HANSON — Candidates for state representative in General Court fielded questions, Sunday, Oct. 16, about benefits for illegal immigrants, ballot questions, infrastructure needs and which presidential candidates they support during a candidates’ forum co-sponsored by the Hanson Democratic and Republican town committees.
The 6th District incumbent Josh Cutler, D-Duxbury, and his Republican challenger Vince Cogliano — a former Pembroke Selectman — were joined by state Sen. Mike Brady, B-Brockton, candidates for Plymouth County Commissioner and Sheriff in fielding questions from voters at the Selectmen’s meeting room in Hanson Town Hall. U.S. Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., sent a statement read by Hanson resident James Egan. None of his opponents took part or provided statements.
Hanson Town Moderator Sean Kealy moderated the event.
Cutler and Cogliano were cordial in their exchanges, but firmly made their case for the very different ways in which they approach the issues. Cutler backs Hillary Clinton and Cogliano supports Donald Trump in the race for the White House.
Cogliano, a veteran and lifelong Pembroke resident who attended Silver Lake Regional High School, still runs his family farm, growing pick-your-own strawberries and Christmas trees. Cutler is an attorney and former owner of the Express newspapers, who is now a partner in Hanson’s Coletta Cutler Real Estate.
Both men are former selectmen and Cogliano was a founding member of the committee that helped Pembroke negotiate and form an autonomous school district.
“It was a very good thing for the town in so many ways,” Cogliano said, of that effort. He has been endorsed by Gov. Charlie Baker and state Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman.
“We’re all very proud that [the Tank the Gas Tax] measure passed and protected the will of the people, who don’t want taxes raised in the dark with no vote,” Cogliano said in his opening statement, of the ballot initiative Diehl started and for which he collected signatures. Cogliano said that, unless more Republicans are elected to Beacon Hill, Baker’s next two years, as governor will be marked with efforts to block his legislative goals. He argues that taxes should not be raised unless it is made clear “where the money is going, how it is being spent, is it being spent wisely and is it reaching the very people that it’s intended to reach and help.” He advocates a more business-friendly legislature as well.
Cutler, speaking second in his opening, said he is proud of the legislative work being done in Massachusetts, where some significant legislation has been passed in recent years through a bi-partisan effort. Major economic development, veterans’ housing, clean energy were among those efforts.
“We’ve done it on an almost-unanimous basis in many cases, and that’s because we have a reputation for working across the aisle, building consensus and getting things done,” Cutler said.
He noted that he and Diehl put aside their differences to build a coalition of more than 70 legislators, successfully raising the Chapter 70 funding formula to schools from $25 to $55 per pupil. “It directly benefits our communities,” he said.
As a member of the Elder Caucus, Cutler said he has worked to help increase funding for councils on aging. He has also worked to secure funds to help clean up local ponds and Camp Kiwanee improvements as well as to restore commuter rail service.
Cutler said unemployment, currently at 3.9 percent, is the lowest it’s been since the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and the bond rating is at a historic high. State schools rank fourth in reading on a global level, and ninth in math.
“We’ve done much in the commonwealth to be proud of,” he said.
Cogliano said he is running because change is needed and that the state has a spending problem.
“One of the reasons that we have such a high bond rating?” he said. “Bonds are set by the ability to pay back and when you have the ability, because you’re controlled by a one-party system to arrange taxes to pay for the bond, bond-rating agencies love you.”
Brady gave a brief statement, as he has no opponent for the state Senate in November. He has served more than seven years as a state representative as well as many years on Brockton City Council.
“We have worked very diligently on bipartisan legislation to address the opioid addiction crisis,” he said, echoing Keating’s statement, which led off the evening. “It’s affecting too many communities. … We still have to work harder.”
He pointed out that insurance companies restrict rehab coverage to 14 days, “Which is ridiculous,” he said, noting many times first responders are administering Narcan to the same patients multiple times a day. “There’s a revolving door.”
He has also worked toward the increase in per-pupil school funds, as well as funds for Camp Kiwanee and the Monponsett watershed.
“It is vital that we support the education and training of our next generation’s workforce,” Egan read from Keating’s statement. “To this end, I have secured over $10 million in federal funding in the last two years alone for vocational training, apprenticeship, Head Start and youth-building funding.”
Keating said he has supported cranberry exports within the new global market, and worked to limit “misguided regulations” on small cranberry growers as well as supporting the fishing industry.
He credited Cutler and Brady for their work against the opioid epidemic and has worked on bipartisan legislation in the house. Keating also serves on the House Homeland Security Committee and as the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism.
“My work to highlight airport security weaknesses led to a first-of-its-kind, top-to-bottom review of all U.S. airports with TSA presence and passage of my legislation to seal gaps in perimeter and access-control security,” Egan read from Keating’s statement.