State Rep. Markey to face first primary challenger since 2014

May 17, 2022

For the first time since 2014, an additional name will appear alongside Chris Markey’s on the ballot to be the Democratic nominee for state representative: that of 20-year-old Cameron Costa.

The New Bedford resident recently announced his candidacy to challenge the longtime incumbent in this year’s September primary to represent the 9th Bristol District, which is made up of all of Dartmouth and the North End of New Bedford.

“It’s time for a change in our state,” he said. “I intend to be the representative that makes it [their] full mission to try to learn every problem and create solutions by bringing in community partners.”

While Costa said the race needs a fresh face, Markey is touting his experience in his bid for a seventh term in the State House.

Markey, a Dartmouth resident, has been a state representative since he was first elected in 2010. Along with serving in the legislature, Markey works as a trial attorney in New Bedford and teaches at UMass Law.

His last primary opponent was Alan Garcia in 2014.

Costa, a recent graduate of UMass Dartmouth, said while some may see his youth as a liability, he instead sees it as a way to “bring a fresh perspective” to Beacon Hill.

He added that he already has some experience in state government.

Costa interned for State Rep. Jacob Oliveira (D-Ludlow) and served as a trustee of his union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 93 Local 72.

“I’ve just always been into politics,” he said with a laugh. “I remember begging my mother to let me stay up for the presidential debates in 2008.”

Last year, the Democratic hopeful was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to the Board of Higher Education, where he represented 150,000 students across the commonwealth.

With that experience, Costa said one of the cornerstones of his agenda would be to continue to support universities by trying to get the state to provide more funding in higher education.

One of the ways to do that, he said, would be by voting yes on the "Cherish Act," which would set a minimum funding level for public colleges and universities based on a 2001 benchmark when the state spent an average of $12,500 per public college student, adjusted for inflation.

“I’d like to get those levels back,” Costa said.

The bill currently sits before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Rules.

Along with bolstering higher education, Costa said his other priorities would include resolving the cleanup of toxic soil recently discovered in Bliss Corner, trying to update many of the aging school buildings in the district, and improving traffic on Route 6.

With regard to Route 6, the candidate said he’d like to “hold our partners in the state accountable that they invest here in the South Coast.”

“We’re important too,” he said.

Currently, the state plans to add new signals at the intersection at Route 6 and Hathaway Road, while moving existing signals at Tucker Road approximately 100 yards east.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth officials would like to see Tucker Road completely realigned with Hathaway Road — which the Massachusetts Department of Transportation had until recently planned to do.

Concerns were raised about funding for required land takings, the bulk of which involve the Metro Pizza plaza on Route 6. Portions of a parking lot of a nearby medical office, and portions of residential properties around the old North Dartmouth Library would also need to be taken under this plan.

Like his challenger, Markey said he also felt that Route 6 needs to be updated.

“The project might not be exactly what everyone wants, but it’s going to get done,” Markey said. “I’m keeping an eye on that to make sure it goes forward.”

He added that if re-elected he would continue to find different ways to get a realignment done.

Similarly, Markey said one of his other priorities is the cleanup of Bliss Corner. He encouraged all of the neighborhood’s residents to test their soil to help agencies determine the full scope of the cleanup.

Cleanup is currently scheduled this spring for five properties, although state and federal agencies found that 20 Bliss Corner properties were well above the federal lead level, while one home exceeded the federal level for polychlorinated biphenyls — also known as PCBs.

He added that he would like to see the continued development of offshore wind and would fight to ensure the region’s fishing industries can thrive heading into the future.

“We have a lot of people from Dartmouth who are involved in fishing,” Markey said.

Where Costa says he differs from the longtime incumbent is on transparency in government.

The 20-year-old said he and many residents in the district have expressed concern over Markey voting against imposing term limits for House Speaker and a proposal that bills be made public 72 hours before a vote so legislators “have adequate time to read those legislation pieces.”

Currently, bills are made 24 hours in advance of consideration in the House.

“I just want our government to allow more people to be a part of the process,” Costa said.

Markey stood by his votes.

On making bills public ahead of votes, he said that he thought “72 hours makes it too difficult to move things.” Instead, he said he opted to find a middle ground and introduced an amendment that they be made available 48 hours in advance.

“Forty-eight hours and time to mobilize if they desire,” he said. “I’m the only one who stood up to leadership and fought for the 48 hours.”

With regard to limiting House Speaker terms, Markey said he felt it is “a very undemocratic thing to do.” 

“It’s taking away the responsibility of a legislator,” he said. 

He added that if the speaker is not doing a good job, it is up to the legislature to choose a new person to preside over the State House, or for the Speaker’s constituents to vote them out.

While Costa wants to bring a fresh perspective, Markey said he’s hoping his record in the legislature will show voters in Dartmouth and New Bedford that his commitment to fighting for the issues his constituents care about.

Markey highlighted pushing for criminal justice and alimony reform during his first few terms, along with leading a bill that would set parole eligibility for juveniles convicted of first degree murder.

“The big picture is having a government that’s reliable, consistent, and dependable,” he said. “I think I’ve been pretty good at that.”

The Massachusetts primary is Sept. 6.