State Rep Hopefuls Claim Independent Mantel at Forum
Final face-to-face meeting between three seeking the "ABC" district has one candidate believes the race is down to two; others disagree.
In the long-running game show "To Tell the Truth," three contestants would identify themselves as the same person with a peculiar experience and it was up to the panel of guest stars to correctly identify the player from the two impostors.
In a similar vein, the voters in the 24th Middlesex House of Representatives District are being asked by the three candidates seeking to become their state representative to correctly ID the one who is the true independent in the race.
At last night's forum sponsored by the Belmont League of Women Voters held in the Chenery Middle School auditorium, Dave Rogers, Jim Gammill and Tomi Olson each attempted to convince registered voters that once elected, they would not abandon them for outside interests or the allure of personal gain in the State House.
Running as the independent in the three person race, Gammill proclaims that after 35 years as a democrat party activist, he became "fed up with the partisanship had done to our political life."
"What we need is true independence," he noted, saying that 40 years of one party rule in Massachusetts has destroyed any sense of balance, competition and legislative due process.
"I will be there as a servant for you, to be an honest witness" to the messy work up on Beacon Hill, he said.
But Rogers would not concede to the Belmont resident the large un-enrolled voters segment without a fight.
"There is no independent party in Massachusetts but the key is the way you think and the way you act," said Rogers.
"I'm a first-time candidate from outside the system with new ideas. I bring independent thinking to the race," he added, refusing to easily give up the mantel of independence to Gammill "just because he called himself an independent."
And Olson also sounded her own call to claim at least a chunk of the district's independents.
"I am fiercely independent and am not easily swayed by group think" such as seen in the legislature, said Olson.
"I never only looked at one side of an argument. I am independent enough to realize that you can't be productive at the State House with that approach," she said.
When a member of the public asked the candidates what distinguished them from their election rivals, Gammill returned to the theme of the night.
"I am the independent. There are 89 of the 160 races with no competition. I am bringing a credible challenge so I can bring back democracy in the State House," he noted.
"You can't be that independent voice as one of 140 representatives," said Gammill, referring to Rogers.
Rogers, in turn, said being an independent would prevent Gammill from being "in the room" when negotiations are being made on important issues.
Down to two?
And with less than a fortnight remaining until the election, one candidate believes voters have decided the election is between two, not three, of those on the ballot.
Gammill said the election to fill the vacancy in the Massachusetts House created when Will Brownsberger was elected to the State Senate in January has come down to a battle between him and Rogers, the Cambridge Democrat seeking the seat.
"All of our calling in and canvasing tells us that this has become a two-person race and if you take a look at any other measurable sign of activity in the race you can only come to that conclusion," said Gammill to Belmont Patch after the forum.
Belmont's Gammill also believes he holds an edge in the race being a long-time homeowner in the largest town in the "ABC" (Arlington, Belmont and Cambridge) District.
"Dave has worked very hard for the past months but this is his first experience in Belmont and Tomi and I have been around for 10,000 days each and there is a lot that you pick up in that time about the people and their interests," said Gammill who celebrated his 59th birthday at the forum.
For his part, Rogers said it would be "a little disrepectful" for Gammill to ignore Republican challenger Olson from Belmont.
"I seeking the vote of everyone out there; democrats, the unenrolled and republicans. I have strong ideas that will help the community and that is what this is all about," said Rogers.
"I'm still in this race. I have had very successful public events and I feel good about my chances," said Olson.
The three challengers took to the stage on Wednesday, Oct. 24, for the League's Candidates' Night and soon discovered the League's format of limiting answers to one minute created a hybrid of political debate meets speed dating, forcing each candidate to be quick, know their lines and be upbeat.
Public questions ranged from how to pull Massachusetts out of the slow recovery effecting the nation, what committees they wanted to be appointed on and support for bicyclists.
Reruns of the debate will be shown on Belmont Media Center cable access.