Candidates for state representative in the 26th Middlesex District—incumbent Rep. Timothy Toomey, a Democrat, and his challengers, Republican Thomas Vasconcelos and Progressive Independent Mike Connolly—faced off Tuesday night in a lively and at times feisty debate.
The three candidates discussed a number of local and state issues, including the idea of implementing a gas tax to fund public transit, development in East Somerville, charter schools, air pollution in East Somerville, the state debt and constituent services.
The debate was videotaped at SCATV in Union Square and moderated by Joseph Lynch, host of "Greater Somerville." It will air on that channel and Cambridge Community Television.
Somerville Patch will post video of the debate online when it becomes available. It's worth watching.
The last half hour of the debate, in particular, featured boisterous exchanges among the candidates during a segment when they were allowed to ask each other questions.
In one question, Toomey, 59, asked Connolly about his work at Autonomy, a company owned by Hewlett-Packard that, Toomey said, works with big oil companies and deals in spy equipment. He asked if working for the company reflected Connolly's progressive values. "I feel it's an unfortunate choice of work," he said.
Connolly, 32, responded that he feels incredibly "lucky" to have a job given the poor employment prospects for recent graduates.
"I'd be interested to know when was the last time you found a job in the private sector," he shot back at the state representative, calling the question an ad hominem attack.
Vasconcelos, 25, who said he's a Republican in the libertarian tradition, jumped in to say, "As long as he's not breaking any laws, I couldn't care less [where Connolly works.]"
"This is the kind of bull that I'm talking about," he said of Toomey's question. "Our government officials are some of the biggest thieves around."
Sparks also flew when Vasconcelos challenged Toomey and Connolly to give a "numeric answer" to the question, What's the total state debt of Massachusetts?
"The debt is being used to fund a lot of important programs," Toomey said, before saying the answer was "probably a couple of billion [dollars]."
Connolly said, "I'm a big fan of 'The Price is Right,' so I'm going to say a couple of billion, plus one."
Vasconcelos jumped in again to say the debt is close to $100 billion. "No one knows. No one knows about the debt. No one wants to deal with it," he said.
At another point, Vasconcelos went after Connolly and his "no money" campaign in which he receives contributions of $0.00 on his website.
Vasconcelos pointed out that Connolly had spent more money on the campaign than he, Vasconcelos, had. "I should start calling myself Tom even-less-money-than-Connolly Vasconcelos," he joked, referring to the Progressive Independent's campaign nickname, "No Money" Connolly. (In regard to Connolly's campaign finances, based on a recent campaign finance filing, much of Connolly's campaign intake comes from in-kind contributions, which receive a monitory value for reporting purposes even though they're not contributions of money.)
Toomey spoke passionately about his commitment to constituent services, in particular his efforts to help residents in need of affordable housing.
He said, "The work is done in the neighborhoods" and it's "nitty gritty."
"I'm proud of the two jobs I hold," he said. Toomey is also a Cambridge city councilor.
The entire debate lasted about an hour and a half. As mentioned above, Somerville Patch will post it soon, and it's worth watching.