Crowded Primary in 19th Middlesex
Third in a series of stories profiling legislative races that will be decided Sept. 4.
By Kori Tuitt
There is only one contested primary leading up to the general election in the 19th Middlesex District race after one of two Republican candidates withdrew last week, but the Democratic field is crowded, with five candidates all hoping to come out on top in the Tuesday, Sept. 4 primary election.
The candidates are Erika Johnson, of Wilmington; Mark Kratman, of Tewksbury; Mike McCoy, of Wilmington; Judy O’Connell, of Wilmington; and David Robertson, of Tewksbury.
All the Democratic candidates agree among their top priorities are helping to improve the condition and infrastructure of Route 38 and addressing the desperate need for affordable housing in both communities.
Kratman, a Tewksbury selectman, works as an assistant operations engineer for Mass DOT. He said not only does Route 38 need to be redone, but the infrastructure in both towns could be strengthened.
“We have all these developments going up, so not only do we have to plan for what’s already there, but how do we make it better for the next 20 to 30 years?” Kratman said.
O’Connell brought up the pressing need to address the opioid epidemic. She said she was a staunch supporter of funding the Wilmington Police Department substance abuse program coordinator position last year. O’Connell said ensuring that public safety officials are supported is also a priority for her.
“I think that the public safety officials are continuing to do well in trying to address the opioid crisis,” said O’Connell, a former selectman and School Committee member in Wilmington. “I think they continue to need more assistance. I think there have been inroads in this regard. I’m pleased with the progress that’s been made. At the same time, we need to do our part in ensuring these public safety officials have what they need to be successful at their job and also ensure they can go home safely to their families.”
Johnson, who has been open about her grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, said she has a special commitment to advocating for those diagnosed with the disease and their families.
“I’m really in tune with senior issues, especially with Alzheimer’s and dementia issues,” she said. “The senior centers in both of these towns have done unbelievable work.”
Johnson also sets herself apart by saying she is the only progressive candidate in the race.
“I have always been the behind the scenes girl. I worked on numerous campaigns, I was the chair of the (Wilmington) Democratic Town Committee,” she said. “I really believe it’s time for a new bold voice in the legislature who is going to legislate with current and future generations in mind.”
McCoy said residents in both towns have raised issue with overdevelopment. While campaigning, he said he often heard this concern among Tewksbury residents. He has spent nearly three decades as a Wilmington selectman.
“Tewksbury is a great place to lay down your roots and raise a family, but people’s concern is the overpopulation,” he said. “With the overpopulation, you’re going to be looking at more schools, infrastructure, police, fire, higher taxes. As state representative, I’m going to take a look at what I can do to help offset the overdevelopment to help those folks.”
When it comes to affordable housing, Robertson recommended the state consider reinstating programs like the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The program provides grants for building, buying or rehabilitating affordable housing.
“The lack of affordable housing is a huge issue for Tewksbury and Wilmington, especially because in the next census we’re going to be below our required 40B (housing stock),” said Robertson, the chief of staff to the late Jim Miceli, who represented the district until his death in April. “Like it or not, there is going to be a 40B development in Tewksbury, I think we should get ahead of it now.”
All also agree both towns have much to offer to its residents -- areas in which they hope to maintain or improve if elected. Robertson cited the improvement both Tewksbury and Wilmington have made in their public education. He said he would “move heaven and earth” to make sure the school districts have the resources and funds they need for continued success. Kratman also praised the schools.
Johnson, McCoy and O’Connell stressed the value of maintaining the constituent services both towns offer.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will be up against Republican candidate Pina Prinzivalli and unenrolled candidate Patricia Meuse in the general election. Although she is still on the ballot, Erin Buckley, of Tewksbury, withdrew from the race as the other Republican candidate to focus on her husband’s health.
The Democratic candidates are set to debate Wednesday at the Wilmington Community Television studio, located at 10 Waltham St. The debate will begin at 7 p.m.
Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.
Coming tomorrow: Reporter Alana Melanson profiles the 14th Middlesex state representative race.