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Briefings: Retiring Wagner Backs Arriaga, but McAuliffe Still Racking up Support…

Epic Chicopee Wagner Arriaga

IYKYK Chicopee can surprise. (created via imgflip)

For much of the Chicopee-packed 8th Hampden House race, Ward 1 City Councilor Joel McAuliffe has held an edge. When his Council colleague Shane Brooks dropped out in May, the former Eric Lesser aide increasingly seemed the favorite against Shirley Arriaga, who came close to winning an at-large Council seat last year.

Money has rolled into McAuliffe’s campaign and he has enjoyed a gatling gun of endorsements from across the city and region. Except for the man he is seeking succeed. On Wednesday, retiring State Rep Joseph Wagner, the 413’s legislative dean and one of Beacon Hill’s most powerful figures, endorsed Arriaga in a statement her campaign released.

“When I announced my intention in February to not seek re-election to the Massachusetts House, I stated that I hoped those seeking the office would ‘organize a campaign that is worthy of consideration by Chicopee voters,’” Wanger said in a statement from Arriaga’s campaign.

“It has become clear to me over the course of the campaign that Shirley Arriaga stands above the other candidates and I am proud to announce she has earned my vote and support in the upcoming Democratic Primary,” he continued.

Arriaga could not be immediately reached for comment, but on Twitter she was honored and humbled by the endorsement.

“Representative Wagner has set the bar high and I aspire to provide the same dedication and common-sense approach to solving problems and serving the city we both love,” she wrote on Twitter. “As Chicopee’s State Representative I will take his can-do approach to the State House and will seek his counsel to solve problems and improve our community.”

Wagner went on to highlighter her bio, including her Air Force service and praised her as “authentic and humble.”

Whether intentional or not, the language conveys, at a minimum, less than love for Arriaga’s opponent. A few years ago, Wagner may have had more company in telegraphing such sentiments. But McAuliffe has worked for years to build out his support as evidenced by turnout among city politicos at his kickoff and his endorsements.

Indeed, the McAuliffe camp was not intimidated by Arriaga’s newest supporter.

“Our campaign by far has the most endorsements in this race, particularly among labor unions that represent everyday working people,” Josh Clark, McAuliffe’s campaign manager said in a statement.” Their endorsement, Clark said, was what mattered. “Thanks to their support, we are well positioned to win this race and that’s what we remain focused on.”

It is not immediately clear what impact Wagner’s endorsement will have. While Arriaga has secured endorsements from Mass Alliance and prominent figures outside the city, she has lagged McAuliffe in fundraising. He has outraised her 3-1 and as of July 31 had $18,000 cash-on-hand to her $6000.

Latino grandees in the Valley have taken and interest in her campaign. They hope to bolster representation among Chicopee’s growing Hispanic population, although most live in other rep districts. Nevertheless, McAuliffe had an answer to this as well.

Joel Mcauliffe

McAuliffe & camp play it cool. (WMP&I)

After receiving nods from firefighters, nurses, the state AFL-CIO, several Council and School Committee members including Wagner’s son, Tim, and Mayor John Vieau, he unveiled his newest endorsement Wednesday: Hampden County Register of Deeds and the region’s first Latina State Rep Cheryl Coakley-Rivera.

“Joel is the most qualified candidate in this race with experience on the municipal and state level,” she said in a statement from McAuliffe’s campaign.

“He will be able to hit the ground running on day one,” Coakley-Rivera continued, imploring Chicopee voters to elect McAuliffe. It is crucial that you send a fighter for Chicopee to Boston. Joel is that fighter who will always be in your corner.”