QUESTIONS FOR 8TH ESSEX CANDIDATES: No. 3 — What are your top three priorities?

The Marblehead News posed a series of common questions to the six Democratic candidates for state representative from the 8th Essex District. There is no declared Republican candidate, meaning the winner of the primary Tuesday, Sept. 6 is likely to head to Beacon Hill to serve Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn. Over the next two weeks, the Marblehead News will post the candidates’ responses to our questions, side by side, alternating the order as we go.

Previous questions:

Q1. Tell us about yourself.

Q2. What life event most profoundly affected your political views, and how did it shape them?

Today’s question:

Q3. What are your three top priorities for the 8th Essex District?

Doug Thompson

Doug Thompson

My top three priorities are:

  • Affordability/Economic Opportunity
  • Climate Change and
  • Government Accountability

to address the biggest challenges we have.

Affordability/Economic Opportunity includes affordable, accessible healthcare, and affordable housing, education, and transportation.  

Healthcare — I have the only detailed health care plan at  My plan includes major investments in primary care, mental health, and geriatrics. Administrative simplification and cost reduction through a public option health plan like Medicare — available to all. Prescription drug price reductions. And a long-term-care plan.

Housing — The scarcity of housing has led to spiraling housing costs at every level. We need to build more housing at many different price levels to keep prices down. We need to explore zoning changes that allow more accessory dwelling units (in-law units) to spread out the impact.

Transportation — Our transportation systems are outdated, unreliable, and inefficient. We need a bold vision for what our transportation system should look like 25-50 years from now and start building toward it now. 

I support the Fair Share amendment and believe it will go a long way to addressing the inequities in transportation and education.

Climate Change — I have the most detailed, and boldest plan to get us to Net Zero by 2035 at Technological innovation and relatively modest investments can help heal our planet and create many green jobs in this district.

Government Accountability – I have been a leader and advocate for getting lobbyist money out of this race so the special interests don’t impede our next representative.  

Polly Titcomb

Polly Titcomb

My top three priorities as state representative are climate resiliency and sustainability, expanding and improving public transportation, and mitigating the housing crisis.

As coastal communities, Lynn, Marblehead and Swampscott carry much of the burden of responding to rising sea levels and the impacts of climate change. I will sponsor bills that place a large portion of the financial responsibility for coastal resiliency on the state, not just on coastal municipalities. I will work to remove barriers to access of the MassSave program and legislate stronger incentives for businesses to go green.

The state must meet the operational needs of reliable and safe public transit. This means increasing staffing levels and services on existing transit lines, as well as improving affordability for all commuters. I will also work to create sustainable public transit by addressing capital needs. I will push to electrify the MBTA, greatly decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, and to extend the Blue Line into Lynn, allowing for greater social equity and access and decreased reliance on personal vehicles.

In response to the housing crisis, Massachusetts must increase the variety and amount of housing. I support the MBTA Community Zoning Guidelines that aim to increase multi-family housing in communities near public transit, but I support legislation that goes further to ensure multi-family housing and housing options for the senior community, veteran community, and people with disabilities. This will create more cost variation, increase economic diversity, and naturally decrease housing costs in communities.

Diann Slavit-Baylis

Diann Slavit-Baylis

I have put forward six priorities for the 8th Essex District:

  • meaningfully and urgently addressing the climate crisis;
  • improving our schools;
  • strengthening our economy;
  • investing in public transportation;
  • keeping our communities safe from gun violence; and
  • protecting civil rights and equality.

In this answer, I’ll focus on three that are not covered in other questions below.

Regarding education, this will be my top priority every year when the state budget process comes around. We must fully fund the 2019 Student Opportunity Act, and ensure that the education aid funding formula is fair to both urban and suburban school districts. I also want to make resources available to our schools to hire more counselors and therapists as our kids continue to navigate the fallout from COVID and the constant threat of gun violence that they have sadly been forced to grow up with.

Regarding the economy, I want to invest in workforce development programs so that our people are prepared for jobs in the life sciences, clean tech and other growing industries, and so that we can attract employers to our region. I also want to embrace the goals of the North Shore Blue Economy Initiative, promoting sustainable economic development that leverages our proximity to the ocean. 

And I’ll push for investment in our public transportation system – which belongs in a museum. I take the T to work, where the trains are literally catching on fire. We deserve a public transportation system that is safe, modern, green and reliable.  

Terri Tauro

Terri Tauro

a. I believe that bold changes need to be made within our infrastructure for renewable energy, but it goes hand in hand with training for workers and transportation upgrades. We need to act
with intention and see the big picture to create a smooth transition. For example: We have to plan for charging stations before we change over to electric vehicles. Small mechanic businesses need to have the equipment and training to repair
these vehicles. This work must be done ASAP but

b. I have been endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers. We need to pass the Fair Share Amendment (millionaire’s tax) and advocate for regular allocation of the Student Opportunity Act funds. Our districts rely heavily on real estate tax, which breeds inequities. I will advocate for universal pre-K, affordable or free public colleges and more investment in trade schools. Not every kid is right for college, and we must provide options. I will create awareness of paid apprenticeship programs available through trades unions and advocate for municipal and civil job training in the high schools. We need a community full of skilled workers, tradespeople and college grads and to remove the stigma of not holding a degree. I will also advocate for tiered special ed training. So many of our kids on the spectrum are not reaching their full potential. I have been researching specialized programs to treat individual needs and talents as it pertains to future employment and will consult with the experts on how best to create a more intense vocational program in Massachusetts to address the needs of our special ed students, including programs beyond high school.

c. Our very democracy relies on transparency and accountability. I have fought for this in Marblehead with the botched Transfer Station project that spent almost $6 million in taxpayer dollars on a non-existent building. I am now arbitrating asbestos exposure for residents and employees at Widger Road (Mary Alley). I have been unable to get any information about these buildings’ heat maps, and it is apparent that the town has no training, policies or procedures in the event of an accidental exposure. I feel it is our right to know what is happening to our employees and residents in public buildings. This is true for all elected and appointed government bodies/individuals. I am endorsed by Incorruptible Mass. and have signed the Voters Right to Know Pledge. As your state rep, I will always keep you informed.

Jenny Armini

Jenny Armini

Tackling climate change with aggressive action is a top priority for me. Massachusetts must stay on track to reach its net zero greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2050 (if not sooner). This requires policies and legislation that move communities and individuals away from a reliance on fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy sources.

Of course, we know that damage has already been done, especially with sea rise along the coast. We need to secure our coastline with investments in infrastructure, including sea wall repairs and construction.

Second, we need to provide our kids with the academic, social, and emotional supports to fully recover from the pandemic. I see its effects throughout our community and even in my house. This requires funding specialists to help students get back up to grade level; additional adjustment counselors; professional development for teachers; and robust after-school programs beginning in the youngest years.

I’m also laser focused on solutions for making our communities more affordable and livable — from housing to prescription drug costs to transportation modernization. These issues are especially acute for seniors living on fixed incomes. Boosting the Senior Circuit Breaker during every legislative session can help keep seniors in their homes. Those with chronic illnesses would benefit from capping certain drugs, while transparency has shown to help drive prices down for others. And I think we can all agree that modernizing our public transportation system is an absolute necessity — for safety, economic competitiveness, environmental protection, and for pure and simple justice.

Tristan Smith

Tristan Smith

Combating climate change and protecting our environment, particularly our coastline, is my number one priority. I will follow the footsteps of Rep. Lori Ehrlich, who was always a great champion on these issues, and be a leader in the State House. 

My focus primarily will be on investing in green energy, utilizing renewable energy sources such as solar and offshore wind. This transition to green energy must also be an equitable transition to a green economy, focusing on a just transition for workers whose industries might be displaced, as well as on environmental justice communities that have borne the brunt of the climate crisis so far. I am also passionate about addressing pollution issues on King’s Beach. 

One of the ways we can reach this green system is through our public transportation. Particularly on the North Shore, we suffer from an antiquated, inefficient public transportation system that our residents can’t count on for reliable access to jobs, healthcare, and education. We need to upgrade to a 21st-century, dependable, green system. 

As a former teacher and current coach, I see education as the great equalizer – but that isn’t how it is in the Commonwealth now. The state needs to reevaluate funding structures and make them more equitable so that each community’s individual needs are truly being met. Coming out of COVID-19, we must make sure we are focusing on students’ mental health, as well as social and emotional learning for younger students who missed out on years of that sort of instruction. 


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