As Representative Christine E. Canavan prepares to leave the State House after 22 years next January, a wide-open scramble to determine who succeeds the Brockton Democrat is moving into a critical stretch.
Officials in both Democratic and Republican parties expect a fiercely contested primary next Tuesday for the district, which encompasses West Bridgewater and part of Brockton and East Bridgewater. The final election is Nov. 4.
Ossie Jordan, chairman of the Brockton Democratic City Committee, said he sees no clear front-runner among his party’s three contenders: five-term Brockton Ward 6 Councilor Michelle M. DuBois, Peggy Curtis, and Paul L. Beckner.
“All three individuals are well-known in the community and have been very active,” said Jordan, expressing confidence Democrats will hold the seat in November if they get their voters out.
DuBois is known from her years as an elected official, and Curtis and Beckner have been active in Brockton. Beckner has also run unsuccessfully for City Council on three occasions.
Two West Bridgewater residents are competing in the GOP primary: John R. Cruz and Colleen R. Maloney. Cruz formerly held the House seat and is now chairman of the West Bridgewater Board of Health and a member of the local Housing Authority. Maloney is chairwoman of Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School Committee.
Both candidates enjoy visibility from their own boards and also have well-known family members. Cruz is the younger brother of Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz, while Maloney is the daughter of West Bridgewater Selectwoman Nancy Maloney.
“It’s been a good competitive match-up,” said Jeanie Falcone, a Republican State Committee member from Brockton. “John has been there before. Colleen is new. They are both good people. I think we have a very good chance of taking the seat.”
A sixth candidate, unenrolled Tyler Jay Prescott of Brockton, said he is considering dropping out of the contest because of the difficulty of running as a new, nonparty candidate and the lack of attention his candidacy has received from the media.
With the primary approaching, candidates exchanged jabs in interviews.
DuBois, who touts her efforts to oppose a controversial proposal for a power plant in Brockton, criticized Curtis for having said during a radio debate that she supported the project. The proposal is currently in litigation.
Curtis said she supports the natural-gas fired plant. But “my opinion is irrelevant at this point because it is in the hands of the court and I have to abide by whatever the courts decide and the people decide,” she said. “We are still on the hook for $68 million if the developer prevails and there is no contingency plan in place.”
Beckner took aim at DuBois for having said she will complete her term as city councilor if elected to the Legislature.
“She can’t do the job of councilor. How the heck is she going to be a councilor and a state rep?” Beckner said. Regarding her performance as councilor, he said, “All she has done is to vote to raise taxes.”
He also said he had canvassed her street and found the majority of her neighbors did not know she lived in the area.
DuBois said it is “standard practice” for city councilors to fill out their terms after being elected to the Legislature.
“I’ve run five times and been reelected because I focus on what residents want,” she said.
DuBois, who works as director of development of the South Coastal Counties Legal Services, said she brings experience as a city councilor who has fought for city residents. She cited her work to protect the city’s water consumers from overcharges, to oppose the power plant, and to create more transparency in government.
“I really want to make the system work for the people who live in this district. That’s what I’ve done the last nine years,” she said.
Curtis works as a library paraprofessional at the Raymond School in Brockton and has previously been a classroom teacher at a parochial school. She said she would bring “my leadership skills, my organizational skills, my community service.”
Her activism has included supporting efforts to reform the state’s records information system, to boost the minimum wage, and to guarantee sick leave. The creator and director of a local cable show, “A Deadly Silence,” promoting awareness of the opiate drug epidemic, she has advocated for the recently adopted law that strengthens prescription drug monitoring.
Formerly store manager for a Bob’s Discount store, Beckner helps manage a used auto business in Whitman. He is a member of Brocktonians for Limited Taxation.
“I bring an old Democratic platform to a new day,” he said, calling himself a traditional conservative Democrat who believes in helping average people but opposes raising taxes. He also labels himself a “proud member” of the National Rifle Association. From his years in business, he said, he offers budgeting skills and an ability to reach common ground with others.
Cruz owns a plumbing business and is West Bridgewater’s plumbing and gas inspector. He won the House seat in 1990 but lost it to Canavan in 1992 and failed in bids to unseat her in 1994 and 2010.
He said he brings his background of having created and run a small business and having served in the Legislature.
“This is no time for a learning curve,” he said, arguing that he would be ready to hit the ground running.
Maloney graduated in May from Stonehill College and works part time at an auto parts warehouse.
“We need someone on Beacon Hill who is going to be a new voice,” she said. “The budget continues to grow but there is not enough accountability or transparency, and I think we need to start looking down the road and create a strategic plan” for addressing jobs, health care, and other future needs.