Baker backs Hodgson's bid for fifth term as sheriff

Apr 21, 2022

WESTPORT — Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson officially began his bid for a fifth term with a big political boost.

Gov. Charlie Baker made an appearance at White's of Westport to give his official endorsement of the Republican sheriff’s re-election kickoff fundraiser on April 20.

“This is a guy who is constantly looking out for people here,” Baker said. “[Hodgson’s] voice, on behalf of people of this region, is strong and loud — and honestly relentless.”

Lt. Gov Karyn Polito also gave Hodgson her endorsement, but was not at the event.

Hodgson thanked Baker for his support.

“He understands the issues,” he said. “In order for us to have a healthy, prosperous commonwealth, we have to have the enforcement of the rule of law.”

The sheriff added that if re-elected to a fifth term, his goal is to reduce recidivism by ensuring more inmates within the Dartmouth and New Bedford jails go through rehabilitation programs.

“To do anything less than that is to set them up for failure,” Hodgson said.

The longtime sheriff has drawn national attention for his staunch support of former President Donald Trump — even offering to send inmates to the US-Mexico border to help build Trump’s proposed border wall

He also served as the honorary chair for the former president’s 2020 re-election campaign in Massachusetts. 

Baker, who is not seeking re-election, has long been an outspoken critic of Trump.

The outgoing governor said while he and Hodgson have differing views on Trump, he and the sheriff often agree on issues regarding policing and public safety.

“He believes we should pass a [new] dangerousness law,” Baker said. “So do I.”

The bill Baker referred to would change the rules for allowing a “dangerousness hearing” — when the prosecution requests a judge to hold a defendant without bail for up to 120 days. 

According to Baker’s proposal, the updated law would allow a judge to consider defendants’ entire criminal history, not just the current charge, in considering whether they are dangerous.

The governor added that he has also often sought the sheriff’s advice with regard to issues surrounding law enforcement.

“There are a lot of people I’ve supported over the years, Democrats and Republicans by the way, who I don’t agree with,” Baker said. “I think for me, it's more about can you have a conversation with somebody? Are you going to get what they believe when you talk to them? Are they going to be the person that tells you straight up what they think? And Tom has always been that kind of guy."

Hodgson also highlighted his own differing views from Trump’s.

When asked about the former president’s debunked claims that the 2020 election was “rigged,” the sheriff said “the results are what they are and we need to move forward.”

“There were many things said about discrepancies, but nothing’s revealed itself,” he said.

Hodgson has held office since 1997 when he was appointed by then-Gov. William Weld. Since becoming sheriff, Hodgson has been the subject of controversy in recent years. 

Last year, the federal government closed down the Dartmouth jail’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey found that Hodgson had violated the civil rights of the federal immigration detainees during an altercation in May 2020.

His jails have also been the subject of many inmate complaints.

After running unopposed in his last election in 2016, the longtime sheriff is expected to face competition this November.

Democrats hoping to unseat Hodgson are Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux, Fall River attorney Nick Bernier, and former Somerset Police Chief George McNeil. The three will face off in the September primary.

Along with the political boost from Baker, the longtime sheriff also has a significant amount of campaign funds heading into the election.

According to data from the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Hodgson’s campaign has more than $288,000 at the ready.

The sheriff’s campaign funds have also been the subject of controversy, as his office was one of nine sheriff’s departments a report said had donations that “create potential conflicts of interest.” 

Hodgson is mentioned several times in the group’s investigation, with findings that his campaign received $324,870 from numerous jail contractors, including getting the majority of Correctional Psychiatric Services Inc. CEO Jorge Veliz’s contributions.

The Bristol County Sheriff’s office refuted the report’s findings. 

According to state data, McNeil currently has approximately $3,220, Bernier has more than $5,700, and Heroux just over $22,000 in campaign funds.

The Massachusetts primary will take place on Sept. 6. The final chosen candidate will then take on Hodgson during the general election on Nov. 8.