Special senate election candidates came to Chelsea for their first major get together – a rousing nearly two hour debate in front of a packed audience inside the city council chamber Tuesday night at city hall.
The event was hosted by the Chelsea Collaborative and moderated by Representative Gene O’Flaherty.
At times rousing and contentious – at times slow and sure – the event tended to galvanize the growing interest in this campaign, which is over in 34 days.
The effort to replace disgraced former Senator Anthony Galluccio, who is now serving a jail sentence for violating probation stipulations, was a resounding success, with most of the audience remaining in place throughout the exchanges between the candidates.
Nearly all the candidates answered all the question with varying degrees of success while some candidates took swings at other candidates in an attempt to define their positions on various subjects.
Attorney Dennis Benzan, Attorney Tim Flaherty, Cambridge City Councillor Denise Simmons, Everett City Councillor Sal DiDomenico, Chelsea’s Michel Albano, John Sisson and Charlestown attorney Dan Hill each gave renditions of their own narratives as they answered questions about creating jobs, stopping violent crime, aiding those being foreclosed upon, protecting the environment, insuring public safety, and whether in state tuition rates should be afforded to undocumented students.
Benzan delivered greetings to the crowd in Spanish and English.
“Who’s going to tell the story of families losing their homes?” he asked. “It is your story and I am going to tell it,” he promised.
“I believe government can do better. I want to create jobs. I want to improve the quality of public school education and I want to ensure the safety of our streets,” Flaherty said.
Simmons said she was a good office holder in a world where the office is only as good as the person who serves in it. “I want the opportunity to advocate for you,” she added.
DiDomenico said he was like everyone else.
“I’m one of you. I identify with your struggle. We need jobs. We need to improve education. We need more affordable health care. We need to work on local aid numbers. I want to be an advocate … your advocate,” he said.
Albano’s narrative was angrier than the others.
“Our economy and our government are a mess. We need change … we need it now. I’m a progressive. Progressives stand up for what they believe in even if it is unpopular, Albano said.
John Sisson, the Independent candidate started out by telling the crowd, “I’m not a lawyer. I have many bills like everyone else. He seemed to say he understood everyone’s plight.
And there was Charlestown’s Attorney Dan Hill: “I’m the true outsider. Voters have become increasingly disillusioned by the skewered policies of our elected public officials.
Nearly all the candidates answered affirmatively on all eight questions that were asked.
All the candidates believed young adults should be tried as adults if they had committed violent crimes.
Flaherty cleverly turned the question into a possible new movement.
“Young people should be diverted from the criminal justice system. We need crime prevention in order to keep children out of the court system,” Flaherty said.
When asked how to stem the rising tide of home foreclosures Di Domenico replied: “We need to go right to the source as we did in our senate office. We need to go after the predatory lenders.
“We need to make mortgage brokers responsible for what they do. They must be regulated.
“The state still has money available. We should go to local community banks and urge them to do their part,” said Flaherty.
Albano considered foreclosure a waste but not a crime.
“Government needs to be there for the people,” he said.
The question of whether or not in-state college tuition should be given to undocumented residents caused a battle between Benzan and DiDomenico.
DiDoMenico did not directly answer the question except to say that it was one more step in the direction to citizenship.
Flaherty said yes. “Its good economics.”
A total of eight questions were asked, including three that came from the audience.
On the matter of the undocumented, tax paying workers being allowed to register for driving licenses, nearly everyone agreed: by giving the undocumented drivers licenses, they become documented.
A short time after that question was asked, Albano delivered perhaps the most compelling soliloquy of the night relating to laws against foreclosure and predatory lending, licenses for the undocumented, greater efforts with public education and keeping the streets free of addictive drugs.
“Why don’t we have any of this? These are good ideas. Why are they not acted on, on Beacon Hill. We need so much now. We need everything right now. What the heck is going on?” he asked.