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Joe Shortsleeve to run as Democrat in special election

Joe Shortsleeve

By Globe Staff 

Joe Shortsleeve, who uncovered skulduggery as a long-time WBZ-TV newsperson reporting on Massachusetts politics, now wants to step into the belly of the beast he once covered.

But first he has some difficult explaining to do to the anti-Trump activists who will dominate the Democratic nomination battle in the special election for state Senate.

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Shortsleeve voted for President Trump.

That’s a real hurdle, but Shortsleeve said he thinks he can make the case, particularly since he voted for US Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

“I voted my pocket book,’’ he said Wednesday just hours after he registered his campaign committee with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. “I thought the plans put out by the Republicans would help people who were hurting.”

And now, more than 100 days into Trump administration, he says he is “deeply disappointed” in the president. He also says that, while he voted for Trump, he still holds positions in line with the Democratic Party, such as supporting the science of climate change, abortion rights, LGBT rights and gay marriage. Shortsleeve also says he is against the repeal of Obamacare (which he says needs some fixes but not a full repeal.)

He insists he is “not going to hide’’ from his Trump vote. Still, it may be a tough sell in a year that, so far, has seen a surge of energized Democratic activists hitting the streets.

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In the state Senate district, which includes Bristol and Norfolk, some 90,000 voters cast ballots in the 2016 election. Nearly 41,000 voted for Trump, a percentage that is significantly higher than the president’s statewide average.

Shortsleeve may point to his vote for Sanders, but it may not get much traction: one of his major Democratic opponents appears to be Paul Feeney of Foxboro, an IBEW labor leader who served as Massachusetts director for Sanders last year.

Shortsleeve, 60, has been working for a political consulting firm, Liberty Square Group, since he fell victim to a downsizing at WBZ-TV in 2014. He is seeking the seat being vacated by Senator James E. Timilty, a Walpole Democrat. Timilty is taking over the job of Norfolk County treasurer.


Frank Phillips can be reached at frank.phillips@globe.com.