Hodgson draws challengers for fall election

Jan 18, 2022

While still ten months away, longtime Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson will be facing his first contested election since 2010.

Those hoping to oversee the county’s jails in Dartmouth and New Bedford are Attleboro Mayor Paul Heroux and Fall River attorney Nick Bernier — which sets up a potential primary between the two come Sept. 6.

Hodgson, a Republican, said he welcomed the competition for this year’s race.

“The people of Bristol County should have a choice when voting for the person tasked with representing their public safety interests,” he said. “Just as retail competition is good for the consumer, competition is good for the public as they get to see and hear different perspectives on the public safety issues that matter to them.” 

Heroux, who announced his candidacy last week, formerly worked in prison and jail administration in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and has since become a vocal advocate of prison reform.

He also served as state representative for the 2nd Bristol District between 2013 and 2018.

If elected, the Attleboro mayor said he plans to prioritize inmate rehabilitation, as well as evaluating programs to learn what works and what doesn’t in hopes of setting up inmates for “successful reentry” into the public.

“I don't believe that any of these goals are being done to a satisfactory level,” Heroux said. “We can do better. We will do better.”

Bernier, who submitted his nomination papers in December, served as the assistant district attorney in Bristol County between 2013 and 2014 where he focused on “reducing repeat crimes by prioritizing resolutions that involved positive integrations back into the community after a sentence was served.”

If elected, he said his main goal would be “on getting national politics out” and instead focus on corrections within Bristol County.

The main changes he said he hopes to make are consolidating the Ash Street jail into the larger Dartmouth facility and eliminating drug use among inmates.

“Being tough on crime is making sure people in jail don’t have access to narcotics,” Bernier said. “They should not have access to drugs while incarcerated.”

The Fall River Democrat also served as the prosecution’s primary witness in the federal corruption trial for former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia.

Hodgson, who is seeking a fifth term, has held office since 1997 when he was appointed by then-Gov. William Weld. He also ran unopposed in his most recent election in 2016.

Over the years, Hodgson has been the subject of controversy.

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.

The sheriff also offered to send inmates to the US-Mexico border to help build former President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

Hodgson served as the honorary chair of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign in Massachusetts.

For this election cycle, the longtime incumbent said he’s planning to tout his public record and dedication to public safety to the voters of Bristol County.

“I look forward to communicating our many successes in the public safety arena over the past 25 years and our exciting plans for the future of the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office as I continue to work to make Bristol County a safer place to live, work and raise a family,” the sheriff said.

Sheriff terms are six years.

Democrats hoping to secure the nomination will face off in a primary election on Sept. 6. 

The final chosen candidate will then take on Hodgson during the general election on Nov. 8.