PLYMOUTH – The differences seem obvious, but when you look closely and listen carefully, what may surprise you about the two candidates for state representative in the 1st Plymouth District is their similarities on the issues.

Plymouth Selectman Matt Muratore, a Republican, is a small-business owner and health care administrator who prefers to err on the side of civility.

Muratore is almost always wearing a conservative suit, and, though he professes to be a shy person, he makes a point of greeting people individually and shaking their hands as he moves through a room.

Town meeting representative Stephen Michael Palmer, the Democrat in the race, is a jack-of-all-trades whose tag line is “Community service, not lip service.”

Palmer often wears an old-fashioned flat-brimmed straw hat and three-piece suit and brings visual aids to underline his message.

Muratore has organized a traditional campaign – one with literature, lawn signs and a cadre of volunteers willing to stand on street corners proclaiming their support for his candidacy.

One of the few traditional elements of Palmer’s campaign is his campaign office in North Plymouth. But Palmer doesn’t hold campaign events and doesn’t hold fundraisers, and most of the campaign signs on the street proclaim his good works: “This space cleaned by Stephen Michael Palmer” or “This fence repaired by Stephen Michael Palmer.”

When it comes to the issues, the two candidates don’t appear to be that far apart. Both want to reduce taxes for the middle class. Both believe that more should be done by government for the mentally ill. Both are, at the very least, concerned about the future of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant.

Palmer told those attending the League of Women Voters’ candidates night last Thursday that it took an “act of Congress” to get him into the plant.

He had made many requests for a tour but been turned down every time. When he “started picking up trash (along Rocky Hill Road),” he said, “they dragged me in, threatened to arrest me.”

Muratore said he and other Plymouth selectmen were recently invited to take a tour of the plant and were satisfied by the security but concerned about spent-fuel storage.

He noted that although the plant is beginning to move spent fuel from the pool to new storage casks, fully emptying the pool will take nearly 35 years if the current pace is maintained. That, he said, is not fast enough.

Both candidates said more should be done to reduce homelessness. Muratore said he is against housing the homeless in hotels, and he suggested that increased support for small-business owners would translate into more jobs and less homelessness. Palmer suggested that Plymouth does not have any overnight shelters.

The real difference between Muratore and Palmer may be a matter of trust: One doesn’t trust government, the other does.

Palmer’s website and many of his public comments focus on two issues: the lack of public transportation in Plymouth, and “fraud, abuse and favoritism” on Beacon Hill.

Palmer thinks Plymouth should be promoted not only as a major tourist destination but also as “the smart public transportation hub of southern Massachusetts,” with highway, rail, sea and air options.

“We don’t need more taxes,” Palmer said. “We should work with what we’ve got to build Plymouth into a must-visit year-round destination.”

In contrast, Muratore has a positive perspective on those he would work with on Beacon Hill and on politics in general.

“I have demonstrated the ability to listen, bring people together from all perspectives, and achieve positive and successful outcomes,” Muratore says on his website. “I will bring my municipal experience as a selectman and my ability to partner with people of different political views and party affiliations to the State House to ensure that Plymouth receives effective representation.”

Frank Mand may be reached at

Read more campaign coverage at Mass. Political News.