LeBeau’s ‘Last Minute’ Decision to Challenge Binienda
Monday, May 07, 2012
It was enough for LeBeau, a Republican, to take out nomination papers and hit the streets, hoping to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot in November and challenge longtime state Rep. John Binienda, D-Worcester in the 17th Worcester District. He got more than enough and is gearing up for the monumental task of unseating an incumbent, liberal lawmaker in the blue state of Massachusetts. LeBeau and all other candidates have until 5 p.m. May 29 to submit their certified nomination papers to the Secretary of State’s office.
Up for the challenge
“This really was a last-minute decision,” LeBeau, a truck driver, said by phone during a stop in New Jersey. “I didn’t pull papers until the week before the deadline and I got 257 signatures. I thought that was pretty good.”
Binienda said he’s more than up to the challenge of having an opponent for re-election for the first time in 12 years. The 26-year lawmaker said serving constituents every day keeps him prepared, saying, "You’re always ready for a challenge,” Binienda said. “The campaign never stops, even when you’re in office. You’re always campaigning.”
This time, however, someone else will be campaigning for the same job, and LeBeau sounded confident and clear about what he wants to accomplish.
Not a puppet
“I want to roll back the sales tax, I don’t want any benefits to illegal aliens while veterans aren’t being taken care of and I want better accountability,” he said.
LeBeau, an elected member of the Leicester Republican Town Committee said he wouldn’t be a puppet for the Republican Party, either, identifying himself as “an independent conservative” and saying, “I’m a Republican, but that doesn’t mean the party can count on me to rubber stamp anything they want.”
Take care of vets
It is clear that veterans’ issues are important to LeBeau, who served eight years and fought in the Gulf War. He is the service commander for VFW Post 7556 in Rochdale. He said politicians are always crowing about passing bills for veterans, but “the devil is in the details. A lot of those benefits are not real.” For example, he said, the law that calls for preference given to veterans for civil service jobs has some fine print.
“All the towns in Massachusetts, with a couple exceptions, require that residents get called off the list before a non-resident,” LeBeau said. “So if I live in a non-civil service town and I want to apply in a town that has civil service, I’m still waiting in the back of the line.”
Education benefits for veterans, he said, are another concern.
“They promise free tuition for all combat veterans to all state colleges and universities,” he said. “Sounds great, right? But guess what? Fees are not covered unless you’re in the National Guard, so you still end up paying most of the bill. The benefit is not real.”
Binienda didn’t hesitate when the issue of vet services was raised, and pointed out he recently was named lawmaker of the year by the US military for work he did on, among other things, the Welcome Home Bill. For him, veterans’ affairs are personal.
“When I was 5 or 6 I watched my grandmother get out of a car carrying a flag draper over her arms,” Binienda said. “I asked my father later why she was holding a flag and he explained to me that the flag had draped the coffin of his brother, her son, my uncle. That is why I have spent 26 years supporting the military.”
A taxing issue
He grew defensive when the topic of taxes was raised, saying the state has cut taxes more than 30 times over the past four years and that the last budget contained no new taxes or fees.
“We don’t raise taxes willy-nilly in the commonwealth,” Binienda said. “That’s something that goes back to the days of Michael Dukakis.”
The way LeBeau sees it, lawmakers are a bit disingenuous when it comes to talking about taxes, saying, “What about the 6.25-percent sales tax? That was supposed to be temporary. My opponent and his party have not repealed that tax.”
The state also has not done enough to direct the president’s stimulus funding to local communities, either, according to LeBeau.
A ‘super majority’
“We had a $780-billion Obama stimulus,” he said. “Our state has received less than 1 percent on the dollar of that money. All we got was $425,000 through (US Congressman) Richard Neal’s office to Becker College.”
Voters “need to have a state rep picking up the phone and trying to work a little bit,” said LeBeau, who also wants to chip away at the “super majority” Democrats currently enjoy in the State House.
As for his chances at pulling off what would be one of the biggest Beacon Hill upsets in years if he were to defeat Binienda – who has more than $400,000 in his campaign war chest – LeBeau said: “I’ve been told I can’t win in this district, because there are too many Democrats. Well, I’m going to talk to those Democrats, because I’m one of them.”
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