This fall, state Senator Kenneth Donnelly is facing his first challenger since he was elected to replace disgraced state senator James Marzilli in 2008.
Woburn Republican Gerry Dembrowski, a 49-year-old chiropractor who says Donnelly hasn’t done enough to create jobs or protect local aid to communities in the Fourth Middlesex District, is taking on the Democratic incumbent in the general election on Nov. 6.
“I hear how people are suffering,” Dembrowski said. “I became a doctor to relieve the pain and suffering of my patients. Now I’m running for state Senate because I want to relieve the pain and suffering that these people are experiencing.”
But Donnelly, 62, who is a former Lexington firefighter, said when he arrived on Beacon Hill the state was facing a fiscal crisis, and after tightening its belt, it is now creating jobs and building infrastructure.
“As a result, Massachusetts is coming out of this recession just about better than any state in the nation,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly is completing his second term as the state senator for the district, which covers Arlington, Billerica, Burlington, Woburn, and precincts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in Lexington.
Neither candidate faced a challenger in last month’s primary elections.
Dembrowski’s bid for the seat is the first challenge posed to Donnelly since he beat Republican Brion Cangiamila in 2008 to replace Marzilli, who resigned after being accused of accosting women in Lowell.
Donnelly, who lives in Arlington, said he thinks he should be reelected because he has worked hard for the district on everything from health insurance reform to creating jobs and increasing funding for education. He said the state’s bond rating has increased, and its rainy-day fund is one of the largest in the country.
Donnelly said property values in the Senate district are also strong, and funding for education has been one of his top priorities. This year, he said, the state increased Chapter 70 funding for schools while other states were making cuts.
He described Dembrowski as a Tea Party Republican who wants to cut government altogether.
“I believe that we need to invest in our children and invest in our infrastructure,” Donnelly said.
Dembrowski, who ran an unsuccessful bid to unseat US Representative Edward Markey in 2010, said he considers himself an independent Republican. He said he did speak at a Tea Party rally in 2010 after being invited to address the gathering.
Dembrowski said that while Governor Deval Patrick and legislators such as Donnelly talk about how well the state is doing, communities such as Arlington have been hit hard by reductions to state aid in recent years.
Dembrowski said he believes the state is spending too much money on illegal immigrants and unnecessary health care mandates. He said that if enough of the unnecessary spending can be reeled in, he’d be in favor of phasing out the state’s sales tax.
He said the state needs to approve tax and regulatory relief to make it easier to do business in Massachusetts, and address underemployment.
Dembrowski said he thinks he should be elected because of his experience in the private sector running his chiropractic office in Woburn.
“I know that increased taxes, increased regulation, only hurt individuals and businesses and don’t create jobs,” he said.
According to finance reports filed by the candidates shortly before the Sept. 6 primary elections, Donnelly had raised about $20,900 for his campaign since the beginning of the year, adding to about $38,030 he already had in his campaign account. He had spent almost $22,700 on his campaign heading into the primary, according to campaign records on file with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Dembrowski had raised about $13,650 for his campaign since the beginning of the year, and had spent almost $9,700 shortly before the primary, according to his campaign records.