting thousands of tweets, some of which she called offensive.

Amore, the director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, currently runs two Twitter profiles, one personal and one for his campaign. A previous Twitter handle, @amoream_, is marked as “suspended,” a designation given to accounts flagged for violating rules on abuse.


Amore did not deny that the account marked as “suspended” was his, but said it was never actually suspended. His campaign said he changed his Twitter handle to his full name when he began to promote a book he published.

Amore also rejected online criticism that his reference to Muslim men as “donkeys” was Islamophobic. He said he used the term to criticize a group, described in a 2014 NBC News story, that formed a “Sharia police” patrol in Germany to recruit young people. Amore defended the language as a more polite substitute for “jackass.”

“It’s abhorrent behavior to put on a uniform . . . and accost people who aren’t adhering to your religion,” Amore said in an interview. “If it was the Westboro Baptist Church doing the same thing I would call them donkeys, too.”

Amore has also drawn scrutiny for two columns he wrote in 2015 on conservative radio host Howie Carr’s website. In one, he described “pirates from the Barbary — Islamic — states” as having “to be dealt with severely and with a show of American might.” In another post slamming the Obama administration for avoiding the term “radical Islam,” Amore wrote that “all religions are equal, but some religions are more equal than others.”

The columns were taken down at some point. Amore said he never asked that they be removed and speculated the site had been redone in the past few years. Carr did not respond to requests for comment.


Amore stood by his remarks, saying that extremist religious groups don’t have a place in a “free society.”

“Radical extremist groups are plaguing our country,” he said. “Like white nationalism is a real problem and I am strictly opposed to any sort of extremism.”

After DiZoglio pointed out at a debate that he had deleted controversial posts, Amore contended that he uses an automatic social media scrubber that deletes tweets on a regular basis. She also noted that in April 2017 he responded to a Tweet about allegations against Donald Trump by writing, “it’s sexual harassment, not criminal activity.”

That February, Amore retweeted a post about Elizabeth Warren’s forthcoming book that asked, “Will this book be available in English too, or just in Native American?” a mocking reference to her past claims of Native American ancestry.

Amore did not dispute the tweets but said DiZoglio was taking them out of context. He wouldn’t tweet something he believed was inappropriate, he said.

DiZoglio, a 39-year-old Democratic state senator from Methuen, fends off criticism about her progressive bona fides by pointing to the support she has received from three groups that endorse candidates based on their stance on abortion rights — Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, and Reproductive Equity Now.

“Diana has spent the last two legislative sessions taking excellent votes on reproductive equity priorities,” Rebecca Hart Holder, executive director of Reproductive Equity Now, said in a statement. “She has proven to us that we can count on her to be a strong advocate to advance reproductive equity in the Commonwealth, and we know she is the right candidate for the State Auditor’s office.”


But when DiZoglio first ran for state representative in a conservative district 10 years ago, she was noncommittal on abortion and rebuffed requests for endorsement interviews with in-state abortion advocacy organizations, leading them to back the male Democratic incumbent, according to two people from the groups involved in the decision. After DiZoglio was elected, she resisted meeting with the advocates or filling out questionnaires, leaving them so skeptical that they declined to endorse her in 2014, in favor of another male opponent, the advocates said. MassNARAL, a predecessor of Reproductive Equity Now, even sent out a campaign mailer critical of DiZoglio.

“Had she been an ally, Planned Parenthood never would have endorsed a challenger to her,” said Martha M. Walz, who was the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts and involved in the decision-making process at the time.

DiZoglio’s record came under scrutiny during the primary when her Senate predecessor, Kathleen O’Connor Ives, said that DiZoglio had “a poor record on reproductive rights” and had presented herself as an antiabortion candidate on the campaign trail.

“When I knocked on doors with Representative DiZoglio in our district, I heard her tell voters she was ‘pro-life,’ ” the former senator tweeted. “With Roe v. Wade no more, the public deserves to know about Diana DiZoglio’s record as a State Representative — dodging support for a woman’s right to choose.”


O’Connor Ives declined to comment further.

DiZoglio’s votes on bills and amendments, collected by InstaTrac Inc. and reviewed by the Globe, shows she was more conservative in her early years in politics. She often voted with Republicans, particularly on legislative rules changes and procedures aimed at pushing Democratic leadership for more transparency, and was known for policing public benefits — then a rallying cry of Republicans who were highlighting the fraudulent use of food stamps and welfare assistance.

In a statement, DiZoglio said: “When I was first elected to the State House, I understood that I was representing a district that included a lot of constituents with more conservative views than mine. My priority back then was on meeting voters and building relationships in the district.”

DiZoglio got her start on Beacon Hill as a legislative aide to Republican state Representative Paul Adams. After her 2012 election to the House, she consistently challenged House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a clash that peaked in 2018 when she spoke out on the House floor in violation of a non-disclosure agreement she had received after being fired as an aide amid innuendo and sexual harassment. She has since sponsored numerous bills that would bar the use of non-disclosure agreements to silence allegations of sexual harassment or assault.

In one of the few votes on abortion during her six years in the House, DiZoglio voted with abortion rights supporters to create a new abortion clinic “buffer zone” policy, replacing a state law that the Supreme Court had ruled was unconstitutional.

Now serving her second term in the Senate after three terms in the House, DiZoglio voted for all the recent changes to secure and expand abortion rights in Massachusetts.

Another aspect of her past has come under scrutiny, as a political action committee supporting Amore launched digital ads highlighting her connection to “a virulent homophobic Alabama church.”

That’s a reference to The Ramp, an evangelical church where DiZoglio once worked in youth outreach, according to her former campaign website, archived online. A pastor from that church was later criticized for holding revivals where gay teens were encouraged to renounce their sexual orientation.

In a statement, DiZoglio’s campaign said that she “unequivocally denounces gay conversion therapy,” and explained her past association with the church in the context of her religious upbringing.

Raised by a 17-year old single mother who struggled with addiction and who turned to the church for help, DiZoglio was deeply involved with church youth groups and helped counsel young women who suffered abuse by sharing her own personal history of childhood abuse, her campaign said.

“As she entered adulthood, she charted her own path because her values did not align with those of the church,” her campaign said.

Tanya Neslusan, executive director of MassEquality, said she considered DiZoglio’s church involvement part of her youth.

“If we want people to grow and change and become more progressive, we have to reward them when they evolve,” Neslusan said. “I think her record speaks for herself. She has evolved from where she was as a child, as I would hope anyone would.”

Neslusan also defended DiZoglio on Twitter when she was criticized for siding with conservatives in a 2013 vote on an amendment on transgender rights. In an interview, Neslusan noted that in 2016, DiZoglio voted for a sweeping bill that protected transgender individuals from discrimination in public places, including restrooms, and that she supported a 2019 bill banning gay conversion therapy for minors.

“I’ve had a lot of discussions with her about LGBTQ issues. She absolutely is on our side, absolutely is an ally,” Neslusan said.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Follow her @StephanieEbbert. Samantha J. Gross can be reached at Follow her @samanthajgross.