Garry, Heisey in Contentious Primary Race for State Rep
Second in a series of stories profiling legislative races that will be decided Sept. 4.
By Amaris Castillo
DRACUT -- In a little over two weeks, voters will decide between veteran state Rep. Colleen Garry and Sabrina Heisey in the Democratic primary. It’s a race that has not been without tension and snippy back-and-forth on Twitter.
In recent months, Heisey and Garry have hit the pavement and reached out to Dracut and Tyngsboro voters in person and on their social media platforms. Garry, who has served in her role as state representative for the 36th Middlesex District for over two decades, has touted her years of dedication to the district’s citizens and her institutional knowledge of the Statehouse and of the communities. Heisey, a School Committee member who beat out incumbent Matthew Sheehan last year, has promised to be an advocate for Dracut children and families who are struggling and says she understands the district’s unique needs in terms of geography, tax base and residents.
“I am running because there is a need in this district to have representation that addresses real-life problems that people are facing in this district, so families who are struggling with their kids’ education, seniors who are struggling with a fixed income and the rising cost of everything,” Heisey said last Tuesday from her home. “I think that we need representation who wants to lift our residents up, so I’m running because I think that it’s just time and it’s needed.”
Garry said she’s seeking re-election because she still loves the job and the people.
“I love serving the people. This has been my entire adult life, has been working and serving the people of this district,” Garry said from her Dracut law office last Wednesday. “I’ve been working on behalf of the people of Dracut for 32 years and working for the people of Tyngsboro for 24. This is my passion, and I feel very protective of the people of this district and I want to make sure that they have the best and I will continue to fight for them for everything that we can get.”
If elected, Heisey said she’d first tackle the expansion and access of voting, Massachusetts’ education funding formula, and the cost of health care. “It’s long overdue,” Heisey said of the need to update the formula. “Our districts are suffering, our families are suffering. More families and districts have to pay fees, so we have to get back to a system where the state fully funds education.”
If re-elected, Garry said she’d like to address health care, continue the battle against the opioid epidemic, and move forward on education.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t get the education funding bill done,” Garry said. “It got stuck in the conference committee and didn’t get out. That would have helped Dracut and Tyngsboro with more funding, especially for the special education and the health care for the teachers.”
Heisey said she feels the greatest issue facing both Dracut and Tyngsboro is education funding. To Garry, the greatest issue facing Dracut and Tyngsboro is economic development.
Garry said her qualifications include her experience and knowledge of the Statehouse, state government, law, as well as her knowledge and immersion in the communities of the 36th Middlesex District.
Heisey said her qualifications include her deep involvement in the community, her role as a School Committee member in Dracut, life experience, and over a decade of experience with grants and budgets.
Garry said she agrees with the notion that this race has taken on a personal tone. Heisey disagreed, saying she doesn’t think talking about Garry’s positions are in any way personal.
On Aug. 28, Your Dracut Today Editor Bill Gilman will be hosting a debate between Heisey and Garry at the Dracut American Legion Hall, 574 Broadway Road. Admission is free and doors open at 6:30 p.m., according to the local news website. Heisey and Garry are expected to debate at 7 p.m.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.
Coming Tuesday: Reporter Kori Tuitt profiles the race for the 19th Middlesex District featuring Democrats Erika Frances Johnson, Michael McCoy, and Judith O’Connell, all of Wilmington, and Mark Kratman and David Allen Robertson, both of Tewksbury.