Local Government and Politics, News

Moulton staff supports one of their own while congressman stays neutral in Ward 5 Council race

Seth Moulton says he's not choosing sides in the Ward 5 city council race. But his staff is behind a fellow staffer. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — An employee in U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton’s Salem office is getting help from the district director and seven other staffers to unseat an incumbent Lynn city councilor. But the Salem Democrat insists he’s neutral in the race.

Marven Hyppolite, a Moulton caseworker, is challenging Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, a three-term incumbent, and the only woman on the 11-member panel. This is Hyppolite’s third run to unseat her. In 2017, he lost by 106 votes of the 1,468 ballots cast.

Richard Jakious, district director for Moulton’s Salem office, sent an email to the Swampscott Democratic Town Committee on Thursday, asking them to attend the $25-$100 event at April’s Restaurant Pub & Grill in Lynn next week. The invitation was signed by more than a dozen current and former staff.

“I am writing to invite you to a fundraiser … for my friend Marven Hyppolite … Marven was born, raised, and lives in the ward that he is running to represent. He is a passionate, young leader, who will bring an important voice to Lynn, one that represents populations that do not always have a voice in halls of government. I hope you’ll come learn more about Marven and, even if you cannot attend, consider contributing to his campaign,” Jakious wrote in the email. 

Moulton told The Item he is staying neutral in the race.

While the solicitation was legal, and sent from Jakious’ private Gmail account, a Suffolk University university professor said the invitation must have been approved by Moulton.

“I don’t see this as an ethics problem, but it’s a left-handed way of supporting his employee, so he’s not  really staying out of the race,” said Lawrence Overlan, a senior lecturer at the school’s Political Science & Legal Studies Department.

Moulton, through a spokesman, declined to comment further. Tim Biba said Jakious did not give Moulton a heads-up.

“Our team is full of people who are committed to serving their community personally and professionally,” Biba said in a statement. “Seth is not weighing in on the personal political decisions of individual staff members.”

Jakious said he sees no discord in Moulton saying he is neutral and his email.

“Marven and I are close friends and I believe in his passion and commitment to the city of Lynn and I want to see him succeed,” he said. “I am trying to help him raise some funds so he can get his message and story out to voters in Ward 5.”

Last summer, Hyppolite changed his party affiliation from Democrat to unenrolled. On switching, the 27-year-old candidate said he did not feel welcome at the Lynn Democratic City Committee. He criticized the local and national Democratic parties for ignoring immigrants, and young, disenfranchised residents.

Swampscott Democratic Town Committee Chairman Debbie Friedlander said she was aware of Hyppolite’s decision to exit the Democratic Party. She said the committee’s mission is to get Democrats elected.

“I am concerned about anyone who holds Democratic values but doesn’t want to be part of our party,” she said.

Friedlander said she will not attend the event next week because she has theater tickets. She declined to say whether she would donate to Hyppolite’s campaign.  

For his part, Hyppolite said he was unaware the invitation had been sent, but does not see any conflict in Moulton’s stated position to remain neutral. 

“I appreciate it,” he said. “Congressman Moulton and his office have been really kind to me, they treat me like family and Rick has lots of connections in Swampscott.”

Chakoutis declined to comment and said she is focused on the campaign and getting re-elected.

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