State Senate Race: Candidate Profiles
A special election for state senator for the Bristol and Norfolk district will be held on October 17. The seat became available when James Timilty resigned to take the position of Norfolk County treasurer. Two Democrats and four Republicans faced off in the primary election on September 19. On the Republican side, Jacob Ventura, of Attleboro, former legislative aide to State Rep. Steve Howitt easily beat Michael Berry, Harry Brousaides and Tim Hempton. Ventura had 2,240 votes. Berry received 1,469, Brousaides 254 and Hempton 613 votes. In the Democratic primary, Paul Feeney, a former Foxboro selectman, beat Ted Philips of Sharon, former staff director for state Rep Louis Kafka, 3,144 to 2,219.
Voters will choose between Feeney, Ventura and Independent/Unenrolled candidate Joe Shortsleeve, former news anchor at WBZ-TV4 in Boston. The district includes half of Attleboro, parts of Sharon and all of Foxboro, Mansfield, Medfield, Norton, Rehoboth, Seekonk, and Walpole.
Profiles of the three candidates follow.
Paul Feeney – Democratic Candidate
Paul Feeney, 39, former Foxboro selectmen and state director for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, wants to be the voice of working families in the senate. He has been a telephone worker for 20 years and serves as legislative director for IBEW Local 2222 representing his co-workers in the legislature. “Being a blue collar worker gives me a frame of reference that a lot of candidates don’t have. I understand the struggles people face because I’ve lived through them,” Feeney said.
Testifying in front of numerous legislative committees over the last 10 years has made him familiar with the process.
In addition to that experience, he also served as James Timilty’s Chief of Staff for a year. Feeney says that he is concerned that the political discourse is getting too negative. “Many people in the district feel left aside and that government isn’t working for them anymore,” Feeney said. ‘’I think we can do better. I think there’s a better way,” Feeney said. Several people asked him if he would consider running after Timilty resigned. “I thought: ‘there’s too much at stake for me to sit on the sidelines,’” he said.
One of his top priorities is public education. “We need to change the formula to fully fund public schools and change the model so educators can educate children for a lifetime of learning,” Feeney said.
Another issue of importance to Feeney is the opioid crisis. He says he’s seen firsthand what it can do to people. “We need to do things differently. We need to mandate insurance to cover a wide range of treatment options including transitional care and long-term care,” Feeney said.
Feeney also wants to focus on increasing jobs in the district by concentrating on green energy sector and investing in public transportation.
Feeney, who has lived in Foxboro for 13 years and coached youth sports, says he is invested in the region. “I’m passionate about these issues,” Feeney said. Feeney believes government should respond to the people. “It’s important that we have a state senator that sticks up for people, that stands up for women to help close the wage gap and sticks up for the right to choose,” Feeney said.
We asked Feeney to share something that people may not know about him and he said he has been a licensed pyrotechnician for 21 years. He has helped shoot professional fireworks displays throughout Massachusetts.
For more information on Feeney, visit www.votefeeney.com.
Jacob Ventura – Republican Candidate
Jacob Ventura, 30, an attorney, has been involved in politics since he was in college. He served for several years as legislative aide for State Rep. Steven Howitt where he gained firsthand experience helping constituents and navigating the legislative road at the Boston State House. “I bring an agenda of common sense, of reform, and making sure state government works better for everybody and supports our local communities, which I’ve been doing since 2011 in a bipartisan manner on behalf of the region,” said Ventura, who lives in Attleboro. “I have a good relationship with Democrats and Republicans in the state house, especially the delegation from this region and that’s vital,” Ventura said.
It’s not just about politics for Ventura. It’s also about making state government work better for the people, he says.
“It’s not just about politics, it’s about getting things done for the people you represent,” Ventura said. As Howitt’s aide, Ventura worked on many projects from helping people with home heating assistance to getting funding for transportation projects. “Constituent services are one of my biggest takeaways from working with Steve Howitt,” Ventura said.
His priority is to focus on five groups – senior citizens, veterans, the disabled, students and small businesses.
Another platform for Ventura is local aid to cities and towns. “It results in better roads, better schools and more money for seniors and veterans,” Ventura said.
Ventura worked in finance and banking at JP Morgan in Boston after college and considers himself a “budget hawk.” He wants to make government more efficient and more accountable to taxpayers while keeping taxes low.
“We want to take a hard look at the state budget and make sure tax dollars are spent in the most efficient way possible,” Ventura said. “It’s not about cutting services. It’s about realizing savings in the budget and making it more efficient so more tax dollars go towards providing services to those who need it,” Ventura said.
Ventura plans to have most of his staff based in the district, rather than in Boston. “That’s where the real work gets done,” Ventura said.
We asked each candidate to tell us something about themselves that not everyone knows. “If I’m elected I’ll be the first ever Native American from a federally recognized tribe (the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)) to be elected to the legislature,” Ventura said.
For more information on Ventura, visit www.jacobventura.com.
Joe Shortsleeve – Independent/Unenrolled Candidate
Joe Shortsleeve, 60, the independent candidate for state senate, is a former anchorman and I-team reporter at WBZ-TV4 in Boston. He decided to run after hearing about Timilty’s resignation. “I knew Jim really well. When he decided to step down, there was a moment of clarity and I said to myself ‘I have to do this,’” Shortsleeve said. His work on WBZ-TV’s investigative team mostly involved working for taxpayers, he says, and that’s what the state senator does.
Shortsleeve, a Medfield resident, says people are fed up with the political rhetoric. He believes that people never had a solid choice in an unenrolled candidate. “I believe I’m giving people that option for the first time,” Shortsleeve said.
He describes himself as liberal on social issues, but conservative on economic and fiscal issues. “I can bridge the gap between the Democrats and Republicans,” Shortsleeve said.
His top priorities include improving Chapter 70 school funding, looking at the 40B affordable housing issue and keeping taxes “low and fair.” “I want to make sure our schools are the best,” Shortsleeve said.
He plans to continue holding politicians accountable by fighting for increased transparency, greater accountability and initiatives like universal healthcare. “Politicians should answer to the people, not the party,” Shortsleeve said.
He promises to base his political decisions on the best information possible rather than party loyalty. “I think of myself as a moderate, the voice of reason in the district,” Shortsleeve said. He’s never held elected office, but he has covered many important stories and issues, from the State House to community issues, and he knows the people involved. “I know the process. I love the idea of being an outsider. I’ve covered the issues for 30 years – from greedy developers to marijuana shops,” Shortsleeve said.
Shortsleeve says he’s a good listener and he believes the job requires “a good deal of listening and compassion.” “I am not a politician. I am somebody who’s experienced in research and a good listener, someone who will sit down and talk to people and find the best solution for the district or community,” Shortsleeve said.
When asked to share something that not everyone may know about him, he said he’s a local boy who grew up in a big family in Newton. He was one of eight children (he was #6). His daughter also recently got married.
For more information on Shortsleeve, visit www.joeshortsleeve.com.