DEBATE: Ward 2 candidates tussle over property developer endorsement

Toward the end of Tuesday night’s Ward 2 preliminary candidate debate at the Allen House, tensions escalated when candidates were told to ask each other a question and Peter Bruce asked Dan Gaynor about an endorsement from a property developer.

“Dan, I’d like to know why, after Boylston Properties endorsed you, why you didn’t refuse that endorsement,” Bruce said. “It seems to create a conflict of interest, and I think that we might need a code of ethics to keep at arm’s length the relationship between developers and councilors.”

Boylston Properties is a Boston-based company that specializes in mixed-use property development, and the company sent out a mass email calling on voters to choose Gaynor for the Ward 2 seat.

Gaynor responded to Bruce by noting that he’s received more donations than either Bruce or their opponent, David Micley, from city councilors and groups like Voters for a Vibrant Newton, Engine 6 Newton Housing Advocates and the Gun Violence Prevention Coalition.

“And many of those endorsements I asked for. But one of the signs that you’re having a successful campaign is when you have people asking for lawn signs or sending in donations who you don’t know, let alone agree with,” Gaynor said. “And out of the thousands of emails that I have, sent on my behalf, one from a real estate group seems to have a spotlight from Mr. Bruce and Mr. Micley.”

Gaynor then insisted he never sought any endorsements from Boylston and hit Micley for spending thousands of dollars on a negative attack ad over the endorsement.

“Listen, I worked in a presidential campaign against Trump, and the last thing I want to see is national politics wade into Newton,” Gaynor said.

Micley said he never accused Gaynor of seeking the Boylston endorsement but is concerned about any real estate developer making endorsements.

“To me the main point is that Boylston Properties, out of the three of us, thinks Dan is their guy,” Micley said. “And to me, when the ward councilor has to constantly face off against developers to represent resident interests, that’s something that’s important for residents to know.”

While the moderator tried to move on to closing remarks, Gaynor couldn’t let Micley’s “their guy” comment slide.

“When I’ve asked city councilors, like the vice president of the City Council or the head of the land use committee, to endorse me, then I’m hoping to be their guy,” Gaynor said. “But when I have different voters around Newton supporting me, in mass numbers, this is unfortunately something I cannot control.

“I reject, unequivocally, any endorsements from developers,” he continued. “I won’t be accepting donations from Boylston Properties.”