By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — WEST NEWBURY — The race to replace veteran state Rep. Harriett Stanley — the famously bipartisan Democrat who will step down after 18 years representing the 2nd Essex District on Beacon Hill — comes down to two political outsiders.
But Democrat Barry Fogel and Republican Lenny Mirra have been working hard to go from relative unknowns to earning a seat in the Legislature.
Neither Fogel or Mirra have ever held elected office, but both have spent the past few months aggressively campaigning for the seat and facing off in three debates.
Fogel has emphasized his three decades of experience in law, arguing that his work drafting and implementing legislation makes him most qualified for the job. Mirra, meanwhile, has championed himself as an advocate for small business who will rein in wasteful spending and bring about business-friendly reforms.
The two candidates, who both live in West Newbury, do share similar views in some areas. For instance, both have said they support reducing the state sales tax to 5 percent while also reducing the state income tax. On other matters, such as government regulation, the two candidates differ greatly.
“Everything from hiring procedures to putting license plates on trucks, everything seems to have too much bureaucracy and regulation,” Mirra told The Daily News last month, adding that he thinks all the bureaucracy hurts small businesses and limits their ability to thrive.
Fogel said he opposes unreasonable and overly burdensome regulation, but called himself a strong advocate for fair regulation with reasonable implementation of the rules. Fogel has also been more positive about the condition of the state economy, saying that things have been improving since the financial collapse of 2008 sent shockwaves through Massachusetts.
“We have an improving economy,” Fogel said, adding that the state unemployment rate is below the national average. He said his job on Beacon Hill would be to ensure that the recovery continues.
Mirra has highlighted a report by Forbes calling Boston one of the least business-friendly cities in the country. Specifically, the report listed Boston second-to-last out of 200 cities in the “cost of doing business” category. Mirra attributed that rating to high taxes and costly regulations, which he said he would work to drive down. He also supports pension, welfare and immigration reform.
While Fogel has never held elected office, he is no stranger to the legislative process. He has worked as a lawyer in the private sector for the past 20 years, most recently as a partner at the Boston-based Keegan Werlin Law Firm. Prior to that, he served as legal counsel to the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Fogel has also been involved in town government in West Newbury, where he and his family have lived for the past 15 years. He has served on the West Newbury Conservation Commission, an appointed post, since 2003, and recently was named to the search committee for the town’s new finance director.
Mirra has worked in small business his entire life, starting at his family’s construction company where he literally dug ditches when he was home from school. Later, he started his own company, T and M in West Newbury, which installs advertising displays.
Mirra gained some big momentum coming out of the September primary when he defeated Bob Cronin of Boxford and Gary Fowler of Georgetown to earn the Republican nomination. He has also self-funded the majority of his campaign, contributing more than $45,000 personally to his election effort.
Mirra has been a strong proponent of keeping outside money out of politics, repeatedly saying he would not accept money from corporate or special interest groups. A review of his recently released campaign finance reports shows he has kept that promise.
As far as campaign financing goes, Fogel said he would not let special interest groups dictate his actions, but emphasized that his door would be open to anyone who has information, whether they be individuals, unions or otherwise.
He also expressed pride for having received more than 150 individual donations from people across the district, including several Democratic stalwarts and even Stanley herself.
The 2nd Essex District includes Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Georgetown, Groveland and parts of Boxford and Haverhill.
Address: 4 Upland Lane, West Newbury
Occupation: Lawyer, Keegan Werlin LLT
Education: Wesleyan University, 1976; American University, 1982
Family: Married, one daughter.
Address: 11 Mirra Way, West Newbury
Occupation: Owner of Mirra Company, a construction business in Georgetown
Education: Boston College, 1986
Family: Divorced, two sons.