In a race with no incumbent, the four candidates running for the Second Suffolk and Middlesex State Senate seat split into two, with current state representatives Will Brownsberger of Belmont and Jonathan Hecht of Watertown touting their experience on Beacon Hill, and former state firefighters union president Bob McCarthy and Brighton attorney Tim Schofield talking about ways they would shake up things in Senate.
The candidates got their first chance to face each other in public Tuesday night at a candidate forum run and hosted by the Church of the Good Shepherd in Watertown. The district includes all of Watertown and Belmont and parts of Brighton, Allston, the Fenway, the Back Bay and Cambridge.
McCarthy, a lifelong Watertown resident, emphasized that he has received the endorsement of the man who they are seeking to succeed — Steven Tolman. McCarthy, 66, said
"I am not the normal candidate," McCarthy said. "I am not a career politician. I have not run before. My only interest is the residents of the district."
McCarthy worked for many years at the State House first as a legislative agent for the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts union and then as the group’s president.
Schofield said he grew up Cambridge in a working class family with seven siblings. He was the first in his family to go to college, and said the government lent him a hand doing so, with the G.I. Bill and federal grants and loans that allowed him to attend University of New Hampshire.
"I want a level playing fiend for working people," Schofield said. "I am trying to do my part to contribute to my community."
He wants to protect that path to college so young people today can have the same opportunity that he did. Schofield has experience in government, having worked with former-New Hampshire congressman Richard Swett, and assisted former State Senator Warren Tolman in his bid for governor in 2002.
Hecht has served Watertown for years, first as a Town Councilor for four years and then the past three years as state representative. Before entering politics, however, Hecht spent many years working for international human rights, spending time in China and Vietnam.
Government can do more for people, Hecht said, by helping the economy, creating jobs and improving education. One of his goals is to make people proud of their government again. He noted that he is independent of special interests.
"I never take money from PACs (political action committees), I never take money from lobbiests, no matter where they live," Hecht said.
Brownsberger grew up just two doors down from the Church of the Good Shepherd, and now he lives in Belmont where he served as selectman before being elected to the House. He worked for many years in the judicial system, as a prosecutor, a defense attorney and doing research. He also worked in the financial sector for a few years.
While he worked as an attorney, Brownsberger said he is now a full-time legislator. He is interested in hearing from people all over his district and welcomes input on his website. He said he is not a big-picture dreamer.
"I have always been one who works in the trenches," Brownsberger said. "I say, 'How do we get it done?'"