Guest column from Richard Saunders, candidate for mayor in Newton.
An article about me was recently posted on this site by a Mr. Richard Heidel who identified himself as a local investigative reporter. I had never heard of him before, and a quick Google search did not bring to light any evidence that he has a significant body of work in his stated profession, at least not under that name. Upon reading his column, it was obvious to me, as a publisher and editor, that he was not a professional journalist.

After doing some investigating myself, I identified and located the gentleman behind the pseudonym and found that he was just a Newton resident pretending to be a reporter, amusing himself and having some fun with us. I reported my findings to Mr. Reibman and I trust that we won’t be getting scammed by “Richard Heidel” again.

I would like to take this opportunity to attempt to clear up some of the misconceptions that “Heidel’s” article may have created. He uses the fact that I am not well known (yet) in Newton as a pejorative, a negative instead of just a neutral fact that is easily dealt with by taking the time to “get to know me”, as the voters and citizens of Newton will have ample opportunity to do over the next six months when I will be highly visible and reachable.

Going back to last year’s presidential race, there were sixteen candidates for the G.O.P. nomination and I had not heard of many of them before the run-up to the primary season. Again, being an unknown at the start of a campaign isn’t some automatically negative fact, it just means (to me) that if I am an interested, undecided voter, I should take my time and get to know these candidates to see if any were worthy of my support as an independent (unenrolled) voter. I needed to do that because the front-runners in both parties, whom I WAS familiar with, were people I could not vote for. Being unknown represents a hurdle for any candidate to overcome, but it is not a suspicious, negative factor.

Heidel noted that the address for my political committee is a postal mail box and hints that this is something to be viewed with suspicion. Consider the following “PO Box 5785 Boston, MA 02114”. That is the address of Governor Baker’s political committee. Using a mail box address for a political committee is a pretty Standard Practice. It is not suspicious or out of the ordinary.

Mr. Heidel states that no one in town knows my treasurer, Ed Sabbagh; as if, again, that is some huge negative or reason for suspicion. I believe that most voters want to find out about the candidate and don’t spend much time digging into or caring about who a committee treasurer is unless there are charges of financial impropriety. But If you still want to know; Mr. Sabbagh, like myself is a low key professional who normally stays out of the public spotlight. He is a well-respected and talented structural engineer who owns his own firm and has worked with famed local architect Tref LeFleche and others on dozens of properties in Newton over the past several decades. Ed and I have been friends since we were teenagers and I have complete trust in him as my treasurer. In the past, Ed has been a delegate to the Massachusetts State Democratic Convention and I have worked behind the scenes on several political campaigns. We take our work and our advocacy on behalf of others seriously. In day to day living and as a writer, I do try and be amusing and entertaining at times, (is that a bad thing?) but at the core of my being, I’m a pretty serious guy who cares about societal problems and in doing my part, trying to improve our collective lot in life.

My work as a method-writer and with the Phoenix Foundation is often based around serious attempts to address and or solve tough problems. My encounter with Governor Weld started out as an effort to create an interesting story and then grew into something more serious when it became apparent that he had lost interest in governing Massachusetts shortly after winning a second term. My 2007 battle against Donald Trump in Boston Federal Court centered on my (and The Phoenix Foundation’s) advocacy of a legally protected class. Pretty serious stuff!

I can’t stress this next point strongly enough – I am NOT running for mayor of Newton as a gimmick to sell a book. What my book does for the campaign is demonstrate, through the thinly fictionalized Weld, Trump, Dukakis and other stories, that I am a person of character who is not afraid to stand up to the big shots in order to fight for political and social justice and to zealously advocate for others who are not in position to successfully advocate for themselves. The book helps to establish that I have a history of successes that prove I belong in the ring and am someone worthy of consideration for the office I am seeking.

The only real journalist who has read my book and commented on it (so far) is Steve Whipple, the publisher of the monthly magazine Methuen Life. Mr. Whipple has called me “A real-life Forrest Gump”, i.e. an ordinary guy who leads an extra-ordinary life that has intersected with numerous key events and people.

Mr Heidel penned a guest column here, (albeit under a false pretense), that is better categorized as an amateurish, inquisitive opinion piece, not a work of investigative journalism; although it could be the starting point for a more in-depth exploration by a more credible scribe. I welcome the scrutiny because as I’ve said many times; my story seems a bit hard to believe at first glance, but the closer it gets examined, along with the supporting evidence, the better it looks.

I appreciate the ink here and the interest, and although I do not condone his method, I thank Mr “Heidel” for starting the conversation. I also thank everyone who read his article and responded positively to allowing my voice and my campaign for mayor to be given a fair chance. That is all I ask.

May I respectfully request that you, kind reader, perform your own due diligence before making a rush to judgment regarding the viability of my mayoral campaign or questions surrounding my method-writing history, etc. Check out my websites, meet me in person at one of the events I will be attending or hosting this summer and make up your own mind. I look forward to meeting you!
If you like what you see at www.saundersformayor.com, consider helping us out as a volunteer!

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