First-time candidate Peter Smulowitz of Needham said he opposes legalized casinos and slot machines at racetracks, while his primary election opponent, state Rep. Lida Harkins, said she favored them.
Harkins and Smulowitz are running in the primary for Norfolk Bristol & Middlesex State Senate seat vacated by Scott Brown. This is a short election with the primary coming up in barely 3 weeks on April 13th.
In this regard Harkins is aligned with Republican Richard Ross who also supports expanded gambling. Gambling opponents in this district have only one chance to elect a senator who opposes expanded gambling. If Harkins wins then both candidates in the general election on May 11th will be supporters of expanded gambling.
Harkins was originally an opponent of the gambling initiative, due to its perceived impact on social problems, but as the economy gets worse she has decided that that the risks are worth it. Smulowitz argues that studies show gambling leads to more substance abuse, depression, divorce, bankruptcies and suicide. He believes the state can create jobs by focusing on new technologies like renewable energy instead.
Rep. Richard Ross has been a supporter of expanded gambling from the start:
On the Republican side, Ross, who has no primary opponent, has been a supporter of slot machines at race tracks such as Plainridge from the start.
He voted against the governor’s casino plan because it did not include slot machines for race tracks.
Ross has repeatedly said that slot machines at race tracks would create revenue for communities while supporting the racing industry, which is suffering in Massachusetts.
He said Plainridge is not only one of the largest taxpayers in the area, it is a major customer for area farms and vendors.
Politically this probably a negative for Harkins. Democratic voters are less likely to support expanded gambling and this is a choice which may swing them toward Smulowitz. Gambling supporters on the other hand would have the opportunity to vote for a candidate who supports expanded gambling no matter who wins the Democratic primary.