BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT - The debate among candidates for the 1st Essex Senate seat moved to Newburyport last night, and the four candidates to succeed former lawmaker Steve Baddour all suggested the next senator must contribute to improving economic conditions in the district.
Two candidates stated the Commonwealth should roll back the state sales tax, but Kathleen O’Connor Ives differed by suggesting that a comprehensive tax-reform strategy should be employed before tampering with tax tables.
Presenting their thoughts in the high school auditorium, about a third full, were O’Connor Ives, a Democrat from Newburyport, Republican Shaun Toohey of Haverhill and independents James Kelcourse of Amesbury and Paul Magliocchetti of Haverhill.
Because much of the district borders New Hampshire, two candidates suggested lowering the sales tax as a means to compete with enterprises in the Granite State.
Magliocchetti, a lawyer and former manufacturing executive, said as senator he would push for the Commonwealth to roll back its sales tax on several levels.
He said that “border towns should have a 2 percent sales tax, border towns to border towns should have a 4 percent sales tax and the state itself should be about 5 percent.”
Twomey, a mortgage banker, said that the state sales tax should be reduced (from 6.25 percent) to 5 percent to stimulate growth and compete with New Hampshire.
Kelcourse, a lawyer, said that as senator he would push for job creation and would encourage growth in strong areas like tourism and recreation. Kelcourse also suggested holding tax holidays throughout the region, including no-tax days on expensive purchases like cars and boats.
Ives articulated a different approach, suggesting that “the best way to beat New Hampshire is to create a stronger Massachusetts.” She noted that New Hampshire has very high real estate taxes, and stated that a broader view should be taken concerning economic growth.
She said, “We need a tax-reform strategy. As senator, I would work with my colleagues to study the corporate tax breaks that exist, and decide which are working and which not helping economic growth.”
On the topic of stimulating job growth, Magliocchetti said that as senator he would work on creating more manufacturing jobs. He noted that his family had been in manufacturing, and that the field should be providing more employment opportunities.
All candidates indicated they would not be interested in bringing casinos to the area.
Kelcourse said that state officials should work with local business leaders to develop jobs in tourist and recreation. “We can work together to develop what we have here.”
Focusing on Newburyport in answer to a given question, O’Connor Ives said that she would work to develop cultural tourism and concentrate on strengthening the local business climate.
The candidates agreed that admission policies at Whittier Technical High School should be reviewed so that students in local communities are not unjustly rejected in favor of students accepted from out-of-district communities such as from locales such as Lowell and Lawrence.
All noted that their communities make significant financial contributions to Whittier, and that the trades education that Whittier provides is important for the region.
Candidates also had similar views on the need to provide opportunities for disabled members of the community, and vowed to support Anna Jaques Hospital and other healing centers in the area.
Asked about the impact they could make if elected, O’Connor Ives said that because she would be a Democrat in a Democratic-controlled senate, she could assume a leadership post - perhaps a chairmanship - as soon as she arrived. “I would hit the ground running.”
Kelcourse said he would use his educational background, a master’s degree and a law degree, to work for this district. He said his cost-cutting measures on the Amesbury City Council is just one demonstration of his skills.
Magliocchetti said that his experience as a manufacturing executive and a lawyer would enable him to be effective on many levels. He said arriving as an independent would enable him to work with both Democrats and Republicans.
Twomey stated that his experience in the private sector, and almost a decade as a leader of the Haverhill School Committee, would enable him to work for more jobs and a stronger economy.
The event was co-sponsored by The Daily News, WNBP radio 1450, PortMedia cable station and the Greater Newburport Chamber of Commerice and Industry.
Organizers said it was the only senate debate scheduled to be held in Newburyport before the Nov. 6 election. There have been other debates in the district, which stretches from Newburyport to Methuen.