TEWKSBURY — On Thursday, Oct. 1, the candidates for State Representative of the 19th Middlesex District, Dave Robertson (incumbent-D) and Alec Difruscia (R), met for a debate moderated by Wilmington Apple editor Robert Hayes at Tewksbury Town Hall. The debate was hosted by the Tewksbury Democratic and Republican Town Committees.
Following current state guidelines in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the debate had no live audience, and was instead broadcast on Tewksbury’s Public Channel, as well as the Tewksbury TV Youtube channel.
Although focusing on a variety of local issues throughout the night, much of the debate’s conversation focused on the role and truthfulness of negative attack ads during the campaign. The majority of the ads were directed at Robertson, and pushed a narrative that he supported ideals and platforms taken on by what some would call the “radical left.”
Robertson asserted throughout the night that the messages conveyed by these ads were untrue, and he was willing to go against his party in the best interest of his constituents when needed.
Among the key issues discussed, policing and criminal justice reform, Roberston noted his support of the Wilmington and Tewksbury Police Departments and provided details towards his “Refund the Police” plan to expand social work and training programs.
DiFruscia countered that Robertson refuses to combat “radical left police reform push.” In order to fight this narrative himself, DiFruscia said he would want police input in creating reform legislation. Both candidates noted they supported qualified immunity, as well as body cameras for officers.
The current debate surrounding the proposed Roe Act, as well as reproductive rights in general, was also highlighted. If adopted, the Roe Act would reform Massachusetts abortion laws, putting the right to abortion in state law, ending the judicial bypass system, and establishing safety net coverage for those without health insurance, among other actions.
DiFruscia came out strongly against these proponents, and announced himself to be “the only pro-life candidate in the race,” who would fight for the right to life. Robertson, who opted not to take a definitive stance on abortion access and reproduction rights in the 2018 election cycle, expressed concern towards eliminating the rule of judge’s consent.
He countered DiFruscia’s claim by defining himself as “pro-life,” saying he has taken on the views of his constituents.
Among the local issues discussed was the current controversy surrounding the Tewksbury Redmen mascot. Both candidates stated their support of keeping the mascot, citing it as a symbol of pride and respect for regional Native Americans.
Other issues discussed included the proposed gas tax, infrastructure improvements on Rt. 38, undocumented immigrants, proposed zoning changes, and healthcare. Throughout the debate, DiFruscia emphasized that he would never vote to increase taxes under any circumstances.
Robertson drew on his record of commitment to his constituents throughout his time in office, saying he is willing to listen to criticism and reach across the aisle to make sure the constituents’ needs and wants are met.
The 19th Middlesex District State Representative debate is still available for viewing on the Tewksbury TV Youtube page at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAy5XS2nuNE