Republicans in race for State Rep. meet face to face: We’re more organized than ever

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Former School Committee Chair Steve Aylward campaigned for Republican  State Committeeman on a promise to put a Republican on the ballot for each  State House seat in the district, and at a May 21 “Meet the Candidates” forum,  he came just one seat short of doing just that.

Only Rep. Jon Hecht’s seat is going unopposed, unless  someone decides to run a write-in campaign.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had this many Republicans on  the ballot,” Aylward said. “And, it’s been forever since we’ve had anyone up for  State Senate.”

Aylward told the TAB his strategy is to get as many  Republicans on the ballot in order to draw more Republicans and un-enrolled  voters to the polls.

“It helps everyone from Romney all the way on down,” Aylward said. “We’ve gone without Republicans on the ballot for too long we’re  intending to get as many people on the ballot as we can.”

Crowding a round table at the Shutt Detachment Marine Corps  League in Watertown were four candidates for state representative seats: Tomi  Olsen for the 24th Middlesex, Francis Stanton for 10th  Middlesex, Thomas Vasconcelos for 26th Middlesex and Charles Klauder  for Second Suffolk. Aylward is running for the State  Senate in the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District, which includes  Watertown, Belmont and parts of Boston.

Also speaking at the forum were two Republicans going  head-to-head in a bid for the 5th Congressional District, Jeff Semon  and Frank Addivinola.


Fresh faces

It’s the first time many of the candidates have run for  any office, let alone State Rep. Of the five state-level candidates, only  Aylward and Klauder have held municipal offices. Klauder represents Chelsea’s  seventh School Committee district.

“It’s my first time running for any office, but I said, ‘Why not give it a shot?’” Vasconcelos said. “Let’s at least make (Rep. Timothy  Toomey) work for his position.”

Railing against what they described as complacency and  corruption in a Democrat-dominated state government, both Olsen and Stanton  called for a change in the Beacon Hill culture that contributed to three  Speakers of the House indicted on criminal charges.

“It’s time to restore balance and transparency in the State  House,” Olsen said. “It’s time for a paradigm shift.”

Throwing the gauntlet down in Rep. John Lawn’s direction,  Stanton told the TAB he decided to run after redistricting added two of Lawn’s  former District D Town Council precincts to the 10th Middlesex. Full  disclosure: Stanton writes a column for the TAB’s sister paper, the Waltham News  Tribune.

“It just seemed like there was some gerrymandering in  Watertown in order for him to secure the seat for the next 10 years,” Stanton  said. “Before the redistricting, it was a pretty standard-looking district. You  look at it now and it looks like a claw that wraps around Warrendale and goes  into Watertown.”

Lawn said he was “thrilled” to represent areas where he  owns a business and where his children go to school but said that wasn’t going  to win him an election.

“It doesn’t guarantee me anything and I will certainly have  to work very hard,” Lawn said. “77 percent of my district is out of town. I’m  not sure there’s another State Representative that has that small of an area  that they represent out of their hometown.”

Drawing on differences

The Watertown Republican Town Committee joined forces with  the Republican City and Town Committees from Boston, Cambridge, Belmont, and  Waltham as well as the Greater Boston Tea Party to the sponsor the forum.

Aylward said it was important to stop letting “Democrats  define the Republican party” as “zealots” and “racists,” labels that were thrown  around loosely in the wake of Sen. Scott Brown’s unlikely election in 2010 at  the peak of Tea Party momentum.

Defining himself as fiscally  and socially conservative, Aylward said he wasn’t going to “mince words” when debating Brownsberger in the coming months. That beings with hot-button  issues like abortion, which Aylward called “a vile act.”

“We want to protect the first right of women, and that’s  the right to live,” Aylward said at the forum. “If we can’t stand for life, we  can’t stand for anything.”

Brownsberger said that while he and Aylward differed  markedly on a number of issues, they shared a common goal in advocating for  fiscal responsibility, especially when it comes to curbing unfunded pension  liabilities.

“There’s more that we need to do on long-term fiscal  responsibility issues related to public employee benefits,” Brownsberger told  the TAB. “That’s actually an area where I’ve been a leader. The pension reform  bill I sponsored won me the Better Government competition from the Pioneer  Institute to develop better government proposals.”

Since his election, Brown has visibly distanced himself  from the “traditional” values that dominated the Republican presidential primary  this spring and helped him get elected in 2010, defining himself instead as an “independent.”

Boston Republican City Committee Chair Brad Williams said  it was true that excitement stemming from Brown’s senate win has been a major  driving force in getting more wards to organize, including some that organized  for the first time in anyone’s memory.

“There are 22 wards in Boston and I think we have about 20  wards organized,” Williams said. “I’ve lived in Boston for 20 years, and we’ve  never had that many wards organized. Considering we only had seven or eight  wards organized a year and a half ago, that’s huge.”

Asked if there was any tension between the two camps of  Republicans that sometimes come out on opposite ends of a debate – one socially  conservative and newly energized, the other established and accustomed to  catering to the middle – Williams said, “yes.”

“Politics by definition has tensions like that. There’s a  more conservative faction that has been quiet for years,” Williams said. “But,  we all want to get Scott Brown reelected. And we will win when we focus on  fiscal issues like creating jobs, reducing government spending, and providing  opportunities, which really all go hand in hand.”

Also seen in Wicked Local Watertown and WickedLocal Belmont