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UPDATED: First posted at 11:09 a.m. Updated at 11:57 a.m. with statement from Rep. Lewis.


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FRAMINGHAM – Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka said the comments made by Framingham Democratic Chair Mike Hugo last month are “unacceptable” and he should “step aside.”

“As the sister and long-time legal guardian of a sister with Down Syndrome, I have dedicated my career to advocating for the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, and my life to raising awareness of the challenges they face and the opportunities they deserve. Michael Hugo’s comments were egregious and totally unacceptable, and not reflective of our values. It is in the best interest of the community that he steps aside,” said Senate President Karen Spilka in a statement to SOURCE.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts Democratic Party told SOURCE that said Chair Gus Bickford “is aware of Hugo’s comments and is personally appalled.”

State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis has been silent on the matter, until today. Rep. Lewis sent his statement to SOURCE at 11:45 a.m.

“What has occurred in Framingham over the last several weeks has been deeply painful. The movements for disability rights and reproductive equity are both deeply rooted in a commitment to bodily autonomy. Mike Hugo’s comments before the city council last month were offensive, hurt the progress of these movements, and do not represent my views or those of other leaders advocating for reproductive and disability rights. I join my colleagues in disavowing and denouncing his words.  In the week that followed Hugo’s remarks before the city council, I reached out to Hugo directly and implored him to voluntarily step down as chair of the Framingham Democratic Committee. I feared, in addition to the pain caused by his testimony, that his remarks would be used to force a wedge between the disability and reproductive rights communities, fabricating a tension that doesn’t exist and only harming our ability to truly protect and expand bodily autonomy. His ongoing leadership of the Framingham Democratic Committee is a decision that belongs to the committee, but as a member of that Committee and as one of Framingham’s state representatives, I continue to believe that his leadership of the group inhibits personal healing and community reconciliation and further emboldens those who oppose reproductive equity and access to comprehensive sexual healthcare.   I firmly believe in the power of seeking forgiveness and sincerely working toward reconciliation and redemption, and I am hopeful that Hugo will listen and further understand the harm he has caused.  I urge community members to support the efforts of statewide and national organizations to expand and protect abortion access, reproductive justice, and disability rights, and to resist efforts that seek to divide us. It is only by working at the intersection of our movements and our struggles that we will all move forward together.”

State Rep. Priscila Sousa expressed her comments last month.

“As Chair of the Framingham School Committee, State Representative for the 6th Middlesex District and a member of the Framingham Democratic Committee, I am mortified by the Framingham FDC chair’s repugnant comments about special education during last week’s City Council meeting. As a member, I want to make it abundantly clear that these remarks are not representative of my own views or my public service in Framingham,” said Sousa in mid-February.

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On February 7, Hugo sent a 4-page letter on Framingham Democratic Committee letterhead saying he was speaking for the Committee and spoke at the City Council meeting that night on February 7, again stating he was representing the Committee.

In the letter he wrote “As for those who say that our Council has no business dealing with a “state issue,” we ask if the state is going to cover the medical costs for a fetus that had sound medical reason to be terminated? is the state going to cover the costs of special education for a down’s syndrome affected child? Is the state going to pay for the extraordinary medical expense of a child with an atrial septal defect? How much does Framingham’s Public School Department pay for unreimbursed special needs school transportation, specialized education and durable supplies?”

His verbal statement to the City Council was almost the same.

Sunday night, the Framingham Democratic Committee, which is comprised of about 40 registered Democrats in the City of Framingham, voted 11-16-1 to hold a special meeting to discuss the possible remove of its embattled chair.

The vote while supporting Hugo, also shows the Committee is very split, on its chair.

Voting yes to hold the meeting and to have a discussion on the potential removal of Hugo as chair were: Phil Ottaviani, Priscila Sousa, Adam Steiner, Adam Freudberg, Cheryl Tully Stoll, Norma Shulman, John Stefanini, Audrey Hall, Pat Dunne, Kathy McCarthy, and Mary Kate Feeney.

Voting no were: Mike Hugo, Beverly Hugo, Tracey Bryant, Tom Mahoney, Margareth Shepard, Lori Bornstein, Cindy Rubin, Doug Lawrence, Barbara Fontes, Chris Lorant, Barbara LeDuc, Rosamond Hooper-Hamersley, Larry Stoodt, Mel Warshaw, Parwez Wahid, and Chris Broyles.

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On February 16, the executive committee of the Framingham Democratic Committee held an emergency meeting.

The next day, the executive committee issued this statement ““The Chair’s remarks were harmful, misleading, and wrong. They did not accurately reflect the vote of the full Framingham Democratic Committee and we fully disavow and denounce them. We are deeply sorry to all for these remarks and have put in place processes to avoid future occurrences.”

On Sunday, Framingham Democratic Committee voting member Norma Shulman made a motion for the full voting membership of the Committee to accept the executive committee’s statement on its chair. The vote was unanimous.

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.