State Senator Jamie Eldridge and Dean Cavaretta are going head to head in a race for public office for the first time, but the two state Senate candidates are no strangers: They went to high school together.
The two Acton residents both attended Acton-Boxborough Regional High in the late 1980s, with Cavaretta graduating in 1989 and Eldridge two years later. Cavaretta, a Republican, and Eldridge, a Democrat, said they didn’t know each other well in school.
Now they are competing to represent the state Senate’s Middlesex and Worcester District, and have lined up a half-dozen debates before the Nov. 6 election.
Eldridge is seeking his third term in the Senate, and said he believes he should be reelected because he has shown he’s not afraid to go against his party’s leadership at the Statehouse on key issues, such as the state’s new casino legislation. “I’m someone who has been very proud to be an independent voice in the Senate,” Eldridge said.
Cavaretta said he thinks he shares a belief with Eldridge in the importance of public service, but he believes his ideas are more in tune with the district.
“I have my own style and my own approach and my opponent is going to have his,” Cavaretta said. “He’s a liberal progressive. I consider myself the only centrist and moderate in the race.”
Neither candidate faced an opponent in the Sept. 6 primary elections for the Senate seat, which represents the Middlesex County communities of Acton, Ayer, Boxborough, Hudson, Littleton, Marlborough, Maynard, Shirley, Stow, and precincts 2 and 3 in Sudbury; and Harvard, Northborough’s Precinct 3, Southborough and Westborough in Worcester County.
Eldridge, who is 39, has held the seat since 2009, and served in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2008 representing the 37th Middlesex District.
He said he’s very proud of what the Legislature has passed during his four years in the Senate, from increasing funding for education to passing health care cost-control legislation over the summer.
Eldridge said he led the fight in opposition to legislation to bring casinos to the state, and, while the legislation was approved, said he was successful in winning approval for a provision in the law that will prevent legislators from retiring and immediately getting a job with a casino. Retiring legislators will have to wait at least a year before working for a casino, he said.
“That was an amendment in the casino debate that was unpopular with some of my Democratic colleagues, but I think speaks to my independence and my ability to get things done,” he said.
Eldridge said there is more work to do on improving the transparency of state government, and also said the state needs to revisit tax credits, such as those for the film industry, because there are better ways to boost economic development and create jobs.
Cavaretta, who is 41, said he believes education and transportation are two of the biggest issues for the district, and he has the experience needed to address them both. In addition to owning his own small property management business, Gen X Consulting, Cavaretta said, he also works as a substitute teacher in Acton and Boxborough.
Previously, he worked for the state Highway Department, now part of the state Department of Transportation, in the Celluci administration and again for Governor Deval Patrick, working on the accelerated bridge program.
Cavaretta said the Legislature needs to work to expedite bridge repairs by reforming the permitting process and giving contractors incentives to finish early. He said it has taken too long for some projects in the district, such as the closed Houghton Street Bridge in Hudson, to be addressed.
Cavaretta said the state needs to address funding for professional development programs for teachers, and should fully fund special education programs. He said he should be elected because his experience has prepared him for the job. “I can be effective on day one because of my work history,” he said.
According to finance reports filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance before the primary elections, Eldridge had raised more than $69,000 for his campaign this year, adding to almost $60,000 already in his campaign coffers. He had spent about $61,000 on his campaign since the start of the year.
Cavaretta had raised about $18,500 for his campaign since the start of the year, adding to about $1,200 he already had in his campaign account. He had spent more than $18,600 on his campaign heading into the Republican primary, according to his finance records.