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Hargraves: ‘I was shocked’ by Sullivan’s rep-run announcement

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BOSTON — How does State Rep. Robert Hargraves feel about 12-year Ayer selectman and personal “longtime friend” Connie Sullivan’s decision to run for Hargraves’ House seat?

“Not good. I’m troubled. It’s troubling. And that’s as far as I would go with that,” said Hargraves.

“I have to say I was shocked by the call I received from him on the (cell) phone when I was on my way to Cooperstown (New York) last Wednesday afternoon.” Driving with his wife, Ellen, Hargraves and his twin grandchildren were en route to witness former Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday.

What was the purpose of the “friendly” call? To give 72-year old Hargraves a “heads-up” on Sullivan’s intention to publicly announce his candidacy for Hargraves’ 1st Middlesex seat at the Devens Grille that following Saturday night.

Hargraves has held the post since 1995. Since 2000, Sullivan and Hargraves had long discussed a kind of ‘passing of the torch’ whenever Hargraves was to announce stepping down. Whenever that time was to come, Hargraves had discussed endorsing Sullivan, in a kind of helping hand to a friendly fellow Republican in his district.

Hargraves continued that he couldn’t believe the reason Sullivan provided for his decision.

“His words were, ‘if I announce today, Christy Mihos will give me a $500 check,” recalled Hargraves.

Mihos placed third in the four-way 2006 gubernatorial race, running as an independent. Hargraves said that Sullivan explained that Mihos was providing such financial assistance to a slate of other Republican contenders, including Republican state rep candidates Paul Avella and Kurt Hayes and congressional candidate Sam Meas.

Hargraves questioned Sullivan’s motivation to announce now.

“And I asked him, and he said, ‘I need the money.’ I wouldn’t make this up. It’s too lethal,” said Hargraves. Hargraves theorized that the gifting in calendar year 2009 would permit further political donations come Jan. 1 with the start of a new political finance year. Hargraves confirmed that he was not invited to Sullivan’s announcement event.

Nashoba Publishing was also not invited to attend Sullivan’s announcement at the joint Ayer and Shirley Republican Town Committee event. However, Sullivan is running for a seat that encompasses parts or all of four of the five towns he hopes to represent. No reporters for the Ayer Public Spirit, the Groton Landmark, the Pepperell Free Press, or the Townsend Times were alerted. Dunstable, while not covered by this local newspaper chain, is frequently covered by The Sun, which also was reportedly not provided advance notice of the announcement.

So has Sullivan’s surprise decision influenced Hargraves’ decision to seek another two-year term in November 2010?

“I was just (re)elected when the economy went into the financial freefall. It’s been overwhelming over the past several months from the election right on. I haven’t even given this much thought until I got the call from Connie,” said Hargraves.

“This is the first year of my two-year term,” said Hargraves. “To do anything else would be a disservice to my constituents.” Hargraves says he typically makes his decision after the holidays.

“I wait until after the first of the year when I really ponder this thing,” said Hargraves. He called his 2000 race “one tough campaign.”

“That campaign would have put the dampers on anybody but I’ve run again and again and again,” said Hargraves.

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