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Victors vow to work on fiscal woes

Area's new lawmakers eager to get started

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / November 9, 2008
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Fresh from their victories on Tuesday, the area's six newly elected state lawmakers say they are looking forward eagerly to helping to find solutions to the state's economic and fiscal troubles.

Last week's contests brought significant change to the area's legislative delegation, as four new representatives and two new senators won office. Five of the seats are held by incumbents who did not seek reelection, and the sixth by an incumbent ousted in the primary. One of the new senators - Acton Democrat James B. Eldridge - is a state representative.

"This is what I've been looking forward to - doing the job and the work," said Lunenberg Democrat and School Committee chairwoman Jennifer E. Benson, who outpaced Boxborough Republican Kurt Hayes to win Eldridge's seat. One place she said she hopes to start is by working to create jobs in her district.

"Right now, what is on everyone's mind is the economy," she said.

"I think that has to be first priority for all of us," said Winchester Democrat Jason Lewis, who defeated Winchester Selectman and Republican Brian O'Connor and Winchester Independent Chad Riley to win the seat of retiring state Representative Paul C. Casey. "We are in the most difficult economic period we've been in a long time in our state and across the country."

Lewis, a former senior executive with two software companies, said he wants to promote growth, especially in areas such as clean, renewable indus tries.

Woburn Alderman James J. Dwyer, who defeated state Representative Patrick Natale in the Democratic primary in September and ran unopposed on Tuesday, said Beacon Hill lawmakers need to encourage growth by making Massachusetts "a business-friendly state."

"Especially in this economy, we can't afford to lose any jobs," he said.

Eldridge, who defeated Marlborough Republican Steven L. Levy to succeed retiring state Senator Pamela Resor, noted that his district has been the strongest job-creating region in the state. "Continuing that work and finding ways to attract more companies to the region" will be a priority, he said.

Westford Democrat Jim Arciero said he will advocate for expedited permitting as a key to attracting businesses. Arciero said he made job creation a key issue in his campaign, in which he defeated Littleton Republican and School Committee member Paul J. Avella to claim the seat of retiring state Representative Geoffrey D. Hall.

The new legislators said they also look forward to playing a role in addressing the state's budget troubles, while also advocating for local aid for their districts.

"It will be important to see what the revenues look like and what the priorities will be," said Arlington Democrat Kenneth Donnelly, who defeated Billerica Republican Brion M. Cangiamila to claim the seat of Democratic state Senator James Marzilli of Arlington.

Marzilli dropped out of the race following his indictment in July on charges of accosting four women in Lowell in June, though his name was on the primary ballot.

"We are going to have to live within our means, but we also need to make sure we make smart decisions," said Donnelly.

"I believe tough choices will need to be made," said Lewis, who says he believes there is a need to revamp local aid and education funding "so that our towns and our schools receive fair, adequate, and sustainable funding."

Arciero said his campaign pledge has been "to keep our towns strong and to fight for every last dollar our towns deserve." But helping the state solve its budget problems is a key part of that, he said.

The new legislators are preparing to work on other issues as well.

Benson, for instance, wants to work for reforms to special-education funding, saying the current system "is not working well for the families or the towns." Donnelly said he wants to focus on education and the environment.

Dwyer, a former assistant chief of the Middlesex Juvenile Court Probation Department, said he wants to promote better foster care.

Eldridge said he plans to advocate for the environment and promote ethics reform.

And Lewis said he wants to work to "better control and manage healthcare costs so we can deliver on the promise of universal, affordable healthcare."

In other contests Tuesday, state Representative Robert S. Hargraves, a Groton Republican, defeated Groton Democrat and former selectwoman Virginia C. Wood and Independent Zachary E. Saboliauskas of Pepperell.

In two rematches of 2006 races, state Senator Susan C. Fargo, a Lincoln Democrat, defeated Chelmsford Republican Sandra B. Martinez, while state Representative Barbara L'Italien, an Andover Democrat, defeated Georgetown Republican Lawrence Brennan.

House Republican leader Brad Jones, of North Reading, coasted to victory over Reading Democrat Claire Paradiso.

Also turning back challenges were state Representatives Cory Atkins, Linda Campbell, William G. Greene Jr., and Kevin J. Murphy.

Atkins, a Concord Democrat, defeated Chelmsford independent Richard P. McClure. Campbell, a Methuen Democrat, defeated Methuen City Councilor and Independent Joseph A. Leone III.

Greene, a Billerica Democrat, prevailed over Billerica Republican Anthony Lucacio, and Murphy, a Lowell Democrat, bested Lowell Independent Kenneth J. Patrician.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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