Meet the Candidates: Three Democratic Candidates for State Office
NEW BEDFORD — Three Democratic candidates running for state office in November convened downtown on Tuesday to those attending the May All City Dems Meeting. Below, find out what each candidate is all about and what they plan on bringing to the table if elected.
Bristol County Commissioner John Saunders:
--Incumbent seeking reelection to second term--
Current County Commissioner John Saunders is just wrapping up his first four year term on the job. The former New Bedford City Councillor of 28 years was also born and raised in New Bedford as part of a family of ten children.
He says during the past four years his main accomplishments have involved substantial healthcare savings for the county and says that the county has “saved over $500,000 in premiums this year alone.”
Saunders also spoke of his accomplishments with education throughout Bristol County, particularly with the expansion of Bristol County Agricultural High School. He says that if things go to plan that the enrollment at the school is expected to jump from roughly 128 to about 150 students.
"The expansion of Bristol County Agricultural High School in Dighton is another big accomplishment of ours. We're moving that forward and hopefully in 2020 will be complete. It will get the enrollment up from about 128 to about 150.”
“We turn away 200 kids a year and it's a shame. It's a very popular school. We have almost a 100-percent MCAS Test pass rate,” Saunders said.
Saunders also is a member of the Bristol County Retirement System, an entity he says will be fully funded within ten years, and is also an active volunteer in the community, including with the Bristol County Fire Association.
“I go in everyday to go to work and put my best foot forward and I bring a lot of institutional knowledge. I've spent a lot time in the community and give a lot of myself to the community. I enjoy the job and I understand the job very well, including 28 years on the New Bedford City Council,” said Saunders. “I love the job. I work hard for my family and I'll work hard for you.”
Boston City Councillor Josh Zakim:
--Candidate for Massachusetts Secretary of State--
A current Boston City Councillor, Josh Zakim looks to bring his legislative accomplishments in Beantown to the state level.
Zakim is focusing his campaign on improving voter accessibility throughout the Commonwealth, something he's accomplished already in Boston with Mayor Marty Walsh signing legislation penned by Zakim into law last week that will bring voter accessibility to the public through city departments such as public libraries and schools.
“This is my third term on the Boston City Council and I chair our Civil Rights Committee, and that's what brought me into this race - voting rights,” Zakim said. “Right now in Massachusetts there's nearly 700,000 eligible residents who aren't registered to vote while turnout during non-presidential years has gone down dramatically in the last two decades. It's time for a bold and progressive leadership from the Secretary of State's Office.”
Zakim argues that government is “more responsible and transparent” when more people turn out to vote. He also says that it's a tactful way to dethrone Governor Charlie Baker come the election in November, saying “We're set for a big election in November against Charlie Baker. He may have won last time, but he barley won and we need every vote we can get.”
The Boston City Councillor also mentioned a need to improve trust in the state government, specifically with accessibility to public records. Zakim used some of the recent scandals within the State Police uncovered by the media as examples of a lack of transparency within the governing body.
He also called out current Secretary of State William Galvin and says “The status quo is not acceptable in 2018. The Secretary of State should work with the Attorney General to let those documents out.”
Zakim also advocates for creating even more public-sector jobs throughout the Bay State, something he says will change the way business is done in the by increasing opportunity.
--Candidate for State Rep. of 11th District of Bristol--
Currently an attorney, Chris Hendricks has built quite the resume in Bristol County. A graduate of New Bedford High School and area resident since 2000, Hendricks has interned for the District Attorney's Office and for State Senator Mark Montigny.
Hendricks explains that he got interested in running because of a passion he's developed for “going to bat for people in tough situations.” Something that he says was picked up through years of defending people in workers compensation lawsuits.
Hendricks also says that he wants to run because of what he calls “a lack of leadership” across the country, particularly within the district from current State Rep. Bob Koczera.
“I've lived in the district since about the year 2000. I have rarely seen Mr. Koczera out at community discussions, trying to solve problems, trying to get the community involved, and trying to solve issues,” stated Hendricks. "I just think he's too absent, quite frankly. When you get voted in and you disappear up to Boston that's just not a way a democracy should be run. The last thing we need it tepid leadership.”
The biggest issue, Hendricks says, is the opioid crisis that's gripped the nation as well as the City of New Bedford. A recovered alcoholic and sober since 2009, Hendricks says the most crucial challenge is ending the stigma surrounding addiction.
“Probably the most pressing issue to me is the opioid crisis. We have a huge substance abuse problem in this country. I've been in the recovery community on and off since I was a young man and have been sober since 2009. So I understand what is needed and I understand that if we're going to solve this issue we're going to need to take the stigma out of addiction, once and for all,” Hendricks explained. “I think we have to make the necessities of life easy and available for people in recovery because when you have someone coming out of detox or prison and they're coming down off drugs or alcohol most of these people don't have a place to sleep or a place to go.”
The hopeful for Representative is also an advocate for an increasing focus and aggregation of funds towards vocational schools and education, saying “I think we have to focus on those who do not want to go to college and I think we're doing a huge disservice by not investing in vocational training.”