As state Representative Harriett L. Stanley prepares to retire from the seat she has held for 18 years, voters in the Second Essex District are turning their attention to who might succeed the West Newbury Democrat.
Three Republicans and a Democrat are reaching out to voters across the sprawling district that Stanley has represented since 1995.
The Second Essex now includes Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury, West Newbury, and parts of Boxford and Haverhill. In last year’s redistricting, it lost Rowley and a Haverhill precinct and gained two precincts in Boxford and the remainder of Georgetown.
Although it has been in Democratic hands for nearly two decades, the suburban district is considered friendly territory for the GOP, reflected in the fact that Republican Charles D. Baker swept all its communities in the 2010 governor’s race, and also in the emergence of the three Republican contenders for the House seat this year.
The Republicans — Robert H. Cronin of Boxford, Selectman Gary C. Fowler of Georgetown, and Lenny Mirra of West Newbury — are vying in the Sept. 6 primary.
The winner will square off against West Newbury Democrat Barry P. Fogel in the Nov. 6 general election.
Kim Incampo, a Republican State Committee member from North Andover, said the competition on the GOP side is good for the party.
“I think it’s great,” Incampo said. “It’s exactly what primaries are for. We are very excited there are three Republicans running and working the district very hard. It shows a lot of energy.”
A common theme among the Republicans is their pledge to work for the changes they say are needed on Beacon Hill.
“The biggest problem in the state is the imbalance in the Legislature,” said Cronin, referring to the Democratic dominance. “Unfortunately, the ultraliberal left seems to be getting their way. . . . The only way to swing the pendulum back toward the right, at least to the center, is by electing more Republicans.”
A former Revere city councilor, Cronin is the part-time sealer of weights and measures for Boxford and Revere. He served on the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission from 2002 until last fall and is currently a consultant who helps businesses apply for and comply with liquor licenses.
Cronin said that “one of my biggest strengths is I have been in government before.”
”I understand how the State House works,” he said.
He said he would use his experience to advocate for small businesses, including doing away with some of the regulations he believes unfairly burden them.
Mirra, a first-time candidate who formerly served on the Groveland Conservation Commission, said he is concerned about “one-party rule” and the general direction on Beacon Hill.
“We are in a very bad spot, fiscally speaking,” he said. “We have an unfunded pension liability, an unfunded health liability, and one of the highest per capita debt levels in America.”
“I’ve been working for small businesses all my life,” said Mirra, co-owner of his family’s construction firm and owner of a company that installs advertising and publicity displays. “I just want to bring some common sense and a business background to Beacon Hill, which I think is really lacking.”
Fowler previously worked for 32 years in maintenance, including as a supervisor, for a Lawrence manufacturer. He currently does maintenance work for a Georgetown church and an Ipswich art center.
“Through life, I’ve learned common sense and knowledge,” he said. “That’s what I would like to take to Beacon Hill to represent the average citizen and taxpayer.”
Among his legislative goals is to exempt small projects from the state law requiring municipalities to pay the area prevailing wage for construction projects. He said that would provide more opportunity for small, local businesses to bid on projects.
An attorney for a Boston law firm, Fogel previously served as director of the Worcester regional office of the state Department of Environmental Protection and as deputy counsel for the department. A first-time candidate, he was on the West Newbury Conservation Commission from 2003 until earlier this year.
He said he would use his professional experience to work with district residents to identify their concerns and then to advocate for solutions at the state level.
“There are just a lot of bread-and-butter issues for people who live here,” Fogel said. “I hear this when I’m knocking on doors. It’s schools; it’s roads and bridges; it’s things like Lyme disease. . . . To have someone who can be involved in community discussions about how to achieve a good outcome for those objectives is important.”
Fogel is taking aim at the entire Republican field.
“After watching them perform at a forum in May and reading what they have posted on their websites and Facebook, I have not seen any indication that any of these candidates is up to the job,” Fogel said in a recent press release. “Nearly all of what they have presented is superficial and inaccurate rhetoric.”
As an example, he cited what he contended were inaccurate statements made by Mirra and Cronin at the May forum that unless more Republicans are elected to the House, the Democratic leadership can refuse to hold roll call votes.
Fogel said that 16 members are needed to force a roll call vote and that there are currently 33 House Republicans.
All three Republicans dismissed Fogel’s criticisms.
“I would put my record of job creation up against his or anyone else’s any day of the week,” Mirra said, adding that his family’s construction company “has about 120 people on the payroll and I hired most of them.”
“I don’t take it as a criticism; I just take it as his opinion of things,” Fowler said of Fogel.
“I tell people at the door that if they are happy with the way the state is, then you can vote for the Democrat,” Cronin said. “If you aren’t happy with the way things are, you should vote for change.”