Candidates Meet For Q&A With Bourne Voters
By: Michael C. Bailey
At the outset of Tuesday’s candidates’ night at The First Baptist Church of Pocasset MaryAnne Lewis, unenrolled candidate for US Representative of the 10th Congressional District, remarked that perhaps the forum’s setting would temper the anger so prevalent at other recent political events.
Yet emotions did on occasion run high during the church-sponsored forum, which featured candidates for Congress, State Senator of the Plymouth and Barnstable District, and State Representative of the Third Barnstable District.
The two-hour evening was an informal affair that granted each candidate a chance to introduce themselves to the audience, which then got to ask questions of the guests.
Only two candidates from the packed race for US Representative of the 10th Congressional District were missing in action: Democrat William R. Keating, who sent a spokesman to deliver a brief message, and unenrolled candidate James A. Sheets of Quincy.
Ms. Lewis, an attorney and former state representative, spoke about the frustration she has sensed from voters over “the philosophies of just two parties…the vast majority of voters don’t feel that either party represents their interests. They feel disenfranchised from a two-party system whose nominees will toe the national party line and adhere to a strict party agenda.”
“I am an independent because I believe we deserve better than that,” she said.
“Trust should count, for a public servant, for an elected official, character matters. Loyalty and honesty should be a job requirement,” Ms. Lewis added -- the closest anyone at the forum, candidate or audience member, came to mentioning the assorted controversies that have dogged State Representative Jeffrey D. Perry’s (R – Sandwich) throughout the campaign.
Notably, Ms. Lewis last week at a Plymouth forum blasted both Mr. Keating and Rep. Perry for sniping at each other over Rep. Perry’s background.
There was no noticeable animosity that night toward the four-term state representative, who received several rounds of enthusiastic applause over the course of the forum.
Rep. Perry chided the outgoing Congressional delegation “under (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and the majority party” for ending its current session without taking action on immigration reform bills or an extension for the Bush-era tax cuts.
“Congress went home and didn’t solve any of our problems,” he said, adding that legislators in both parties have been “kicking the can down the road” on major issues, and as a result racking up billions of dollars in debt for future generations.
Joseph van Nes of West Tisbury, another unenrolled candidate, offered a similar opinion, stating that “few politicians are willing to take risks…I find it ironic that the most powerful nation in the world is so overwhelmingly run by cowards who would rather do what’s popular rather than what’s right.”
He cited as his prime example legislators’ unwillingness to tap into the vast potential of legalizing hemp. He extolled a commercial hemp industry as a potential solution for issues ranging from finding affordable alternatives to fossil fuels to the cheap and environmentally friendly manufacture of materials, including paper and plastic.
Senate President Therese M. Murray (D – Plymouth) did not appear at the forum or send a representative, leaving Republican challenger Thomas F. Keyes with an open floor. Mr. Keyes, a Sandwich resident, spoke at length about his background and accomplishments with the town’s board of selectmen and the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, the latter of which he is still a member.
Mr. Keyes said frustration as a private citizen over an unspecified town issue drove him to pursue public service, and frustration over current economic and ethics issues is what compelled him to challenge Sen. Murray. He listed job creation and enhancing transparency in the Legislature as his priorities if he wins the election.
The two candidates for state representative, incumbent Matthew C. Patrick (D – Falmouth) and Republican challenger David T. Vieira, had perhaps the most pointed exchanges during the forum. Rep. Patrick used his opening statement time discussing the experiences of his youth that eventually led him to public service.
When Mr. Vieira, the youngest town moderator in Falmouth’s history, delivered his opening statement he also spoke about his early influences and what led him to pursue elected office, then took a jab at Rep. Patrick: “I want to be a strong voice, but more importantly a listening ear in this district,” he said. “I don’t believe that Mr. Patrick’s voice speaks for us any longer.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the program, Rep. Patrick told an audience member asking what the candidates would do to support small business that he was working on reforming health care to reduce costs for businesses, and assisting constituents in applying for economic development loans.
Mr. Vieira, however, focused on what Rep. Patrick has not done, taking the incumbent to task for voting for a sales tax increase and against a bill to consolidate and streamline the state’s economic development agencies (a bill, filed by Sen. Murray, that was enacted).
Rep. Patrick fired back with a more general slap at the Republican Party, blaming the tax policies of the Bush Administration for contributing to the recession, which earned him a round of catcalls from several members of the audience.
He also claimed that “if it weren’t for Matt Patrick, the Republicans wouldn’t know” that the rules of debate in the House needed to be reformed to enhance transparency.
Rep. Patrick then challenged the soundness of Mr. Vieira’s proposal to reduce the sales and income taxes to five percent from, respectively, 6.25 and 5.3 percent. Rep. Patrick stated that the loss of that tax revenue would force the state to make approximately $3.5 billion in cuts next year, and most of those cuts would be to local aid and state services.
Mr. Vieira responded by pointing out another key vote of Rep. Patrick’s against an education reform bill, which enabled the state to apply for Race to the Top funding.
The Congressional candidates were asked how they would approach the federal health care reform bill in light of the fact the first round of provisions would be in effect by the time they took office in January 2011.
Rep. Perry said he would work to repeal the entire bill, and should that prove unsuccessful he would join his GOP colleagues in, first, ousting Rep. Pelosi as speaker, then in blocking any attempts to fund the legislation.
Ms. Lewis agreed that a change in House leadership was necessary, and said it was “fiscally irresponsible” to pursue health care reform in the midst of a recession. She said she would support efforts to repeal the bill, or amend it to address cost controls that were not included in the original legislation.
Mr. van Nes supported government-run health care, stating he’d “rather be forced to pay for health care to the government, I’d rather not be forced to pay to a private corporation.” He did not address the health care bill issue directly, instead talking about treating fast food and junk food producers similarly to tobacco corporations by posting health warning notices on unhealthy food products.