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AYER — Ayer Selectman Chairman Cornelius “Connie” Sullivan denies a representation made by incumbent 1st Middlesex Representative Robert Hargraves to Nashoba Publishing. Sullivan says he didn’t launch his campaign for Hargraves’ house seat just to attain a $500 political contribution check from Christy Mihos, a prior and purported candidate for governor in 2010. Sullivan announced his run for the 1st Middlesex seat that Hargraves has held since 1995 during a joint meeting of the Ayer and Shirley Republican Town Committees on Devens on Saturday.

“To suggest a $500 donation from one person is what caused me to jump into the race – I find that a bit comical, frankly,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan confirmed that he called Hargraves last Wednesday and broke the news to Hargraves, a long time friend, that he would be announcing his candidacy at the Saturday event. Sullivan says he’d left a message for Hargraves earlier in the week when he was in legislative session but then called Hargraves again on Wednesday when he hadn’t heard back. Sullivan said he simply called Hargraves cell phone, unaware that at that point Hargraves was headed off with family members to attend the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

Why do it by telephone? “I did want to provide the courtesy of knowing before I made the actual announcement,” said Sullivan. “At that point, I didn’t have a choice. There was an event already planned. My family was in town. And it was time for me to make my decision,” said Sullivan. Sullivan says he was surrounded by family for his announcement, both from within the district and from out-of-state, including Connecticut, Ohio and California.

Sullivan said he was surprised there was no press coverage of the event, stating he was under the impression that the republican committees were alerting the local press of the Mihos visit.

Hargraves told the Nashboa Publishing reporter on Wednesday that he’d pressed Sullivan during last Wednesday’s call for Sullivan’s reasons for announcing now. Hargraves reported, “and I asked him, and he said, ‘I need the money.’ I wouldn’t make this up. It’s too lethal.”

Sullivan flatly denied the allegation. “I did in fact mention to Bob (Hargraves) that Christy Mihos would be attending this event and making donations to me and all the other candidates attending the event,” Sullivan explained, “but a $500 donation from Christy Mihos was not my motivation to announce when I did. And we all know that it takes more than $500 to run a campaign for state representative.”

Are the two still friends? “I think he was disappointed that I announced before he decided what he wanted to do,” said Sullivan. “I would think that we can both run for the same position with respect to one another.”

“There is no entitlement to the title for state representative. The voters ultimately decide. And I can tell you that I as well as many people in the district have been frustrated with what we read in the press day in and day out,” said Sullivan, “Bob’s fallen on the right side on some of those issues but something’s got to change on Beacon Hill. We need a fresh set of eyes, and I hope to be able to provide that.”

Was Sullivan’s early campaign launch an attempt to force Hargraves’ hand? “No. He knows I had an interest but Wednesday was the first time that he learned. Trying to run an exploratory campaign based on what Bob would or would not do didn’t work. So I decided I’m either in with both feet or I’m not.”

“The voters will benefit, they’ll have a choice in a Republican primary which they haven’t had in a long time,” said Sullivan.

The 52-year old Sullivan, an Ayer resident and attorney practicing law in Groton, has been an Ayer selectmen for the past dozen years and presently serves as it’s chairman. This is his first run for a state level post.

The 72-year old Hargraves has served in the House seat for 15 years. He’s reaffirmed that he has not made a decision at this time on his intentions for another run. Hargraves says it’s a decision he makes after the holidays, and before the times papers must be pulled for formally launch a candidacy.

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