Golnik’s Gambit

Small businessman tries to unseat Niki Tsongas—again

Jon Golnik /
September 27, 2012

Massachusetts small business owner and Republican congressional candidate Jon Golnik is catching up to his Democratic opponent with an energetic campaign and position in the vanguard of a resurgent Massachusetts Republican Party.

Golnik stands alongside Sen. Scott Brown and fellow Republican congressional candidates Sean Bielat and Richard Tisei as part of a new wave of fiscally conservative Massachusetts GOP politicians.

"They say it takes a cycle or two for national trends to reach Massachusetts, but we’re certainly seeing it now," Golnik said. "Scott Brown is on the top of the ticket for us. We doubled the size of our delegation in the Massachusetts State House. Republicans are proving that they can govern officially and effectively."

Golnik is running for the second time against two-term Democratic congresswoman Niki Tsongas in the newly created and predominately Democratic Third Congressional District. In 2010, Golnik received 42.3 percent of the vote.

Golnik currently trails Tsongas by seven points, 45 to 52 percent, according to his campaign’s internal polling.

"There’s a certain voter inertia, where voters tend to stick with the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t," Golnik told the Washington Free Beacon, referring to the name-recognition deficit he faces.

"We have to rely on social media," Golnik said. "A lot of candidates get sucked into thinking that social media can be a substitute for hand shaking, but it can help us augment our strong work on the ground, help us to turn one dollar into three."

For months, Golnik has been identifying and basing his strategy on the weaknesses in his opponent’s game plan.

"Her electoral strategy is pretty clear-cut," Golnik said. "She needs to get the vote out in the metropolitan areas, so we’ve been doing lit drops and door knocks in the metropolitan areas since the springtime."

The second Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren Senate debate will be held on Monday in the Third District city of Lowell, at a UMass Lowell venue called, incidentally, the Tsongas Center. The debate will shine a Boston media light on the city, and, in effect, on the Golnik-Tsongas congressional race.

Golnik’s opponent, though relatively undistinguished in her own congressional career thus far, is the widow of Paul Tsongas (1941-97), the popular moderate Democrat who served as one of Massachusetts’ U.S. senators from 1979 to 1985 and ran for president in 1992.

"Remember, Paul Tsongas was a fiscal conservative," Golnik said. "He founded the Concord Coalition, which stresses balanced budgets and the virtue of not spending money you don’t have."

Golnik thinks voters will see the daylight between Niki and Paul’s policy positions.

"I’m sure (Tsongas) is a perfectly nice person, but she’s a partisan politician," Golnik said. "She votes 95 percent of the time with her party. In our district, over 55 percent of voters are independents."

"We have a lot of old mill towns in the district, and they’re hurting," Golnik said. "Unemployment in the state is 6.1 percent but mill towns like Lowell are up at around 9 percent."

"Tsongas hasn’t made any proposals to help create jobs in the district. She supported the 2.3 percent medical device excise tax in Obamacare, which is going to cost medical device manufacturers about $100 million a year. That’s $100 million they can’t spend on investment," Golnik said, referring to a job-killing Obamacare provision that would affect the state’s 400 medical device companies, and which even liberal Senate candidate Warren opposes.

Golnik’s social positions reflect his view that "balance and moderation are good things."

"When people ask, ‘Are you pro-life or pro-choice?’ well, that’s a polarized way of looking at it. It’s the same thing with ‘hawk’ versus ‘dove’" Golnik said.

"Roe v. Wade is established law but I don’t believe in late term or partial birth abortion or lowering the age of consent or having the government fund it," Golnik said.

"I believe that with regard to marriage it’s between a man and a woman, but I think same-sex couples through civil unions should have the same rights as heterosexual married couples," Golnik said.

Massachusetts is more receptive than other New England blue states to the prominence of small-government policy ideas by virtue of its unique history, Golnik said.

"Massachusetts is the cradle of the founding of our country," Golnik said. "This is where we threw off the yolk of a tyrannical centralized government. That spirit is still alive. I don’t think this government is tyrannical, but I also don’t think people here believe in an overarching central government. It’s best to leave decisions up to people themselves."

Golnik and Tsongas, who did not answer questions for this story, will hold their first debate Friday.