Behind Hodgson and Heroux Is an Army of Committed Supporters
Much has been said about the Bristol County Sheriff's race, the most watched county-wide election in the Commonwealth.
Longtime Republican Sheriff Tom Hodgson, a dominant political force in Southeastern Massachusetts, faces a formidable challenge in Democrat Paul Heroux, the current Mayor of Attleboro and former state representative who has a history of taking out incumbents.
Both candidates have campaigned indefatigably, rarely missing an opportunity for media availability, enduring haymakers in acrimonious debates, and making themselves seen throughout the 20 cities and towns in Bristol County.
Behind every great candidate, however, is a brigade of equally indefatigable and committed volunteers who sacrifice a great deal of time and energy because they believe in the candidate and the candidate's vision for the office.
Heroux's campaign infrastructure consists of many who are affiliated with the local activist groups Coalition for Social Justice and Bristol County for Correctional Justice (BCCJ), spearheaded by former New Bedford School Committee member and longtime Hodgson adversary Marlene Pollack.
BCCJ was founded in response to Hodgson's correctional policies, which they view as both unduly cruel to inmates and counterproductive to public safety. They have organized various protests and forums to bring attention to these issues and demonstrate opposition to the sheriff.
Now, with an opportunity to elect a new sheriff for six-year term, they are giving every free moment they have to help Heroux oust Hodgson.
"From the beginning of this campaign, I said that it is a race we can win, but I cannot do it alone," Heroux told WBSM. "My campaign volunteers have been extraordinary. They are tired and they want their lives back, but they’ve done everything they’ve done because they believe that we need change. I am forever grateful for their support and their trust."
Large crows of support have gathered at canvass kickoffs organized on the SouthCoast, with nearly the entire statewide Democrat candidate slate – gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey, Lieutenant Governor nominee Kim Driscoll, Attorney General nominee Andrea Campbell, and Auditor nominee Diana DiZoglio – making stops on the SouthCoast not just for their own campaign, but to also motivate Democratic voters to elect Heroux.
But Hodgson wouldn't have been sheriff going on a quarter-century if he didn't have his own base of steadfast and enthusiastic support.
Hodgson's fundraisers are famously well-attended. Tickets for these events either sell out completely or have a hundreds if not couple of thousand of people willing to wait in line to show their support. It's a vestige of old school local politics that is only demonstrated by now by the long-tenured sheriff.
While the Republican side of the statewide ticket this cycle doesn't seem to demonstrate the coordination and solidarity that the Democrats do, Hodgson still boasts the support of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, who make up the most popular gubernatorial administration in the county. Both Baker and Polito have made appearances at Hodgson's fundraisers.
A hallmark of Hodgson's campaign are his "blitz" visibility events, in which massive crowds of volunteers standout at busy intersections across the county. Hodgson's camp strategically made their first "blitz" of the general election in Heroux's hometown of Attleboro the day after Heroux had won the Democratic primary.
On election eve, the sheriff had his final blitz in his hometown of Dartmouth at the intersection of Route 6 and Faunce Corner Road. Each corner of the intersection was overcrowded with supporters, as well as friends and family, adorning "Keep Tom Hodgson Sheriff" shirts and as they waved and were met with a chorus of horns from passing traffic.
Hodgson later addressed the crowd with one final impassioned plea to mobilize and help him secure a fifth term.
"They come out here on their time off," Hodgson told WBSM. "They're on Saturdays and taking time on Friday evenings doing standouts. They're really the ones that really ones give you the inspiration when you're a candidate to to be able to want to continue going forward."
"It makes you realize that you're right on the track and the people appreciate what you're doing. And there's nothing better than that," he said.