Every member of the Massachusetts Legislature is up for re-election this year. Many are running unopposed but other representatives and senators find themselves with opponents.
However, out of all the area races, only two MetroWest and Milford area House contests are between newcomers - the 7th Middlesex District for Ashland and precincts 8, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 of Framingham and the 10th Worcester District for Milford, Mendon, Hopedale and precinct 1 of Medway. Incumbents quite often have the advantage against challengers, but an open seat can be anybody's game.
For the 7th Middlesex seat, Selectwoman Yolanda Greaves, R-Ashland, faces off against OUT MetroWest executive director Jack Patrick Lewis, D-Framingham. An independent candidate, Cliff Wilson, of Ashland, is also on the ballot. The seat is currently held by outgoing Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Ashland.
For the 10th Worcester seat, Selectman Brian Murray, D-Milford, is up against Zoning Board member and former selectwoman Sandra Biagetti, R-Hopedale, for the seat currently held by outgoing Rep. John Fernandes, D-Milford.
The Daily News spoke to the four major candidates to get a closer look at their platform and their campaigns.
7th Middlesex - Ashland & Framingham
Jack Lewis, 32, won the Democratic nomination for the House in a three-way primary against Ashland residents Phil Jack and Brett Walker.
Although Lewis has not held elected office before, he built his nonprofit organization OUT MetroWest from the ground up and currently serves as its executive director. Dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth, OUT MetroWest began, according to Lewis, in 2010 as a once-a-month pizza party in Wellesley but quickly turned into a thriving organization with regular meetings, events and support groups for teenagers.
Lewis is a progressive who has made protecting the middle class, seniors and schools his top issues and said he wants to continue the work Sannicandro has done. He has been endorsed by many Ashland and Framingham Democrats including Sannicandro, Sen. Ed Markey, state Sen. Karen Spilka and numerous union and progressive groups.
"I am fully aware of what it will mean to start as a freshman state legislator," Lewis said. "I'm dedicated to working to make sure my political capital is spent working to bring funds back to my communities. I plan to work with Sen. Spilka, she needs a partner on Beacon Hill, not an adversary."
Yolanda Greaves, 52, does not see herself as an adversary however and said she hopes to work across party lines to focus on education funding reform and small business revitalization.
Before joining the board of selectmen, Greaves served on the Ashland School Committee for five years and said serving on both committees has given her experience in understanding the differences between educational and municipal finance. She supports raising the charter school cap and whether the ballot question to do so passes or not she hopes to address the way charter schools are funded in the state. She said charter schools give students more choices, which can be vital in other communities with poorer school districts.
"There's this pie in the sky thinking that communities getting more money might give some of it up to other communities," Greaves said of school funding. "We can't keep making the pie bigger."
Greaves was unenrolled before registering as a Republican to run for office and said she believes in "person over party." She had no primary challengers and has received the endorsement of Gov. Charlie Baker. She is a self-identified "Baker Republican," which she describes as "fiscally responsible and socially moderate." She hopes serving as a Republican in the House will introduce new ideas and debate.
The 7th Middlesex District covers much of downtown Framingham, which has seen fluctuating economic growth over the years but still sees regular crime and poverty. Greaves said she is impressed with the work that has been done to the area, including the rise of Amazing Arts Center. She would like to see the area "become more walkable" and hopes to contribute to small business growth in the area that could create a nightlife, instead of a business district that closes by 6 p.m.
"If we have strong small business, that is what is going to be the strong economic grower," she said. "We've seen it here in Ashland with new restaurants and businesses. We need to allow them to do what they need to grow."
Lewis is likewise concerned with economic growth in south Framingham and said he plans to work with leaders in the Brazilian and Spanish-speaking community. In order to fund public programs, Lewis is a proponent of the millionaire's tax, which would put an additional 4 percent tax on income over $1 million.
"I'm of the firm belief that our state budget cannot be balanced on the backs of the people who need our support the most," Lewis said. "I want to live in a society that supports its residents. We need to think creatively. A family can't cut its way to prosperity and we as a commonwealth can't cut our way to prosperity either."
While Lewis is young, he said he is proud to be one of 16 millennials running for office in Massachusetts this year. While he is married with a 7-year-old son, he said he also understands the issues other millennials face in regards to student debt and hopes to bring "a new voice and a new generation to Beacon Hill."
10th Worcester - Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford
Both candidates for this seat have focused their campaigns on similar issues, chief among them are local aid and immigration.
Brian Murray has served as a Milford selectman for 16 years and served 12 years on the town school committee before that. A primary concern for him, he said, is keeping taxes low. As a selectman, Murray said he is proud of getting taxes returned to residents. For financial successes, he pointed to the board's work to keep Milford afloat during the 2008 financial crisis by focusing on capital projects and refusing to borrow money.
"That has been my philosophy since I became a selectman," Murray said. "That philosophy is reflected on the financial performance of the town of Milford. I'm under no illusion that a freshman legislator would have the same influence as Rep. Fernandes, but it's important to have a very strong, capable and competent voice on the state level."
Murray put emphasis on local aid and said his years as a selectman have taught him exactly what towns need from their legislators.
Sandra Biagetti also highlighted local aid as a primary concern. She hopes to give more funding to police departments and special education programs. However, she also pointed to illegal immigration as a source of state and local financial woes and hopes to close loopholes with the EBT card system that allow for abuse. She would push for clerks to check IDs with EBT purchases. She called the system "totally broken."
Biagetti said illegal immigration also puts unfair costs onto courts who must hire translators for undocumented persons who face trial in addition to other legal costs.
"They need to share the burden of the cost of being here," she said. "People wouldn't be so resentful and bitter if people contributed."
Murray said Milford has partnered with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to work with businesses and police on combating illegal immigration. In Milford, Murray said one way of addressing immigration issues was to amend occupancy by-laws to limit the number of people living in a single dwelling.
Both candidates oppose driver's licenses for undocumented residents.
However, Biagetti said Murray was not strong on immigration because she feels he has treated it as a federal issue and not a local issue.
Biagetti said she admires Gov. Charlie Baker but disagreed with his initial support of Attorney General Maura Healy's assault weapons ban. She is also against lifting the charter school cap, but said she appreciates charters and hopes to address the funding issues. Biagetti is also a fan of state Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Webster.
Murray has been endorsed by Congressman Joe Kennedy III and state Sen. Karen Spilka.
Murray also hopes to address transportation issues, particularly infrastructure work. He said he does not support increasing tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike but would support tolls on other highways to ease the toll burden on western and central Massachusetts residents. He is opposed to a gas tax increase.
Brad Avery can be reached at 508-626-4449 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BradAvery_MW.