14th Middlesex candidates face off during Concord forum

By Henry Schwan | Wicked Local Chemsford

There was a testy exchange between incumbent state Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, and Republican challenger Helen Brady during an Oct. 4 candidates’ forum at Concord-Carlisle High School.

Atkins is running for re-election in the 14th Middlesex District, an office she’s held since 1999, and Brady said the incumbent flip-flopped on the issue of term limits.

Brady said Atkins supported House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, when he called for a limit of four, two-year terms on state House speakers in order to earn the public’s trust after former House Speaker Sal DiMasi’s corruption conviction elevated DeLeo to Speaker in 2009. According to Brady, Atkins later voted against those limits in 2015 when DeLeo’s legislative term was winding down.

“There’s corruption in state government,” Brady said, telling Atkins that she voted for term limits and then voted against them.

Atkins responded that she changed her vote, because she was working with new Gov. Charlie Baker on issues, like equal pay for equal work, and she needed an ally like DeLeo to give them the best chance to succeed in the legislature.

“Following one principle may cost you getting a lot of things done that are really vital, and a lot of people in my district wanted to get those things done,” Atkins said immediately after the forum, which was sponsored by the Concord-Carlisle High School Parents’ Association.

Voter priorities in the district, at the time, according to Atkins, included campaign finance and the transgender-rights bill.

“There are some things you fall on the sword for,” Atkins said. “I just finally came to the determination that that wasn’t one of them.”

Green-Rainbow Party Candidate Danny Factor said he supports a limit of two consecutive, two-year terms for state lawmakers.

“People should run to represent policies and positions, not to benefit themselves,” Factor said.

Brady said she supports term limits, and after the forum she said Atkins’ voting record shows she votes with DeLeo more than 95 percent of the time.

“If you don’t exactly do what perhaps the leadership tells you, you might get in trouble,” Brady said. “I find that troubling to me as a citizen.”

Brady also criticized the MBTA’s bloated budget, which she said happened during Atkins’s watch.

Atkins mentioned she voted to support the formation of the Fiscal and Management Control Board that gave Gov. Baker more control over MBTA costs.

The candidates also discussed global climate change.

Factor said he would ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts by instituting a statewide building moratorium that would exempt only necessary public buildings, low-income housing and environmentally sustainable housing, which he called small homes.

Brady said she would tap into the knowledge of professors in Boston’s world-renowned colleges and universities to help develop a plan to combat global warming.

Atkins touched on her experience working with former Gov. Deval Patrick to grow the green energy industry, and stated that she voted for a 2016 energy bill that invest money in wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean.

Local transportation and ways to fight poverty were also discussed. Factor said he supports a combination of less urban sprawl and more local jobs to ease traffic flow.

Brady mentioned that the Route 2 rotary bottleneck has continued during Atkins’ time in the legislature, and said state money is needed to redesign the rotary.

Atkins stated said she’s met with state transportation officials and there’s no consensus on what plan works best at the rotary.

Factor believes the way to fight poverty is establishing a graduated income tax, and investing the revenue into programs for the homeless.

Brady said investing in education is the answer, and Atkins said there are ways to tax visitors to Massachusetts that would fund programs for the homeless, but DeLeo and Gov. Baker don’t support tax increases.

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