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State Rep. James O’Day facing two challengers in November

Friday, July 13, 2012

 

State Rep. James O'Day

Incumbent state representative James O’Day is fending off two challengers in his re-election bid for 14th Worcester House District. Republican William McCarthy of Worcester and Independent Winthrop Handy of West Boylston are seeking to oust the West Boylston Democrat from the seat he has held since 2007. Although this marks his first re-election fight, O’Day is not adjusting his strategy.

“My strategy is no different from five years ago,” the Worcester native said, referencing his first campaign for the seat. “I’m going to continue to be vocal and visible.”

But O’Day’s opponents, who have criticized his record, are also working to get their messages out.

Despite getting a late start after his nomination papers were challenged, Handy believes that he has a good chance of winning. He said that for the past many years he has found the 14th District’s representation “lacking” and he is urging voters to express their dissatisfaction at the ballot box.

“People are the power,” he said. “If you’re not happy you’ve got to look for change and put somebody new in there.”

 

William McCarthy

Critical Opposition

McCarthy, who has been working to increase his visibility among voters by campaigning door-to-door, has been more critical of O’Day. Citing an income tax increase that O’Day proposed in 2011 as part of the Act to Invest in Our Communities, McCarthy said that O’Day is “operating as if we are not in an economic crisis.”

But O’Day pushed back against the criticism, saying that his proposal was in the district’s interest because it represented an effort to preserve scarce resources. “I’ve tried to make things better. I’ve tried to make sure we have enough resources so that our citizens are taken care of,” he said.

McCarthy has also slammed O’Day for his vote in April against tightening Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) regulations after abuses came to light. O’Day said that he voted against the bill because he felt that the language was too broad and stigmatized all EBT recipients.

This week he cast a vote in favor of overriding Governor Patrick’s veto of tightened regulations saying, “The bill today strikes a much better balance. I’m very comfortable with the vote I took.”

Winthrop Handy

Focus on the Economy

Economic stewardship promises to be a central issue in the campaign, with Handy and McCarthy both critical of the current environment.

Handy, who owns a photography studio, said that small businesses are being driven away by a hostile climate and long permitting processes. After his experience trying to procure a loan from the Small Business Administration he said that agency should be abolished.

Discussing his own plans to improve the economy, Handy, a light commissioner in West Boylston, spoke at length about opportunities for development and cost savings through energy policy.

McCarthy, a professor of criminal justice and former State Trooper, said the state is in need of “economic triage,” and is calling for lower taxes for residents and business owners. When asked about his qualifications to handle the economy, he pointed to his experience as a homeowner, husband, and father of three children while painting O’Day as out of touch with voters.

But O’Day said that he is “extremely visible” in the district and hears from voters at community and neighborhood meetings. He also said that the 25 years he spent as a social worker prior to being elected give him insight into the issues facing the community.

Emerging Disagreements

This week a new point of contrast emerged between the candidates over the issue of mental health care facilities. On Wednesday, O’Day joined House colleagues in unanimously overriding Governor Deval Patrick’s veto of a budget item that would have shifted 45 beds from Taunton State Hospital to Worcester. In a scathing press release McCarthy characterized O’Day’s vote as evidence that he is out of touch with the district.

“It’s disappointing that he would rather help out the southeastern part of the state than help our local mental health industry workers and area patients,” the release quoted him as saying.

O’Day rejected McCarthy’s characterization, arguing that moving the beds to the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, which is slated to open in August, would do a disservice to mental health patients across the state.

“The closure of Taunton State Hospital would leave the area from Worcester to Providence void of any facility that is able to take on individuals affected by long-term mental health problems,” he said.

Handy supported keeping the hospital open, saying, “Families of communities that need this type of help have got to have this type of facility available to them. We cannot let people slip through the cracks.”

 

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