New 18th rep vows to cut budget, taxes

By John Laidler
Globe Correspondent / November 7, 2010

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The state representative-elect from the 18th Essex District said he is eager to get to work delivering on his campaign promises to fight for lower spending and taxes on Beacon Hill.

“It’s an exciting time to represent the folks up on the Merrimack Valley and I’m really looking forward to it,’’ Jim Lyons said.

The Andover Republican claimed the 18th Essex seat in last Tuesday’s election when he unseated four-term Democratic incumbent Barbara A. L’Italien in the district that includes parts of Andover, Boxford, Georgetown, Haverhill, Methuen, and North Andover. Lyons won by 1,081 votes, or 53 percent to 47 percent.

Lyons said jobs and the economy will be his priorities after he is sworn in Jan. 5.

“When we began our campaign in March, we talked about the ‘5, 5, 5 rollback’ — rolling back the meals, sales, and income taxes to 5 percent,’’ he said. “We believe in reducing the rates on taxpayers since that will [generate] the economic activity that leads to job creation.’’

Lyons, who lost bids for state Senate as a Democrat living in Arlington in 1978 and 1982, with his wife runs Dandi-Lyons, a longtime family-owned flower and ice cream shop business with locations in Leominster, Reading, Tewksbury, and Manchester, N.H.

The 18th Essex was one of two Democrat-held House seats picked up by Republicans in the Merrimack Valley Tuesday. Another Andover Republican, Paul Adams, defeated Andover Democrat Patricia Commane to claim the 17th Essex seat currently held by Andover Democrat Barry R. Finegold, who was elected to succeed retiring Democratic state Senator Susan C. Tucker of Andover.

Lawmakers created the odd-shaped 18th Essex district during the last redistricting in 2001. L’Italien, a former social worker, won the seat when it took effect in 2002 and was reelected three times, defeating challengers each time.

Lyons attributed his win to the work of “literally hundreds of volunteers’’ and his message, which he said “resonated with the working families and struggling businesses in the Merrimack Valley.’’

“I think fundamentally, the folks in the 18th Essex were frustrated with increasing taxes and increasing regulations on small businesses and want to see a change in direction,’ Lyons said.

“Businesses and taxpayers — particularly in the Merrimack Valley, with close proximity to New Hampshire — were hurt significantly with the recent increases on the meals and sales tax, and the alcohol tax.’’

He said voters he encountered going door to door appreciate “the fact that I’ve been in business a long time and understand the struggles of a small businessman.’’

Andover Selectman Brian P. Major, who is on the Republican Town Committee, said Lyons was helped by his diligent campaigning effort and his strong stance against tax increases and in favor of rolling back taxes.

“And I think the notion that being a small-business person, he knows how to create jobs, who knows what a stable economy means to potential businesses as well as existing businesses’’ appealed to voters, he added.

L’Italien could not be reached for comment. But Mary Jane Powell, a Democratic State Committee member from Andover who backed her, believes her loss is attributable to a mini-GOP wave that swept the area Tuesday, citing the fact that Commane also lost.

Powell said the economic hardship for many local residents has created a “malaise and a sadness in the air’’ that may prompt voters to “vote against whomever is in power.’’

She said L’Italien leaves behind an impressive record.

“She’s done so much in health and human services, it’s really sad she is not going to be there,’’ Powell said. She added that L’Italien also wielded clout as vice chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee and that had she been reelected, she might have been tapped in January as the committee’s chairwoman.