By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — BOXFORD — The two candidates for the Second Essex District state representative seat will face off in their first debate tonight at 7 at the Boxford Community Center.
Democrat Barry Fogel and Republican Lenny Mirra, both of West Newbury, will state their case directly to voters for the first time in a race that has largely been overshadowed by some of the higher profile local elections.
The debate is being co-sponsored by the Democratic and Republican Town Committees of Boxford, and Gerald Johnston, Boxford’s town moderator, will moderate the debate.
While the race hasn’t dominated local airwaves like the U.S. Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren or the 6th District congressional race between John Tierney and Richard Tisei, the race does have major implications within the Democrat-dominated state Legislature.
Fogel and Mirra are vying for the seat held by retiring Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, who has held the seat for the past 18 years. Democrats currently hold a 128-32 supermajority in the House, and state Republicans see this race as an opportunity to turn a seat that has been long held by the Democratic Party.
Given the demographic makeup of the district, which includes Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Georgetown, Groveland and parts of Haverhill and Boxford, as well as the district’s support of Sen. Scott Brown in 2010, Mirra has expressed confidence that the district would support a Republican candidate.
“I like it because this part of the district is starting to go a little more red, a little more Republican,” Mirra said following his primary election victory on Sept. 6. “So I really like our chances.”
Fogel responded by saying he is not asking for votes because he is a Democrat, but because he believes he’ll be the better representative who will bring more legislative expertise to Beacon Hill. In a post on Facebook, Fogel accused Mirra of blaming “one-party rule” for his perceived problems with government and of casting the election as a choice between parties rather than a choice between candidates.
“I am hearing from voters that is not what they want,” Fogel said in the posting. “They want someone who will help put an end to petty party politics, and that is exactly why I am running.”
In terms of prior work experience, Fogel has practiced law for over 30 years both in and out of government. He emphasized his understanding of how legislation is drafted and his knowledge of how to work within the governmental system as reasons why he would make the better representative.
For his part, Mirra has no government experience and has instead spent his entire professional career working in local, family-owned small businesses. Mirra paints himself as a champion of small business, and he said his goals are to rein in wasteful spending and reduce government regulations that he believes are hurting small businesses.
The two candidates have expressed their desire to hold a debate in each community over the next month, allowing them the opportunity to present their vision to voters throughout the district as the election approaches.
Following the debate, Fogel and Mirra will hold a Meet the Candidates-style debate in Haverhill on Oct. 15, followed by a debate in Georgetown on Oct. 18. A fourth debate to be held jointly by Newbury and West Newbury is in the works, but no plans have been finalized at this point.