METHUEN — The four candidates for the First Essex Senate District seat differentiated themselves on a wide range of issues at a debate last night.
Similar to recent debates in Haverhill and Newburyport, questions about taxes, the economy and jobs dominated the session. But the candidates also staked out positions on niche issues such as using civilian flagmen instead of police officers for traffic details, whether they would support a casino in the district and their top ideas for spurring tourism in the region.
The Senate hopefuls also named their favorite current state senator and identified which legislative committees they would like to serve on should they win — possibly providing insight into their priorities should they top the ballot Nov. 6.
Kathleen O’Connor Ives of Newburyport is the Democratic nominee, Shaun Toohey of Haverhill is the Republican candidate and James Kelcourse of Amesbury and Paul Magliocchetti of Haverhill are running as Independents. They are vying for the seat previously held by Methuen Democrat Steve Baddour, who resigned in March to enter private law practice.
About 75 people attended the debate at Merrimack Valley Golf Club in Methuen while a steady drizzle fell outside. The event was sponsored by various chambers of commerce in the district, which includes all or parts of seven cities and towns and stretches from Methuen to the seacoast.
Answering a question from an audience member, Toohey and Kelcourse promised they would never agree to raise taxes. Magliocchetti said he would consider new taxes only after thoroughly scrutinizing the state budget for spending cuts and seeing state agencies reformed and consolidated to “bare-bones” levels. O’Connor Ives said it would be irresponsible for her to dismiss any proposal without first seeing and studying it.
Asked their No. 1 idea for stimulating the stagnant economy, the candidates agreed nothing is more important for the district’s next senator than the economy.