Democratic Representative Candidate Eckert Cancels School Talk After Republicans Say it was Unlawful

State representative candidate Christina Eckert. (WHAV News file photograph)

Democrat Christina Eckert’s planned talk this week about school reopening with Pentucket Regional’s school superintendent was cancelled after Republicans said it violated campaign laws.

Eckert, who is running against Rep. Leonard Mirra in the 2nd Essex District, told WHAV she made a mistake allowing people to register for the virtual event using a Democratic fundraising website. She explained it is not a violation to have public officials as speakers as long as the event is not a political fundraiser. She said she used the ActBlue site only for the convenience of scheduling.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we cancelled the event,” she said.

In a press release yesterday, the Massachusetts Republican Party called the planned event a “scheme” and noted, “State law bars candidates from using state employees in political campaigns.” Massachusetts Republican Party Chairman Jim Lyons said Thursday, “This was pretty brazen, even for the Democrats.”

“To try and deceive a public school superintendent into participating in a campaign event, under the guise of responding to the current pandemic, is outrageous,” Lyons added.

Eckert, of Boxford, said the planned online talk with Superintendent Justin Bartholomew was not intended as a fundraiser and only three people actually made donations that were later refunded. Eckert said 140 people registered without making donations. She said she refunded the three contributions and spoke with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.” She said she expects the refunds and cancellation to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of election officials.

Mirra, who could not return WHAV’s call earlier because he was in a House session, added, “Anyone who has even been involved in campaign knows it flagrantly violates campaign law.”

In a statement on social media, Eckert said, “I want to clarify Dr. Bartholomew has in no way endorsed my candidacy,” adding, “I apologize for my mistake, and assure you, that it won't happen again. We are re-educating ourselves on campaign finance rules, and will be much more careful moving forward.”

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