Four-term Mansfield Town Councilman Charles Ausburger, who participated in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riots, was re-elected last Tuesday.
Though Ausburger was among only eight candidates to run for the nine-seat council due to the recent passing of fellow Republican David Fruedmann, his re-election has been controversial among his Democratic colleagues because of his presence at the riots on Jan. 6.
“Mr. Augsberger’s presence at the attempt to overturn a legitimate election is regrettable, to say the least,” Mansfield Mayor Toni Moran said in an email.
Asuburger’s participation at the Capitol garnered attention from the Mansfield press and public earlier this year.
“It happened a year ago, and it’s something we’ve been aware of for a while,” Deputy Mayor Ben Shaiken said in a phone interview.
However, according to Shaiken, the reporting of his re-election on a broader platform renewed the attention of local officials and the public.
“IT HAPPENED A YEAR AGO, AND IT’S SOMETHING WE’VE BEEN AWARE OF FOR A WHILE.”Deputy Mayor Ben Shaiken
The Huffington Post reported last week that seven candidates who participated in the Capitol riots were elected to local level positions and three to state legislatures. Though all were admittedly in attendance, most said they only participated in the protests and denied entering the Capitol building.
The insurrection was an attempt to overthrow the 2020 Presidential Election results. The event was spurred by false claims from former President Trump that the votes in favor of President Biden were fraudulent. The march to “Stop the Steal” became deadly as protesters breached the Capitol building.
In a council meeting following the event, Ausburger stated how he had witnessed the attack first hand.
Though, according to the Chronicle, Ausburger said that he had seen a woman pushed down five flights of stairs and a man bludgeoned by a tear gas can, he told the council the violence was incited by a small group and most of the day was peaceful.
According to Deputy Mayor Ben Shaiken, Ausburger’s story about what he saw and why he was there has been questionable.
“His story since [the council meeting in Jan.] has changed a couple times,” Shaiken said in a phone interview.
Ultimately, for Moran and many Democrats, it doesn’t matter what the participant’s story is. According to Moran, the democratic values meant to be upheld by government officials do not align with the motivations of Trump and his supporters that day.
“HIS STORY [SINCE THE COUNCIL MEETING IN JANUARY] HAS CHANGED A COUPLE TIMES.”Deputy Mayor Ben Shaiken
“No matter how attendance may be rationalized, the fact that the purpose of the event was in fact treasonous (the overthrow of the legitimate government) should have signaled that anyone truly concerned with participating in a functional democracy should have stayed away,” Moran said when asked about Ausburger.
The meeting in Jan. resulted in a vote along party lines to pass a resolution stating the town is united in support of democratic values, including the right to free expression and the constitutional processes of government. Ausburger and Fruedmann voted against the resolution.
The resolution was not the first polarizing initiative the council has undergone. According to Shaiken, it has been harder to work with Ausburger when addressing issues that are relevant on the national scale.
“There is definitely disagreement whether racism in Mansfield is a problem that needs solving,” Shaiken said.
According to Shaiken, this was a point of contention that came up in the work of the council this past term, as they worked to establish a Human Rights Commission in town to address larger societal issues such as systemic racism. However, Shaiken said Ausburger has been a “productive member” of the council when addressing issues purely on the local level.
“He is someone who has a lot of historic perspective,” Shaiken said.
With the passing of Freudmann, Ausburger is the only Republican currently occupying a spot on the council. In their meeting this past week, the council decided that, to honor Freudmann, the choice of his successor would be left to Ausburger and the rest of the Mansfield Republican Town Committee.