The race for the state Senate’s Third Middlesex District seat this year has drawn a crowded field of Democratic candidates, featuring a former state legislator, Iraqi war veteran, businessman, lawyer, and a political novice.
After 15 years in the Senate, Democrat Susan Fargo of Lincoln announced in February that she would not be seeking reelection, setting the stage for the five-way party primary.
The Democratic candidates are Mike Barrett of Lexington, Alex Buck of Chelmsford, Mara Dolan of Concord, Joe Kearns Goodwin of Concord, and Joe Mullin of Weston. On the Republican side, Greg Howes of Concord and Sandi Martinez of Chelmsford are vying for their party’s nomination. The primaries will be held Sept. 6; the general election is Nov. 6.
The district comprises Bedford; Carlisle; Chelmsford; Concord; Lincoln; Waltham; Weston; precincts 3, 8, and 9 in Lexington; and precincts 1 and 4 in Sudbury.
The Democratic candidates acknowledge that there are few differences when it comes to their positions on the issues facing the district, so the race will come down to accomplishments, life experiences, and how well they get their message out.
“I think the voters will choose based on approaches and backgrounds,’’ said Mullin, who is a partner in the Clock Tower Place office park in Maynard. “I’m the jobs, jobs, jobs guy that creates them in the private sector, and meets a payroll every week.”
Mullin, 65, has served on a variety of local boards and committees, including as a selectman in Weston. In addition, he has been active in nonprofit organizations, such as the local food pantry and the Sudbury/Assabet/Concord Watershed Community Council.
“I’m the one who’s not only talked the talk but walked the walk,’’ Mullin said. “It’s these background differences that will allow the voters to make a discriminating choice.’’
Mullin said he’s using social media, holding coffees, attending debates and going door-to-door to win over voters.
Dolan, 49, said running for Senate has been a lifelong goal, and sees it as a way to give back to her community. A lawyer, Dolan has been a member of the Democratic State Committee and chairwoman of Concord’s Democratic Town Committee.
Dolan said she thinks her work ethic will appeal to voters.
“I stand out because I’m the only one giving a truly comprehensive view of what we have to do in the communities in order to rebuild the foundation for long-term prosperity,’’ she said.
Dolan said there are striking similarities among the candidates on most issues, but she stands apart when it comes to support of workers and the rights of unions.
She said the key will be getting her message out to voters.
“We have a grass-roots organization, we have people working on our behalf, and I’m confident we’ll have the votes we need to win in September,’’ Dolan said.
Kearns Goodwin, 34, comes from a political family and a town with a rich history. His father, Richard Goodwin, was an adviser to two Democratic presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. His mother, Doris Kearns Goodwin, is an author and historian who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for her book on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
“Growing up in a town like Concord, a mile away from the North Bridge, down the street from Walden Pond and listening to my father’s stories, it’s hard not to be infused with a sense that service to something other than yourself, and service to this great country, is a noble pursuit,’’ Kearns Goodwin said.
Kearns Goodwin is an Army veteran who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked at General Electric and is now attending law school. He has served on the Democratic Town Committee.
Kearns Goodwin said he hopes his candidacy generates interest among a younger generation of voters.
“There’s no doubt I’m new to this but that can be a good thing,’’ Kearns Goodwin said. “I have a lot of experiences that are very different than other people in the race.’’
Buck, 38, said he sees a need for Beacon Hill to represent average citizens, and thinks he has the background to get it done.
“We need elected leaders who represent the communities and not just political insiders or special interests,’’ Buck said. “I have a lot of time in private industry and I’ve been very involved as a community activist. That puts me in a position to serve the communities the best.”
Buck said social media will play a role, but the campaign will ultimately come down to old-fashioned campaigning.
“It’s much more important that I have thousands of conversations with people to find out what their needs are,’’ said Buck, who has served as a Chelmsford Town Meeting member and on the local school building committee.
Buck previously ran a collectibles store, then entered the life sciences industry, where he said he has seen first-hand the potential of the field, and played arole in ensuring that products met high standards of safety and effectiveness.
Barrett, 63, a former state senator, has most recently worked in the health care and technology sector. Since 1995, Barrett worked as chief executive officer and general counsel of the Visiting Nurse Associations of New England, and then as a senior health care IT market analyst at Forrester Research and Critical Mass Consulting. He has his own consulting firm studying how technology can help people cope with chronic conditions.
Barrett said the Legislature does not have members that represent the entire Massachusetts economy, and he hopes to bring a new perspective to the State House.
“The Legislature is underrepresented in the growth sectors and I think I can fill a gap,’’ Barrett said.
Barrett represented Cambridge in the Senate from 1987 to 1995 before launching a failed candidacy for governor. He sees his experience in politics as an advantage.
“I’m the only one with legislative experience,’’ Barrett said. “I learned how to get a bill through and how to advocate for issues.’’
Shifting to the GOP candidates, Martinez, 64, helped form the Greater Lowell Tea Party and has served as a Chelmsford Town Meeting representative and Republican State Committee member. She said she hopes to bring common sense to the State House and put an end to what she says is a disconnect between the people and their elected representatives.
Martinez has been the Republican nominee in the past three elections for the Third Middlesex seat, but lost to Fargo each time.
She describes herself as a “mainstream, balanced-budget, tax-cutting, profamily conservative.’’
While she is more conservative on social issues than Howes, Martinez said, she doesn’t think that’s the key issue in the campaign.
“My social values and social beliefs are who I am but what matters now is jobs and the economy,’’ said Martinez, 64, who had a career in information technology.
Martinez said she’s not taking the primary for granted, but is confident she’ll move on to the general election.
“I’ve got the name recognition in the district and we’ve worked up a good base,’’ she said.
Howes, who just completed two terms on Concord’s Board of Selectmen, owns the Howes Insurance Group. He describes himself as a moderate Republican whose positions on social issues more accurately reflect GOP voters in the district than Martinez.
Howes, 43, is prochoice and supports gay marriage.
He thinks Martinez lost the past three elections against Fargo because her Tea Party views are too radical.
In addition to their differences on social issues, Howes said, he has more experience, with stints on the Concord Housing Authority and the town’s Board of Assessors.
He thinks the only way for the Republican Party to end the one-party rule of the Democrats in Massachusetts is to be more inclusive, not exclusive.
He said the key to victory in the primary is getting the voters out to the polls.
“If people go out, this pattern will stop,’’ Howes said. “It’s about getting people to wake up and realize they need a voice.’’
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at email@example.com.