Dan Winslow and Robert Fennessy Running for 9th Norfolk Representative

Dan Winslow

An interesting race is shaping up in the 9th Norfolk district. Richard Ross, the incumbent in the 9th Norfolk district is running for Senate, and is doing pretty well. There is likely to be an open seat in the 9th Norfolk district.

Two candidates are vying for that seat:

Both are running on a platform of independence and reform – which is good news for the people of the 9th Norfolk District.

Another candidate, Stanley Nacewicz (D), an Attleboro city tax assessor, is considering entering the race.

One of the interesting aspects is that the 9th Norfolk district is one of the more Republican districts in Massachusetts. This is one of the few Massachusetts districts that went for McCain in the recent presidential election:

  • McCain 10,830 (49.18%)
  • Obama 10,794 (49.02%)
  • Other 397 (1.80%)

And voted for Brown by a large margin in the recent Senate Special Election. Percent voting for Brown:

  • Plainville – 71.2%
  • Wrentham – 72.7%
  • Norfolk – 69.9%
  • Medfield – 62.4%
  • Millis – 63.2%
  • Walpole – 67.7%

Both candidates have a message which is right on target with both the public’s desire for reform in the legislature (independence, transparency, responsiveness) and on the key issues voters care about (taxes, jobs, local services ).

Dan Winslow

Winslow has an impressive record of public service, and of finding solutions which reduce costs while maintaining or improving the quality of services. When he was Presiding Justice of Wrentham District court he improved court procedures which were adopted statewide.  He left this life time senior Justice position to be Governor Romney’s chief legal counsel, where he was able to implement more court reforms which saved the state $250 million dollars.

Winslow is a Republican running in a Republican district, and a lot of his message focuses on breaking single party dominance of the legislature:

But first we need to break the political monopoly on Beacon Hill, sweep the House clean, and create new solutions for the challenges that confront our communities.

He’s exactly right. The fact that Democractic legislators have such a large majority in the legislature means they can effectively ignore Republicans. They can caucus not only just among themselves, but can generate a majority from just a core of democrats, excluding a lot of progressives and moderates inside the party.

He sees single party dominance as the major reason for the long line of high profile scandals in the legislature:

Three House Speakers in a row have been indicted for criminal conduct.  Public jobs are awarded or kept on the basis of political connections and cronyism rather than merit.  A culture of corruption and entitlement on Beacon Hill is bad for Massachusetts and undermines public trust and confidence in government.  We need to break the political monopoly in Massachusetts and sweep the House clean.

Winslow knows first hand about the problems with partisan politics. After having served as Romney’s chief legal counsel, Romney wanted to nominate him again as a judge. Winslow was willing to serve as a judge again, even at a lower level than the position he resigned. Despite Winslow receiving  the highest rating by the Bar Association committee who reviews applicants, Romney was forced to withdraw the nomination when it became clear that a majority Democrat Governor’s Council would reject him. This coming from a Governor’s Council who today routinely approves politically connected nominees who have almost no legal background. ( Example: Cheryl Jacques, James Barretto )

Winslow’s policy proscriptions are to decrease taxes, lower spending at the state level, and have more of the state budget spend directly on local services – presumably by dedicating more state finances to local aid. He support efforts to ‘regionalize’ state services. The idea is that with local control these services will be better managed. It makes sense for an essentially middle class district that doesn’t have many of  the social problems of the more urban districts in Boston, Worcester and Springfield, or the deeper economic problems of some of the more rural districts in Western Mass. I think it may be difficult for him to sell regionalization to the large numbers of representatives from these other districts. It  may be possible to get more support for this idea from the rural districts in Western Mass who often feel that they don’t get their fair share of state services.

Proposing more local aid is going to be popular in the light of last year’s deep budget cuts to local aid and a potential for a second round of cuts this year.

Robert Fennessey

Robert Fennessey

Robert Fennessey is a popular and long serving Plainville selectman (1991-1997, and 2002 – present ). He’ has had to deal with the budget problems caused by a decrease to local aid. He has worked over the years to maintain services while decreasing spending and taxes. Like Winslow he is also an attorney focusing on municipal law, employment law, and family law.

In a rare reversal in this race it’s the Democrat who is the political underdog:

“I consider this a ‘David and Goliath’ race, but I will work hard to impress upon the Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and unenrolled voters of my district that I will represent them independent of any party affiliation, and will keep their interests in the forefront.”

Fennessey calls himself a “Brown Democrat,” which is wise. The district voted 50% for Obama, but 70% for Brown, which means a good 40% of Democrats in the district probably voted for Brown.

His message is similar to Winslow and hits similar points both for reform ( independence, responsiveness) and on the issues (jobs, taxes, local aid). He too supports efforts to give more independence to cities and towns. Presumably he would support the similar regionalization efforts as Winslow.

He identifies correctly that partisan obstructionist politics is a problem in Massachusetts:

I (like most citizens of this Commonwealth) am sick and tired of the partisan politics from both Parties. What may have begun by most politicians as a noble desire to help the citizens of the Commonwealth in addressing the issues of today, what we ultimately ended up with are a House and Senate full of political obstructionists! As such, the citizens of Massachusetts are all mired in this battle of politicians — politicians that merely march lock-step to the beat of their Party’s leadership demands.

And he is committed to representing everyone. He has a refreshingly candid letter to voters on his campaign page about the need for reform.

One difference that Fennessy calls out to voters between himself and Winslow is that Winslow is closely connected with State Republican politics.

Two Candidates with a Reform Message

From what both of these candidates say, it seems like the 9th District would be well served by either one. Unlike many other races, this is not a race between a tainted incumbent financed by lobbyist money and with a record of partisan insider politics, but rather a race between two candidates who plan to focus on the right problems.

They are both centrists focused on the bread and butter issues that affect regular people.

The question for voters is – who is best equipped to really deliver on these promises?

Voters need to be aware that Representatives can do little on their own. A lot of what happens at the State House, especially in the House of Representatives, is controlled by the House leadership. This is likely to remain in mainstream Democratic hands next year.

Republicans generally don’t get much power in the legislature – but then neither do independent Democrats. Voters need to determine which of these candidates is better able to stay independent and advocate for constituents while working with the legislative leadership. It’s a tough job.

6 Comments

  • March 22, 2010 - 11:34 am | Permalink

    Dan Winslow’s name was never submitted to the Governor’s Council. You said that all of the Governor’s Councillors, all Democrats, were not in support of his nomination, implying a political agenda. I hope that you did not get this misinformation from Dan Winslow himself. I was not opposed to Dan’s reappointment as a judge, and he knows this is the case. Ask him. With respect to your remarks about James Barretto’s and Cheryl Jacques’ appointments, I voted against both of those appointments. I hope, in the future, that when you write about the Governor’s Council, that you will be careful not to catch me in the net. I have a race too, and it’s important that only accurate information get published. Thanks, Govrnor’s Councillor Mary-Ellen Manning, 5th District.

    • March 22, 2010 - 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Mary Ellen,

      I appreciate you reaching out to clarify anything I may have gotten wrong.

      Dan has not given me any information. This is all what I can gather from my own research.

      I have an article elsewhere on the site about Governor’s Council and the candidates – and I’m very clear there that a few Councillors – and you in particular – have voted against some of these more questionable appointments.

      As for how Dan was nominated and then withdrawn as a candidate for judge by Gov. Romney I’m going mostly by a news report from the time that I referenced in the article.

      I’ll clarify the language of that nomination incident to make it clearer that a nomination was considered by Governor Romney but not actually made.

  • March 22, 2010 - 7:34 am | Permalink

    Dan Winslow’s name was never submitted to the Governor’s Council. You said that all of the Governor’s Councillors, all Democrats, were not in support of his nomination, implying a political agenda. I hope that you did not get this misinformation from Dan Winslow himself. I was not opposed to Dan’s reappointment as a judge, and he knows this is the case. Ask him. With respect to your remarks about James Barretto’s and Cheryl Jacques’ appointments, I voted against both of those appointments. I hope, in the future, that when you write about the Governor’s Council, that you will be careful not to catch me in the net. I have a race too, and it’s important that only accurate information get published. Thanks, Govrnor’s Councillor Mary-Ellen Manning, 5th District.

    • March 22, 2010 - 8:52 am | Permalink

      Mary Ellen,

      I appreciate you reaching out to clarify anything I may have gotten wrong.

      Dan has not given me any information. This is all what I can gather from my own research.

      I have an article elsewhere on the site about Governor’s Council and the candidates – and I’m very clear there that a few Councillors – and you in particular – have voted against some of these more questionable appointments.

      As for how Dan was nominated and then withdrawn as a candidate for judge by Gov. Romney I’m going mostly by a news report from the time that I referenced in the article.

      I’ll clarify the language of that nomination incident to make it clearer that a nomination was considered by Governor Romney but not actually made.

  • March 23, 2010 - 12:02 am | Permalink

    Thank you very much!

  • March 22, 2010 - 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you very much!

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