Sheriff candidate bikes for votes
As the Massachusetts primary nears, Democratic sheriff candidate Paul Heroux is trying to make his final sprint for his party’s nomination — or in this case, bike his way to that finish line.
Since announcing his candidacy earlier this year, the Attleboro mayor has been biking door-to-door around Bristol County to raise support for his campaign to take on incumbent Thomas Hodgson this fall.
During a recent trip to Dartmouth, Heroux knocked on 200 doors to meet voters and distribute informational cards, something he considers a “light day of campaigning.”
“A regular [day] is probably 300 homes,” he said. “My record was 500 in one day in New Bedford back in June. I could have done more, but I maxed out my list.”
Prior to his recent campaign stop in Dartmouth, Heroux said he had already stopped by 1,000 homes in town.
Along his latest route, the candidate knocked on doors near Slocum and Tucker roads to introduce himself to voters, and give a brief description of what policies he would like to implement if elected.
Those plans include prioritizing 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.
“My goal is to reform the jail and make it a national model of evidence-producing corrections,” said Heroux, who worked in prison and jail administration in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
Heroux first began his door knocking strategy when running to represent the Second Bristol District in the Massachusetts State House in 2012. During that campaign, Heroux said he twice walked around the City of Attleboro: once for that primary and again for the general.
While it won him that election, he said it ruined his foot which is “still messed up.”
When the next election came around in 2014, Heroux opted to begin riding on his dad’s old bike not only to ease his feet, but allow him to talk to more voters in less time.
“On a good day walking everywhere in 2012, I might hit 120 to 125 doors,” Heroux said. “On a bike I could hit 300 or 400.”
Since that first campaign, Heroux estimated that he has knocked on almost 70,000 doors during subsequent races for state representative, mayor, and now sheriff.
The key to maintaining that stamina over the years, Heroux said, is the adrenaline rush of campaigning and drinking just enough water to keep somewhat hydrated.
“It’s enough to not pass out,” the candidate said. “I just want to keep going and going — I’m like a bee buzzing from place to place.”
The only stops he makes are either to knock on doors or for water (and a bathroom break if there’s a Dunkin’ along his bike route).
“There comes a point where you get hunger pangs, but they go away,” he said.
It also results in a number of blisters on the hand used to carry palm cards, but he said he is “used to it at this point.”
All this campaigning is done while Heroux still works full-time as mayor of Attleboro.
“I might duck out early Fridays after I get all my work done, but everything I’m supposed to do is getting done,” he said.
In addition to the door-to-door trips, Heroux has sent out mailers around the county. His Democratic opponents, Bernier and McNeil, condemned the action, claiming the mailers attacked them, despite Heroux saying he would not go negative.
“Paul's negative mailer shows the worst sort of politics,” the two said in a statement.
The mailer in question features a chart in the center of the page with columns labeled Heroux,"Candidate NB" and "Candidate GM," with information comparing their experiences in elections, working in corrections, and the number of employees managed.
“This was just a contrast,” Heroux said, adding that the pact was to not use any personal attacks that would ruin their chances in the general election.
Bernier and McNeil also said the mailer was “full of misstatements” with regard to employees managed and how many donors each candidate had.
Heroux said any errors were minor, but have since been corrected. He added that all aspects of the mailer were also discussed by the three candidates during a recent debate hosted by WBSM.
“And they said nothing about it [then],” Heroux said.
The primary will be held on Sept. 6. Early voting begins Saturday at Town Hall on Aug. 27 and will run through Sept. 2.
The winner of the three-way race will go on to face off against Hodgson on Nov. 8.