HAVERHILL — Judging by the negative attention she received from her opponents at Monday night’s First Essex Senate District debate, Newburyport Democrat Kathleen O’Connor Ives looked liked the front-runner.
Or at least the other candidates appeared to see it that way.
0Each of her three opponents stressed O’Connor Ives’ party affiliation, suggesting she will take her cues from Democratic leaders rather than the people of the district.
Amesbury’s James Kelcourse, one of two Independents in the race, said O’Connor Ives will do as she’s told at the Statehouse or she’ll end up with a basement office.
Kelcourse, a lawyer and Amesbury city councilor, bolstered his argument by referencing Newburyport Democratic state Rep. Michael Costello’s support for raising the Massachusetts sales tax and a tax on alcohol sales.
“The Democratic-controlled Senate is why some legislators make decisions they don’t want to make,” Kelcourse said.
Paul Magliocchetti, the other Independent in the race, highlighted statements by O’Connor Ives that she believes sending money back to cities and towns for infrastructure, public safety and education are the safest bets to spur economic development and create jobs.
“The Democratic candidate believes investing in infrastructure is the way to grow the economy,” said Magliocchetti, a lawyer and member of the Haverhill School Committee. “I believe it’s supporting small business and bringing back manufacturing.”
Republican Shaun Toohey rounded out the attack, saying “the Democrats on Beacon Hill don’t want to be held accountable for their party’s reckless spending.” Toohey is a mortgage banker and is also a member of the Haverhill School Committee.
O’Connor Ives, a Newburyport city councilor, dismissed assertions she’ll tow the Democratic Party line if she wins the seat.
“I will represent your interests, not special interests,” she told about 140 debate guests at Northern Essex Community College. “I’ve been listening to what the people of the Merrimack Valley want and I will do what they want.”