By Mac Cerullo
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Two weeks removed from a busy state primary season, both candidates for the Second Essex District representative seat are now looking ahead to what promises to be a hotly contested race to the finish.
Republican Lenny Mirra and Democrat Barry Fogel, who both hail from West Newbury, will be facing off in November’s general election to replace Rep. Harriett Stanley, D-West Newbury, who is stepping down after 18 years in the Legislature. The 2nd Essex District includes Newbury, West Newbury, Merrimac, Georgetown, Groveland and parts of Haverhill and Boxford.
The two candidates have been discussing future debate plans and have agreed to face off several times in the weeks ahead.
The first debate will be held Thursday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at Boxford Community Center. It will be hosted by the Town Democratic and Republican Committees and moderated by Gerald Johnston, the town moderator.
The second event, a meet the candidates-style forum presented by the Greater Haverhill League of Women Voters, will take place Monday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at Haverhill Public Library.
A debate involving the communities of Georgetown and Groveland is tentatively in the works for Thursday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m. at Georgetown Town Hall, but the specifics are still being finalized. An additional debate to be held jointly by groups in Newbury and West Newbury is also being discussed.
In addition to the debates, both Mirra and Fogel have each been busy meeting with supporters and planning their campaign strategies.
Fogel, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary, allowing him the opportunity to steadily build his base of support and focus his resources on the November finals, said he has been canvassing and making calls.
“We’ve been getting everybody focused on the general campaign,” he said.
Mirra, meanwhile, has been working to capitalize on the momentum generated from his primary victory, when he emerged to win the Republican nomination with 45 percent of the vote, beating out competitors Bob Cronin of Boxford and Gary Fowler of Georgetown.
Given the fact that Fogel and Mirra are both from West Newbury, geography will likely not play as big a role in the general election as it did in the Republican primary. In that race, Mirra dominated West Newbury, garnering more than 80 percent of the vote, while Cronin and Fowler each won their hometowns of Boxford and Georgetown respectively.
The two candidates agree that this race should be about the issues, rather than geography, party affiliation or money.
“I’m not asking for their vote simply because I’m a Democrat, I’m asking for their vote because I feel that I’ll be the better representative on Beacon Hill,” Fogel said. “That’s been my main thrust, focusing on my expertise and ability of problem solving.”
For Mirra, fundraising sources were a major point of his primary campaign. According to campaign documents, he donated more than $45,000 to his own campaign, and the majority of his outside donations came from individuals living in his West Newbury neighborhood.
“I’m going to be the only one you ever talk to who’s taken a vow to not take political action committee or corporate donations; I’m only taking money from individuals,” Mirra said. “We won’t take money from any of those special interest groups, because there is too much money in politics.”
Mirra said his goal is to rein in spending on Beacon Hill, with a focus on welfare reform, electronic benefit transfer card abuse, pension reform and the Perry amendment in particular.
“It’s about cutting waste so that we can return local aid to where it should be,” Mirra said.
Fogel said he is also against government waste, but added that he would prefer to fix broken programs that serve useful purposes rather than cut them altogether.
“I see the glass as half-full,” Fogel said. “If I see a government program that was established for an important purpose, I would ask if the program could be fixed. I’m in favor of making government better. I’m not of the school that it’s broken and needs to be terminated.”