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FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: ELEVENTH-HOUR ADS: A new super PAC is dropping $5,000 on digital ads and phone outreach to press Senate Minority Whip Patrick O'Connor on his gun record in the final days of the midterm election.

[Read the original article in Politico Massachusetts Playbook]

 

O'Connor is calling the last-minute move a "distortion" of his stance on guns, while the group says his views are at odds with the people he represents. It's not a lot of money, but it could make a key difference in the race where O'Connor is only leading by 4 points, according to a poll done last week.

"This is an unfortunate part of what politics is all about now. You have super PACs that can collect contributions, almost in unlimited fashion, from individuals who come in very late in the political process," O'Connor told me on Tuesday afternoon. "We've been running an incredibly positive campaign for the last eight months."

The Weymouth lawmaker was elected in a May 2016 special election, and won again in November 2016. He represents Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, Cohasset and Weymouth.

The new Priorities for Progress PAC is run by Roger Craver, who had a role in launching Common Cause; Liam Kerr, a co-founder of No Boston Olympics; Massachusetts Parents United founder Keri Rodrigues; and former president of the UMass College Democrats Reily Connaughton. The Facebook and Google ads begin tonight and last through election day, according to Kerr, and will likely provide a boost to Democratic challenger Katie McBrine.

The group is blasting O'Connor's co-sponsorship of a stateSen. Bruce Tarr bill that would have barred the attorney general from putting forward regulations to limit the manufacture or sale of firearms. The bill was filed in response to Attorney General Maura Healey's ban on "copycat" assault weapons in 2016.

"It's not necessarily a bill in opposition to what Attorney General Healey did. What we wanted to get out there is the fact we don't think anyone unilaterally should have power over altering Massachusetts gun laws," O'Connor said, adding that he voted for the so-called "red flag" bill earlier this year and that he supports the bump-stock ban, though he voted against it because it was part of a larger appropriations bill.

But according to a poll obtained by POLITICO, more than half of voters say hearing about O'Connor's support of the anti-regulatory bill make them less likely to vote for him. Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-oriented automated polling firm, surveyed 670 registered voters in O'Connor's district from Oct. 24 to Oct. 25.

"O’Connor could be in real trouble if voters hear more about his record on guns — 55% of them say it makes them less likely to vote for him after they hear about his support for a bill making it harder to regulate assault weapons in Massachusetts,” Jim Williams, a polling analyst with Public Policy Polling, said in a statement to POLITICO.

O'Connor is ahead of McBrine by 4 points (43-39), according to the poll. Independent candidate Stephen Gill, formerly a Republican, is polling at 5 percent. He's likely pulling voters away from the incumbent, which is where Priorities for Progressives seems to see an opportunity.

The super PAC is also critical of a 2015 comment about the transgender accommodations bill and issues around government assistance and donations from LStar. O'Connor says he's voting yes on Question 3.

"Every election you can't take for granted," O'Connor said. "We're working really hard."

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