THE LACK of competitive party politics in Massachusetts has empowered political bosses in the state Legislature and bred cynicism among the public. Although diversity of political opinion is alive in Massachusetts, no one would know it by counting Republicans in the state Legislature — just five GOP members in the 40-member Senate and 15 in the 160-member House. With a slew of incumbents either resigning their seats or seeking higher office, there is a significant opportunity on Tuesday to promote sound tax policy, increase accountability, and restore some needed balance in both branches of the Legislature.
Having more Republicans in the Legislature will make Democrats more responsive, and diminish the power of Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray, whose stranglehold on legislation can frustrate the best intentions of any governor.
In the Middlesex and Essex Senate district, Republican Craig Spadafora would be a solid choice to replace state Senator Richard Tisei, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket. Spadafora, 37, is a fiscally conservative Malden city councilor with moderate leanings on social issues. As a strong supporter of education and pension reform, he should appeal to both the urban and suburban parts of the district. His Democratic opponent, state Representative Katherine Clark of Melrose, opposed the passage of this year’s vital education reform bill.
In the Suffolk and Norfolk Senate district, Republican Brad Williams offers a good alternative to political insider Michael Rush, a Democratic state representative from West Roxbury. The 39-year-old Williams, an investment manager, is particularly eager to try his hand at expanding the job base through lower business taxes and less intrusive regulation. Rush has a disturbing tendency to abuse power, as evidenced by his effort to evict the state’s top court administrator over a personal matter.
Several promising Republicans are vying for open seats in the House, including attorney David Lucas in the 32nd Middlesex District. The 38-year-old Melrose native makes a strong case for getting people back to work by lowering health and unemployment insurance costs for small businesses. A specialist in municipal law, Lucas favors giving cities and towns the unilateral right to transfer city and town employees into the state’s lower-cost health insurance plan. Unlike some Republicans who would repeal the state’s affordable housing law, Lucas has the business sense to see the value in expanding the state’s housing stock.
In the 1st Worcester District, Republican Kim Ferguson, 43, has tapped into voters’ frustration with Beacon Hill. A selectman and former school committee member in Holden, she knows a risky deal for communities when she sees one. Ferguson has signed a no-new-taxes pledge. But she wisely rejects the too-severe cutting of Question 3.
In the 9th Norfolk race, Republican Dan Winslow boasts wide knowledge of the inner workings of state government and the criminal justice system, having served as both a sitting judge and legal counsel to then-Governor Mitt Romney. The Norfolk resident understands the mechanism of cutting wasteful spending while preserving core services.
In the race for the 22nd Middlesex District, Billerica Selectman Marc Lombardo also makes a strong case for improving the balance of power of Beacon Hill. The 28-year-old Republican wants tighter caps on state pensions and argues strongly that cities and towns need unilateral ability to place their workers in the less expensive, but high-quality state medical insurance plan. The Legislature needs more members who understand that the bountiful benefit plans for public employees are no longer sustainable in a state where comparable perks are largely unknown in the private sector.
These new faces should also help to increase debate and competition on Beacon Hill, where many new members concentrate more on ingratiating themselves to leadership than pushing new ideas. The state can benefit from their fresh thinking.