Longmeadow Daze: Will Gilet Write Himself a New Chapter South of Springfield’s Border?…
Longmeadow Daze is an occasional series on Longmeadow politics & government.
Can a political career buried in a field be resurrected in a meadow? The town elections next week in Longmeadow may have the answer.
Kency Gilet, a two-time Springfield City Council candidate, now of Longmeadow, is running in town elections next week. He is among three School Committee candidates on the ballot for three seats. The race attracted a write-in candidacy amid alarm that Gilet—and his historically right-wing views—could succeed in Longmeadow after failing in Springfield.
Longmeadow Critics object to his views and prior statements about armed school staff, which post-Parkland and post-Uvalde carry a tragic scholastic resonance. It echoes a larger digital trail, mostly scrubbed from social media, that has also raised concerns. Gilet counters that these objections are “coordinated attacks” “based on the intentional lies of a group of individuals” detracting from issues he has campaigned on.
“I know regardless of what my positions are, some never had any intention of hearing, but Longmeadow residents will have a choice come Election Day,” he said in a lengthy statement to WMP&I. Part of that choice, he continued, was his personal and professional background.
Gilet is on the ballot alongside Nicole Choiniere and Michaela Fitzgerald. Adam Rosenblum is running a write-in campaign with the aim of displacing Gilet. Choiniere is the only incumbent. As with most municipal offices in Massachusetts, the race is nonpartisan.
On the substance, Gilet, a licensed therapist, states his beliefs have been misrepresented. He characterized his social media accounts as essentially abandoned prior to deletion. While not speaking to any particular post or account, Gilet implied his social media history was “flippant” and “haphazard.”
In the since-deleted tweets, Gilet calls liberalism a mental disease and asserts he is a 2nd Amendment supporter restoring sanity in America. In a Facebook post, he labeled Massachusetts a people’s republic relative to the “free state of Florida.”
On the surface, Gilet’s online trail confirms the public record. He had been chair of a now-dormant Republican ward committee in Springfield. Gilet’s general support for Republicans is no secret either. In 2018, then-US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl thanked Gilet for his support. Once ambivalent about Donald Trump, by 2018 he was a more enthusiastic supporter.
Residents interviewed for this article, many of whom identify as Democrats, took pains to say they do not care he is a Republican (he remains registered as such) or a conservative. Furthermore, his Critics dislike the optics of opposing Gilet, who is Black, especially after Longmeadow just elected the first person of color to the Select Board. Still, they question Gilet’s views on guns, culture issues and the Democratic party itself.
“He didn’t address the issue at all,” said resident Andrea Chasen referring to Gilet’s visit to a Democratic Town Committee meeting last month. Noting, she has spoken out about gun safety before, Chasen added Gilet “gave a very nice presentation about himself having moved to Longmeadow about a year ago. Then he refused to take any questions.”
(Gilet denies he has refused to answer questions, but he did not stay for any at the May LDTC meeting).
That he scrubbed his social media presence has also raised eyebrows. Gilet has a campaign page that features himself and his kids. He also has a TikTok account brimming with sunny mental health posts. By contrast, he deleted or locked nearly any account with pre-2023 content. Gilet denies a connection.
“As these accounts languished online I saw no reason in maintaining them,” he said in his statement. He denied retiring them had any relationship to his run for School Committee. Rather, Gilet assured, he was focusing on his family.
Back in 2018, Gilet called Democrats the party of slavery, Jim Crow and mass incarceration. In a 2022 Facebook post (and on Twitter as The Shoestring previously reported), he called Democrats “shameful” for pursuing gun legislation after a shooter targeted a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo. In a now-deleted April 2022 tweet about Black voters supporting Democrats, he used “Liberalism Is A Mental Disease” in a hashtag.
A little over a year later, he was soliciting votes from Longmeadow Democrats at their monthly meeting.
Gilet insisted he never invested much time in these social media postings and suggestions otherwise was “disingenuous.” While not disavowing the posts, he tiptoed toward acknowledging how they landed.
“I hold no space in my heart or mind for those flippant posts and I acknowledge the haphazard nature of social media posting and the potential negative impact,” he said. “Based even on a passing glance I understand this is an area we all can improve on.”
Much of this material was fresher when he ran for office in Springfield. Despite being overwhelmingly Democratic, Republicans have won office in Springfield. Yet, nearly all of them going back to the last Republican Mayor, Frank Freedman, were moderates. Gilet, a New York native and the son of Haitian immigrants, did not exactly fit that model.
Any archconservative bent was subtler in his 2017 campaign for the Ward 2 Council seat. That race, in the glare of history, has an odd feel. Gilet alleged incumbent Michael Fenton neglected the ward, which includes the Atwater Park and East Springfield areas, and made appeals to nostalgia.
“Take a huge step to turn Springfield back the way you remember,” he said at his kickoff that year.
Gilet also spoke a lot about families in a vague way. Allies of Fenton’s, who had been Springfield’s first openly-gay City Council President, found the emphasis suspicious.
The conservative note became clearer while on his march toward a 2019 run.
“I almost didn’t have the fire that I had before,” Gilet said in 2019 explaining his return to politics after a hiatus to deal with personal and professional matters. For much of 2018, although not a candidate, Gilet released political videos and promoted them on Facebook.
In that video, Gilet mocked then-Councilor Orlando Ramos’ mayoral ruminations. (“Who?” Ramos, now a State Rep and mayoral hopeful, replied when asked about Gilet’s video). Gilet claimed a pro-police posture, asserting without any explanation, that the Police Commission, which patrolmen historically supported, was illegal. (The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously found it valid in February 2022).
Gilet’s 2019 campaign ended after elimination in the preliminary, placing 11th out of 11 candidates.
While Springfield voters had no interest in Gilet’s candidacies, in Longmeadow, he is nearly guaranteed a seat. For Rosenblum to deny Gilet election, the former would need to win as a write-in, a Herculean if not unprecedented task.
“We’ve had a tremendous surge of support in the community as we’ve run out of yard signs for the second time in five weeks,” Rosenblum told WMP&I. His campaign is passing out stickers voters can affix to their ballot.
In an email, Rosenblum, who runs a cardiac unit at Baystate, waxed sanguine about Longmeadow. Its size makes volunteering practical and impactful, whether T-Ball or a COVID-19 Vaccine clinic, he said. Rosenblum initially found Gilet’s mental health focus encouraging. Some additional Googling disabused him of that.
While Rosenblum declined to engage on since-deleted social media posts, he found Gilet’s positions on firearms problematic. He noted that Gilet did not discuss the issue when questions about school safety and transparency arose during a Longmeadow Community TV forum.
“I oppose arming teachers and this was the initial impetus for me to run as a write-in candidate,” Rosenblum emailed, citing Gilet’s Reminder opinion piece.
The Reminder submission arrived amid the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Indeed, while the social media posts get attention, Gilet’s critics often focus on guns and his recommendations in 2018.
Mary Friedman, an activist in town, pointed to Gilet’s ostensibly support for arming teachers as a big concern.
“I would not be surprised if many people who have his sign in their front yards do not know what he stands for,” she emailed.
In his statement to WMP&I, Gilet averred that he did not ever support arming school personnel. He asserted that his Reminder piece, written after a school shooting, reflected his experience providing mental health care in a Holyoke middle school.
“I don’t believe having trained teachers carry was the solution to protecting schools 5 years ago and it’s not the solution today,” he said. “That said, providing robust mental health care for our students and the training for teachers to recognize signs of distress would do far more to keep our schools safe.”
In The Reminder, Gilet mentions mental health. He prescribes tougher penalties for crimes related to the misuse of weapon. Yet, he does “strongly” call for “school board/committees to craft policy that allows lawful gun owners who work in schools to volunteer to get additional targeted and ongoing training that allows them conceal carry while on school grounds.”
Contemporaneously, Gilet was posting ads on Facebook. Among them was one linking to what he wrote in The Reminder. Another was a condemnation of a red flag law under consideration. He claimed its mental health components were removed. Red flag laws allow law enforcement to remove firearms from individuals who present a threat to themselves or others.
Perhaps like Rosenblum, many residents prefer not to focus on the substance of the social media postings. Still, the tone of many of Gilet’s posts stand out. It is not that he supports conservative figures, but how.
In a promoted post on Gilet’s now-defunct Council Facebook page, he called the treatment of Justice Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings after Anita Hill accused him of sexual harassment “disgraceful.”
A TruthSocial post of Gilet’s has been circulating on Longmeadow Facebook forums, in which he credits Trump with assembling a diverse slate of “Patriots” to stand against “American marxists.”
“It’s time for us to pick off these down ballot races,” he wrote on March 31, 2022.
In isolation, these statements have little import, but the right has sought local seats to enact its agenda. In Massachusetts, state law likely limits substantive impact. That does not mean a determined far-right Committee member could not distract from other issues.
“They have seen the hijacking local committees and don’t want to see that here,” Chasen said. “We have too many important decisions to make. I don’t want somebody who will come in and start banning books.”
Gilet rejects the idea he would be discriminatory or launch a culture war in Longmeadow and calls the suggestion just distractions from his platform. His mental health background and perspective as a single father of three—not his online past—are his campaign’s features.
However, children in Longmeadow schools reading Shakespeare will learn past is prologue. History is filled with phony evolutions and sincere transformations. The most important skills kids should learn in school are not facts and figures, but rather how to think critically and thoughtfully analyze.
With Gilet on the ballot, that test is before Longmeadow voters Tuesday.