The four Democratic candidates for state Senate Thursday in a forum at , now just two weeks away from the September state primary.
By the end of the hour-long event, approximately 100 seniors had stopped in to listen to the candidates speak – each person was allotted 15 minutes.
Carroll touts hotel/casino plan
“I’m the only candidate with a plan,” said Salem’s Edward Carroll, going first. He went on to explain his signature campaign proposal for a hotel and casino resort at the site of the Salem power plant instead of Footprint Power bringing in its natural gas facility.
Carroll, a retired Essex County deputy sheriff and one-term Governor’s Councilor, said his plan takes advantage of Salem’s deep-water harbor to encourage cruise ships laden with thousands of passengers each to patronize said resort and attract tourists from around the Boston area.
He said his plan would bring jobs, prosperity and lower taxes to the entire district, not just Salem, and would seek to give first preference on jobs to local residents while setting aside a portion of the resort’s income for property tax relief for homeowners.
The problem with that plan is that current zoning for the site doesn’t allow for such a facility, although Carroll says that could change if the political will exists.
He also said he envisions downtown Salem only accommodating foot traffic and trolleys if his plan came to fruition. He said trolleys could also shuttle back and forth to Peabody, Beverly, Danvers and Topsfield.
Slattery says he has record of success on Beacon Hill
John Slattery, a Peabody attorney and former city councilor and state representative, was up next.
He said he’s the only one in the race who can hit the ground running if elected, thanks to eight years on Beacon Hill, during which time he filed legislation, built consensus among his fellow lawmakers and saw various bills to fruition. He also pointed to his long record as a trial attorney.
“I’m the only one who has debated legislation all the way through the process and had success,” Slattery said. “I know what it takes to get things done on the Hill.”
Slattery takes credit for a handful of bills, such as securing a raise for personal care attendants, an assault weapons ban, an increase on the child tax credit and an early retirement incentive for teachers. He did not mention, however, his more controversial vote while in office that derailed an effort to reinstitute the death penalty in Massachusetts more than a decade ago.
Slattery said his childhood, part of which was spent in a Lynn housing project, taught him some valuable life lessons, including that “people, no matter how self-sufficient, sometimes just need a break.”
He said that led him to advocate for a raise for PCAs – the first one they’d had in about a decade – and his support of other important social programs and public education. As for senior citizens, he noted he’s a proponent of adult in-home care services, which are more accommodating for seniors and cheaper than nursing home facilities.
“I understand that the middle class is being squeezed…I understand that seniors on a fixed income are being squeezed,” he said.
Lovely says brings experience, leadership, 'grassroots' campaign to race
Joan Lovely, an eight-term Salem city councilor and an attorney, said she knows what Salem, Peabody and the other communities in the district are going through in tough financial times and said she has both the experience and leadership skills to move forward.
She pointed to 15 years’ worth of city budgets she has voted on, advocacy for important projects such as a new senior center in Salem, serving on the board for the city’s Council on Aging and working with Congressman John Tierney to bring federal aid for flooding to Salem a decade ago.
“I know what Peabody’s going through with downtown flooding,” Lovely said, adding that outside aid is needed to address the problem.
She described her campaign as a “grassroots” effort, noting she has knocked on about 7,000 doors from Salem to Topsfield over the past few months. She said she’s also met with city and town leaders in all five communities to hear their concerns.
As for seniors, she said, she’s aware of their concerns as well, be it the rising costs of healthcare, affording prescriptions or even just groceries. On that subject, Lovely mentioned the state legislature’s recent passage of a health insurance cost containment bill that seeks to reign in skyrocketing healthcare costs in Massachusetts.
She said savings in that area can then free up strapped budget resources for such things as roads, bridges and education. “I want to be part of that process going forward,” she said.
Lovely said she’s also gained some experience on Beacon Hill as well – about a year-and-a-half as a legislative aide to the late former state Rep. Michael Ruane.
Manning pledges to cut waste, pursue reforms
Rounding out the forum was Mary-Ellen Manning, currently the Governor’s Councilor for Peabody and the rest of a 5th District and an attorney as well.
Manning pledges to be a voice for the average taxpayer and said she would bring the same level of scrutiny and tough stances to the Senate as she has to the Governor’s Council over the past 11 years, such as opposing unqualified judgeship candidates and bringing attention to candidates making political donations to state officials in years leading up to their candidacy.
Manning noted she has defeated both Democrat and Republican challengers over the years.
She said the Senate race is about making sure the district’s residents’ needs are placed first and foremost and that the district speaks in a clear unified voice, holding up a hand to signal "enough" on increasing taxes or other financial burdens on residents.
Manning said she’s the only candidate talking about cutting taxes and waste at the state level, later adding that it’s because of her time on Beacon Hill that she’s only too well aware of rampant waste at the Statehouse.
She said government can still “take care of the people we need to take care of,” preserve investments in important services but still not raise taxes. Manning said the GI Bill for veterans is an important program that benefits families – it was true for the Mannings – and she would like to see more attention on affordable housing for veterans.
“Taxpayers don’t want their [money] to be wasted,” she said, adding that she would continue to fight against “phony disability pensions” and other abuses of the state pension system and vowed to not make special deals for anyone.
“I’m a big believer in earning what you take,” Manning said.
The state primary is Sept. 6 and the winner of the Democratic ticket in the Senate race will face Republican Richard Jolitz in November.