State representative candidates speak on education, business, in televised debate

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Candidates for the 14th Bristol District state representative seat Adam Scanlon [left] and John Simmons prepare for a North TV debate held on Oct. 6 North TV Executive Director Peter Gay [center] moderated the discussion. Staff Photo/Max Bowen
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By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

The candidates for the next state representative of the 14th Bristol District took to the airwaves to debate Local Aid improvements, redevelopment of blighted properties, and how best to protect residents from COVID-19.

The debate between Adam Scanlon and John Simmons was one of two aired live on North TV on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Executive Director Peter Gay moderated, and questions were submitted by Sun Chronicle columnists Bill Gouveia and Mike Kirby, as well as North Star Reporter Editor Max Bowen. Due to COVID-19 guidelines on gatherings, no spectators were allowed. Scanlon and Simmons are running for the seat currently held by State Rep. Betty Poirier, who decided in April not to run for re-election.

On the subject of school re-openings, both Scanlon and Simmons agreed that it’s up to those “on the ground” to decide what is best for students. Scanlon, a member of the Town Council, cited his own experience as a former member of the School Committee and handling contract negotiations as an asset.

I leave it to great educators and administrators,” said Scanlon, the Democratic candidate. “They know their stuff and they know what’s best for the district.”

In North Attleborough, schools are operating under a hybrid format, with students divided into two cohorts. Each cohort is in school two days a week, and remote learns the other three. Parents have the option to keep their children home as remote learners. Simmons—a member of the Town Council and running as a Republican—is a father of two and made the decision to send his children to school, trusting in the teachers and administrators. He said doing so can benefit them physically and socially, but it is up to the parent to make that call.

The people on the ground know what’s best,” he said.

Improving abandoned or blighted properties was also discussed. Scanlon said that as a member of the Bylaw Study Subcommittee, he’s already on this and has gotten feedback on how these sites can be improved. He added that as state rep, he would work to find the funding to redevelop the land. Simmons cited the recent work on the Webster Building and how a grant had been approved for a survey of the property. He said that this was an example of state and local governments working together and a cornerstone of his campaign.

For these properties, I will make sure town knows the help is out there,” said Simmons, a founding partner at the Law Office of Weiner Jackson & Simmons, P.C.

With schools and businesses reopened, the question has become how people can remain safe as they resume some level of normalcy. Simmons said that a balanced approach is key, both for education and commerce. He added that businesses will need the support to ensure they can reopen safely. Scanlon said he was impressed with the work done by Gov. Charlie Baker, that he has balanced rebuilding the economy with protecting public health. He said increasing COVID testing and making sure people have the PPE needed are essential.

I’ll fight for more PPE and improving internet access [for remote learning],” said Scanlon.

Candidates quiz each other

During the debate the candidates were allowed to question one another. Simmons said that a number of Scanlon’s supporters have criticized the work done by Poirier, and he thanked them for their comments. Scanlon responded by saying that Poirier has done a lot of good, but given that North Attleborough’s Local Aid has dropped by nearly $1 million, more is needed. He cited towns like Wellesly, which gets more than North Attleborough.

I don’t agree with everything that my supporters say,” said Scanlon.

Scanlon then asked his opponent what new legislation he has brought forward. Simmons pointed out the work he has done with the Finance Subcommittee to craft a new budget in the wake of COVID-19. He also supported a proposal to move more than $1 million into the town’s Stabilization Fund, and though it failed, the matter was taken up again and approved.

Working on the Finance Subcommittee and helping craft the budget during COVID is one of my highest priorities,” he said.

While the exchange was largely civil, the two candidates took the opportunity to point out what they view as flaws in each other’s platform. Scanlon said that while his opponent has apparently missed 17 percent of his meetings, he has missed none. Simmons also asked Scanlon that with his support for raising corporate taxes and single-payer healthcare, if there were any progressive left policies that he opposed.

During closing statements, Scanlon said that is a candidate for all and wants to change things for the better. He said that he does not run on rhetoric and has a deep love for the community.

I will be an independent voice,” he said. “Not all of us are the same.”

Simmons thanked his family for their support, and that he was doing this for them and others in the district. He said that he understands the issues because he lives them.

We all are the same because we have the same concerns,” said Simmons. “I am who I seek to represent. Let me use my lifetime of experience.”

The election will take place on Nov. 3. Early voting and voting by mail is available.

The Fall Festival by North Attleboro Rotary Club