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Barrett takes on Martinez in fight for open Senate seat

Barrett takes on Martinez in fight for open Senate seat

They differ on the gas tax, the bottle bill and abortion, and now state Senate candidates Sandi Martinez and Mike Barrett don’t even agree on how much they should debate.

Martinez, a Republican from Chelmsford, and Barrett, a Democrat from Lexington, have met in two debates while campaigning for the Senate’s Third Middlesex District seat this fall.

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Barrett said Martinez has dodged more debates as part of a strategy to keep the campaign out of the public eye, and to avoid having to talk about abortion and her plans to create jobs.

“In its own way, this is Sandi’s version of voter suppression,” Barrett said. “She is trying to keep down the vote in the state Senate district, presumably for strategic reasons.”

Martinez said she debated Barrett at the Lowell Sun offices, and at a League of Women Voters forum in Sudbury early this month. She said her campaign decided not to participate in more debates hosted by the league because the organization showed itself to be partisan when it ran advertisements against Republican US Senator Scott Brown last year.

Martinez said she also thinks the two debates with Barrett have given voters what they need to know.

“What’s there to debate?” she said. “He is saying the same things. I am pretty much saying the same things. People know our positions on the issues.”

The Third Middlesex District represents Bedford, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Lincoln, Waltham, and Weston, as well as precincts 3, 8, and 9 in Lexington, and precincts 1, 4, and 5 in Sudbury.

The Democratic incumbent, Lincoln resident Susan Fargo, has held the seat for eight terms, but announced in February  she would not seek reelection. The winner on Nov. 6 would join a Senate with a solid Democratic Party majority.

Martinez, 64 , ran against Fargo in the past three elections. She is a regional committee member in the Massachusetts Republican Party who helped form the Greater Lowell Tea Party, and has served as a Chelmsford Town Meeting representative.

She beat Republican Greg Howes of Concord in the September primary to win their party’s nomination for the race. She said she has taken a pledge not to support any new taxes if she is elected, and she is opposed to raising the tax on gasoline.

Martinez said she is also opposed to extending the bottle bill to include containers that hold water and other noncarbonated beverages. The current law assesses a refundable nickel deposit on carbonated beverages, including beer and soda. Martinez said she views extending the bottle bill as another tax, which she said would have unintended consequences by possibly encouraging people not choose healthy beverages, such as juices.

Martinez said she thinks cutting unnecessary spending and creating jobs should be a top priority for the next senator. She said she opposes abortion and believes life begins at conception.

Martinez said Barrett is trying to make the campaign about social issues, but said that when she is out knocking on doors she more frequently hears concerns from the elderly about their taxes being too high, or from parents who say their college-educated children can’t find work.

“Michael wants to debate the social issues, but the social issues are not what’s on the minds of voters right now.”

Barrett, who supports abortion rights, said Martinez doesn’t want to talk about how the country is one US Supreme Court appointment away from reversing the Roe v. Wade decision. A new court could throw the question of abortion rights back to the states to decide.

Barrett, also 64 , has lived in Lexington since 1995. He served in the Senate as a Cambridge resident from 1987 to 1994, when he mounted an unsuccessful campaign for governor.

Barrett beat a crowded field in the Democratic primary, including a well-financed campaign by Concord resident Joe Kearns Goodwin, to win the party’s nomination.

He said he is in favor of raising the gasoline tax to help the financially troubled MBTA, and of extending the bottle bill, and would like the state to be a national leader on environmental issues. Barrett said he would like to focus on opening up more higher education opportunities in the state, and he believes there is potential to create jobs by encouraging start-up companies in information technologies for the health care industry.

“I know the state Senate as an institution, and I think we can be much more creative as a state than we’ve been,” he said.

Brock Parker can be reached at brock.globe@gmail.com.
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