Citing his Bridgewater roots, his public school teacher father, and his flower shop employee mother, democratic state representative candidate Ed Cameron quickly established a “normal guy” persona at this year’s State Representative Candidate Forum, held last night in Newburyport.
“I am about as middle class as you can get,” Cameron told the crowd during his opening remarks. “I worked my way through college pumping gas, scooping ice cream, sweeping floors, and working as a security guard.”
Cameron is running against Amesbury City Counselor James Kelcourse, republican, independent Newburyport City Councilman Ari Herzog, and independents Steve Stanganelli of Amesbury , and Rama Valiente, of Newburyport. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer ten questions, ranging from topics as wide-ranging as transportation and education funding, to beach replenishment efforts, and House transparency policies. At the end of the evening, each was given the opportunity to ask a direct question to a specific candidate.
Continuing his opening remarks, Cameron talked about how his work at Boston’s Pine Street Inn homeless shelter helped shape his views today.
“I learned alot about the struggles that people are facing who face hard times,” Cameron told the audience. “They’re held back by a lack of education, and economy that doesn’t work for a lot of Americans, substance abuse, mental health, and domestic violence.”
During the campaign, Cameron has heard repeated calls for more state support for local education, more economic development resources for special community projects, and making women’s issues a priority.
Questioning started by addressing an urgent regional issue, opiate drug use.
“We need to do a better job at differentiating when we talk about drugs. There are certain drugs that are less harmful, are non-addictive, and have less of a criminal impact,” Cameron said. “We need to be very harsh on dealers, but I’m for more decriminalizing the active use of these drugs, and really being hard on pushers.”
Cameron also stressed the need for a seamless transition to the newly elected representative so that local projects can continue to be planned and funded. He paid tribute to the work of current State Rep. Mike Costello to bring resources back to the district, citing yesterday’s announcement of $1.7 million for Salisbury water and sewer improvements. “Mike and Katy (State Sen. Katy O’Connor Ives) have been big parts in bringing that back to us.”
During later questions about economic development within district communities, Cameron said that he would leave it up to each town to determine where priorities lie. He did, however, point to current projects that would take precedence, including Salisbury’s beach erosion efforts, Amesbury’s lower millyard development, and transitioning Newburyport’s industrial area into a business park.
Questions about state funding were a major part of the night’s discourse, starting with inquiries about Chapter 90 funds that drive transpiration projects. Cameron linked those funds to his stance on Question 1, keeping the index on the gas tax.
“Keeping the indexing to inflation is a very small increase each year,” Cameron said. “The only way we are going to fix this is to keep money coming in.” He also supports getting the moneys to municipalities earlier to face weather related issues head on. “That money is the only way that cities and town can deal with streets, because nobody has those funds in municipal budgets.”
On Chapter 70 (school budget funds), Cameron pointed out that there is work now being done by Katy O’Connor Ives who has established a working commission locally. He also differentiated himself from the other candidates pointing out that his democratic party affiliation gives him the best chance have an influence on funding discussions and decisions.
“…Republicans, you are going to be low man on the totem pole, and if you are unenrolled or independent, you are not even going to be on the totem pole.”
During the candidate questioning session, Cameron was asked about his top priorities if elected. Seeking more transparency from Beacon Hill, he cited reversing the House’s exemption from the state’s open meeting law as a top priority, working on homeless issues for which he is uniquly qualified, and focus on better regionalization of beach erosion efforts.
Facebook members can click here to visit Ed’s Facebook page with video clips from the candidate forum.