Briefings: Another Term in the State House for Lesser, Obama Recommends…
UPDATED 4:06PM: To reflect a correction. Lesser was never formally an “intern” for Obama.
In the closing days of the 2016 election, President Barack Obama has made a concerted effort to assist Democrats to both preserve his legacy and, hopefully, reverse the losses the party down ballot. He continued that today by endorsing Longmeadow State Senator Eric Lesser for reelection to the 1st Hampden & Hampshire district.
The president’s endorsement came in a press release from the Lesser campaign. While part of a national trend, the two have a nearly 10 years relationship dating to Lesser’s time as a campaign staffer fresh out of college.
“I’ve known Eric for many years, and have seen his incredible work ethic, intellect, and commitment to public service up close,” the president said in his statement, noting Lesser’s work on substance abuse and east-west rail.
“I’m proud of the work Eric has done, which is why I’m honored to endorse him for a second term,” Obama continued.
Symbolically, the connection goes deeper. Candy Glazer, the chair of the Longmeadow Democratic Town Committee, said in a 2014 interview she had a photo of she and Lesser at the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston as Obama gave his Red States/Blue States speech.
At the time, Obama was a state senator himself.
“As a former State Senator himself, Barack Obama understands the important work we are doing in the Massachusetts Senate,” Lesser said in his statement.
Now the stuff of Lesser campaign lore, Lesser volunteered for Obama after college, later joining his campaign staff. After Obama won, Lesser became David Axelrod’s assistant in the White House. As Mark Leibovich described in his book, This Town, Lesser was also a de facto gatekeeper for Axelrod who in turn, as a top Obama aide, had access to the president.
While on the trail and away from their families in 2008, Lesser and two fellow campaign aides, Arun Chaudary and Herbie Ziskend, held a Passover Seder at the Pennsylvania hotel where the campaign had decamped. Obama popped in and joined them starting a tradition. For each of the following eight Passovers, Obama hosted a Seder and invited Chaundary, Lesser and Ziskend.
If this history has become a core part of Lesser’s political identity—and indeed a key part of his introduction to voters in 2014—opponents have tried to cast it as vice.
In a statement to Masslive, Lesser’s opponent, Republican James “Chip” Harrington blasted Lesser as disconnected and out of touch. “An endorsement from President Obama confirms that Eric Lesser is a deeply-entrenched member of the Washington, D.C. establishment, whose primary focus is using the people’s State Senate seat to advance his own political career,” Harrington reportedly said.
The Ludlow Republican said his endorsers were business owners and families. According to Masslive, though he neglected his own high-profile backers like Gov. Charlie Baker.
The endorsement itself is unlikely to shift the dynamics of the race. Despite Harrington’s aggressive campaigning regimen, presidential elections often bolster Democratic turnout likely to Lesser’s benefit. The Democrat does not appear to be sweating Harrington’s criticism either.
“Mr. Obama’s example, and the lessons I learned working for him, continue to inspire and motivate my own work for our families in Western Massachusetts,” Lesser said in his statement.