State Rep. candidates make their case at first public forum
The Massachusetts primary is a little more than two months away and the two candidates seeking to represent the 9th Bristol District in the State House discussed the issues on voters' minds in their first public forum together on Thursday.
Running for the seat is 12-year incumbent Chris Markey and 20-year-old challenger Cameron Costa. No Republican is running for the seat this year.
The two spoke at a public forum at Town Hall hosted by the Dartmouth Democratic Town Committee, with questions submitted by members of the audience.
Topics ranged from local issues such as Dartmouth’s water supply and police presence to national trends such as the protection of abortion rights, a subject which brought an especially heated discussion.
While both agreed that people deserve the right to choose, Costa questioned why Markey voted against the ROE Act in 2020.
The legislation allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in cases with a fatal fetal anomaly and in instances when a physician deems it “necessary to protect the patient’s life or physical or mental health.”
Markey stood by his vote.
He said he took issue with the language of the bill, particularly that it allows minors ages 16 and 17 to seek a procedure without parental consent.
“I can’t even have my children be looked at by a dentist without my consent,” Markey said. “Why should we have children getting abortions without their parents consent?”
Markey did vote to support the bill passed Wednesday in the State House that aims to protect abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states.
The legislation currently sits before the State Senate.
The incumbent added that instead of simply leaving reproduction protection up to the legislature, the right to an abortion should be codified in the Massachusetts constitution.
Another contentious conversation surrounded whether term limits should be imposed on the State House Speaker.
Costa was in favor of the idea. He said that the longer a legislator stays in office, it can encourage them to govern in their self-interest rather than for their constituents.
“While we do put full faith in our legislators, they don’t often act in the best interest of the people,” he said, adding that he would like to implement term limits for all legislators.
Markey, meanwhile, said he felt term limits would be “undemocratic.”
“If you think someone is doing a great job, keep them in it,” he said. “If you make the wrong decision because it’s going to be in your financial interest, then you shouldn’t have the job.”
Markey added that term limits would kick out some of Beacon Hill’s most effective policymakers. One example he highlighted was the work done by his South Coast colleague State Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett).
“He’s been there for about 32 years and he single-handedly was the one who got us South Coast Rail,” he said. “If he was gone 20 years ago, we wouldn’t have it.”
The two also had differing views on raising the state minimum wage to $17 an hour.
Currently, the wage is set at $14.25 an hour and $6.15 an hour for tipped workers. Wages are scheduled to hit $15 an hour in 2023 as part of a “grand bargain” the state passed in 2018.
Markey was hesitant to support an additional increase, saying that he did not know if it was the most economically viable option since the $15 wage has still yet to take effect.
“[It] needs to continue to grow with how the economy grows,” he said.
Costa, meanwhile, gave his support for the increase.
“That way they’re able to create more generational wealth,” he said.
Costa added that if elected, he would seek to encourage small businesses to have the ability to provide such a wage to their employees.
The two candidates also agreed on many of the topics presented.
One such was changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Costa and Markey also agreed on the need to support Dartmouth’s farms.
“It is probably the most important economic engine for Dartmouth outside of Route 6,” Markey said.
Ultimately, the Democratic hopefuls agreed about the importance of maintaining a dialogue with constituents and voicing their issues if elected to serve on Beacon Hill.
“Our district may have changed, but the issues remain the same,” Costa said, in a nod to recent redistricting that brought part of New Bedford’s North End into the district.
The Massachusetts primary will be held on Sept. 6.
A broadcast of the candidates forum will be available on Channel 18 on Sunday and on the Dartmouth Community Television website at www.dartmouthtv.com.