Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
This week has a hosted a number of debates, and because you can never have too much information about local races, we’ll try to recap three of the big ones.
On Tuesday, WCRN’s morning team of Peter Blute and Hank Stolz had on the district 13 state representative hopefuls, and had the Worcester County Sheriff candidates yesterday morning. (This morning they hosted Fran Ford and Jen Caissie, who are running for governor’s council, and on Wednesday they featured Ken O’Brien, Kim Ferguson and Jonathan Long, all running for the 1st district state rep. seat.)
As you’ve probably read in the Telegram, Wednesday night featured a debate at Shrewsbury High School between Patrick Barron, Marty Lamb and Jim McGovern for the 3rd congressional seat.
Let’s take them in the order they happened. (Warning: This is long and could be boring.)
District 13 State Rep: Paul Franco (R), Ronal Madnick (i), John Mahoney (D)
The debate was rapid-fire, with each candidate allowed only a minute or so to make their points. While it was probably frustrating to have so little time to articulate positions, each one did a good job at distinguishing themselves from one another. And we learned that Ron Madnick is very good at distilling his points into soundbites.
Franco probably had the easiest time revealing who he is , in part because his beliefs on taxes and the scope of government differs from Mahoney (answering all three ballot questions with a simple “yes” makes a very clear point), but also because the political climate right now gives more flexibility to those moving right than those who move left. Franco had an easier time stating exactly where he stood, came across as confident and probably made some people more excited to vote for him than they were before.
That’s not to say Mahoney didn’t make good points. He wants legislation posted online posted 48 hours before a vote, singled out the previous three Democratic speakers of the house who were indicted and showed that wasteful spending when any party is in control is not something to let slide (referencing the $500,000/unit federally funded condos on the corner of Main and Chandler streets). He also came out in favor of keeping the alcohol tax, even though he’s a bar owner and has received contributions from Horizon Beverages and Atlas Distributing. Mahoney also said he will vote no on question 3, but would like to see the legislature cut back the sales tax to 5%.
Madnick got a considerable amount of air time, made Franco and Mahoney react to him and got his views in there. As an ACLU director, when the discussion touched on abortion, the death penalty and same-sex marriage, he could back up what he believed (pro-choice, anti-death penalty, pro-same-sex marriage) with a long record of fighting for those in Worcester. Mahoney has similar beliefs to Madnick on these, while Franco is against late-term abortion, wants voters to choose whether or not same sex marriage is legal and thinks the death penalty should be an option.
Education came up, and again, the candidates didn’t have many similarities. Franco blamed teachers’ unions for standing in the way of making schools better, and he and Madnick agreed that state standards shouldn’t be aligned with the fed’s since we’ve got one of the highest ranked systems in the country. Mahoney came out against Charter schools, saying they were “here to stay” and have had success here, but that they “cherry pick” students from the public schools.
Finally, illegal immigration and benefits came up — especially in the wake of the Herald‘s report about EBT cards being used to buy alcohol, cigarettes and lotto tickets.
Franco said every government entitlement program should be scrutinized and illegal aliens shouldn’t receive benefits. Madnick said that wasn’t the best policy, because there are cases where illegals need hospital treatment. Mahoney said that the thing about EBT is it’s electronic, so spending could be tracked better, and that the state already has safeguards preventing illegals from receiving benefits.
US Representative, 3rd Congressional district: Patrick Barron (i), Marty Lamb (R), Jim McGovern (D)
It’s hard to describe this debate without using the word “ridiculous.” Between the rowdy crowd (for all candidates), the moderator taking a time out to express her disappointment regarding their behavior and McGovern’s constitution slip of the tongue (more on that later) there was plenty to distract viewers from actually focusing on what each candidate said.
Despite some fairly rigid rules to keep this from happening, the audience, and even Barron and Lamb, did what they could to turn this into one of those town hall meetings made famous right before the healthcare bill passed earlier this year. Naturally, that atmosphere wasn’t friendly towards McGovern, despite the large pro-McGovern audience.
The first question touched on terrorism. After some guidance from the moderator to get on track, Lamb cited terrorism, China’s ownership of US debt and Iran as the largest threats to our security, following those up with a porous border, migrant workers and human traffickers.
McGovern agreed with terrorism (Al-Qaeda specifically), and said the Afghan and Iraq wars have distracted our fight against it. “Loose nukes” was another issue, and wants to rekindle the STAR treaty the US has with Russia. He added that global poverty, hunger and illiteracy all go hand in hand with unstable countries and terrorism, and brought it back locally by saying resources for local police and fire are just as important to keeping the country safe as a strong military is.
Barron took a different tack, saying we’re our own worst enemy, and special interests and political parties have made us more susceptible to foreign dangers.
As for the economy, McGovern went back to his record of projects he helped get off the ground, such as Worcester’s Gateway Park. He pointed out he voted for 16 small business tax cuts, the need for extending unemployment benefits and ending trade agreements that “sell out American workers.”
Barron said that the Bush tax cuts should be continued, the capital gains tax should be frozen and a flat tax/fair tax should be looked at to replace the current tax system.
Lamb, who is a small business owner, said 3/4 of all jobs created in the US come from small businesses. He said the previous four years of job policy have led to job losses, and that green jobs are important, but we need “red jobs, blue jobs, purple jobs” too.
As for Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, there were more strong differences. Barron would like to see full-benefit civil unions (but said he has no issue with gay marriage) and that DADT should be repealed because it’s “very reactionary.”
Lamb sidestepped DOMA by saying “it’s the law right now” and that the federal government shouldn’t get involved in marriage anyway. Similarly, on DADT he wants to wait for military reports from generals. “I’m not going to put my two cents into that issue without their input.”
McGovern succinctly said he opposes both. “It’s 2010. It’s time we move past discrimination,” and added that since DADT was enacted in 1994, 14,000 men and women have been discharged from the military because of it.
That was the end of the pre-submitted questions by the League of Women Voters (the debate’s sponsors), and audience portion began. Most questions (at least until the moderator told the audience questions couldn’t be directed at one candidate) were aimed at having McGovern defend his votes on health care reform, the stimulus bill and the threat of illegal immigrants.
McGovern addressed immigrants by saying he was for amnesty — the same bill George W. Bush, John McCain and Ted Kennedy were in favor of, but Barron and Lamb disagreed — and Barron accused Democrats of favoring amnesty because it would help create a “voting block.”
Barron also attacked McGovern by saying he received his powerful position in congress by buying it, which drew loud boos from the audience.
More debate arose over the 10th amendment –specifically the “interstate commerce” and “general welfare” clauses, and how they related to health care. Lamb supporters argued that interstate commerce doesn’t mean the government can force you to buy health care, while McGovern pointed out that if the “general welfare” clause was repealed, then important civil rights, Roe v. Wade and child labor laws wouldn’t stand ground.
While talking about the recent court decision that allows corporations to donate to political campaigns, McGovern made the national attention grabbing gaffe “the constitution is wrong.” Anyone actually at the debate, even Lamb and Barron supporters, know that it was a slip up, as he meant to say “supreme court” (although he didn’t help himself later when he was confronted by a questioner about it, and he said he didn’t say that). Lamb’s campaign should be thankful for that slip up for more than just the soundbite. A couple minutes later Lamb was asked about his position to abolish the Dept. of Education, which he said was “pure wrong.” McGovern then pulled out one of the many pledges Lamb signed which called for just that. Of course, the constitution quote will overshadow everything else.
After seeing the debate it’s hard to argue that McGovern didn’t win. He simply has knowledge of what he’s voted on, in most cases was able to answer pointed questions with equally pointed answers and gave specifics when necessary. Barron did well, considering no one’s seen much of a campaign from him, but after a while his real plan just seemed to be less government, with no specifics as to where and how and what special interests are bad.
Without the crowd there, I’m not sure how Lamb would’ve done. He was boosted by the cheering and shouts of “socialist” when McGovern spoke, and played to it, at one point pulling a copy of the constitution out of his pocket. That’s one way to get a point across, I guess. Many questions were aimed at McGovern, so it was easy for Barron and Lamb to give the “wanted” answer while McGovern generally had to play on the defensive.
Worcester County Sheriff: Lew Evangelidis (R), Tom Foley (D), Keith Nicholas (i)
Nicholas presents himself as a non-political police officer who thinks the sheriff’s office should be a non-partisan agency. Foley has carved out the campaign that his work experience makes him the most qualified candidate and Evangelidis claims to be the one going in there without connections, and can end the system of patronage and waste at the jail. For an hour on Thursday morning, none of them wavered from their campaign stances.
There we disagreements about how current outgoing sheriff Guy Glodis ran the jail with Evangelidis saying Glodis did a “good job” while Foley said he made it more political than he should have. Nicholas agreed with Foley, saying the current sheriff used it as a stepping stone. All said former sheriff Mike Flynn started out strong, but said it was time for him to go when he did.
As far as illegal immigrants in the jail are concerned, all took a muted and rational stance. Nicholas said minor criminals should be deported so we don’t have to pay for them, but those who commit serious crimes should be locked up, otherwise they’ll go free somewhere else — a position Evangelidis and Foley echoed. Foley called the deportation stance “populist spin” right now, and sheriffs don’t have the authority to deport. Evangelidis said he’d use the “bully pulpit” of the office to get non-violent offenders deported.
Of course, Foley’s pension came up. Foley’s got the defense of it down pat by this point. Whether or not you accept his explanation, he’s unwavering as he defends himself, which makes it harder for Evangelidis’ (and to some extent, Nicholas’) round-about attacks on it to stick.
There were some differences regarding community services. Nicholas said his first focus would be on the inside of the jail, while Foley and Evangelidis said they’d look to save communities money via regional lockups and work-release programs.
All three favor inmate fees, but to varying degrees. Evangelidis co-sponsored the House’s legislation, but Foley warned that many inmates are in prison specifically because they don’t have money. Nicholas said a prisoner’s daily fee should be assigned by the courts.
Nicholas did well, making specific points and taking shots at Foley and Evangelidis when he deemed them too political. Foley answered questions calmly and methodically, but he and Evangelidis took shots at each other which were reminiscent of his primary with Bove — I’m not sure that’s a race he wants to re-live. Evangelidis spent a lot of time on the defensive, arguing why he was qualified for the job and tramping down claims that he was using this to further a political career (his defense: he wasn’t elected into politics until he was 41 years old). I don’t think any of them “lost,” per se, but Foley did what he had to do: keep the focus off his pension and rely on his background. He might not have won a lot of new votes, but he didn’t lose any.