BOXFORD — Following weeks of door-to-door campaigning, the candidates for the 2nd Essex District state representative seat shared the stage for the first time last night at a debate that gave them a chance to differentiate themselves for voters.
Democrat Barry Fogel and Republican Lenny Mirra, both of West Newbury, debated over issues including state spending, campaign financing, local projects and corruption on Beacon Hill in front of a packed house at the Boxford Community Center.
Throughout the evening, Fogel repeatedly emphasized the district’s need for a lawmaker who understands legislation and who has the skills to navigate the complexities of Beacon Hill. He highlighted his qualifications as a lawyer and his belief in approaching the state’s issues with a pragmatic and glass-half-full point of view.
Mirra, who has spent his whole career working in small local businesses, countered by saying the state needs to actively address its problems before they get worse, and that it will take an outsider’s perspective and a more balanced Legislature for that to happen. He also repeated his campaign mantra that there is too much money in politics, and that he would not accept any donations from special interest groups or corporations.
“As a voter, I always wanted to vote for a candidate that was not taking this money,” Mirra said. “So I’m not taking that money.”
Fogel took his opponent to task on several occasions, repeatedly questioning Mirra’s ability to work with other representatives on Beacon Hill and to ultimately get anything accomplished.
For instance, on the issue of state spending, Mirra said he’d like to see the formula that determines how state funds are distributed to local communities reviewed. He said the formula has remained the same despite language in the bill saying it should be reviewed every two years, and that small towns like the ones in the 2nd Essex District tend to get shortchanged as a result.