State Rep. Bill Straus has worked on Beacon Hill for three decades. Jeffrey Swift thinks it’s time for a change.
The two candidates are running for the 10th Bristol District House of Representatives seat. Straus, the incumbent Democrat, is campaigning on his years of experience. Swift, his opponent, wants to flip the seat Republican and “bring back the concept of a citizen legislator.”
This race is Swift’s first run for elected office — he currently works as a chiropractor in Mattapoisett and Dartmouth. But he sees his background as a political asset.
“I have the privilege of being able to talk to 150, 170 [patients] a week, all that are generally my constituents,” he said. “So, I get to hear a lot of what their needs are, locally.”
Meanwhile, Straus says he’s not sure what Swift means when he talks about being a “citizen legislator.”
“I am a citizen legislator,” Straus said. “But the emphasis is always on the job people elected me to do, and that’s working as their state rep.”
Candidates in this year’s Republican and Democratic primaries characterized Straus as a career politician who’s disconnected from the community he represents. But the candidate says the primary results speak for themselves — he beat Democratic challenger Rick Trapilo with 79% of the vote. He also reminds critics that he has raised his children and coached soccer in his district.
Straus says he’s running his campaign the same way he did in the primary. He continues to highlight achievements like securing funding for the Route 6 bridge replacement and helping to set up a regional aquifer protection district.
“I’ve demonstrated a commitment to the job, a commitment to the issues that matter locally, and an ability to work positively with people and other legislators in order to get things done, and the proof is there,” he said.
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When he heard that Swift is a fan of the South Coast Rail project, Straus said he would “accept that as something of a thank you from Jeff” because of the work the legislator had put into making the project a reality.
If he’s elected to a 16th term, Straus said he’s looking forward to crafting legislation to lower prescription drug prices. Working on road safety and transportation funding legislation would also be priorities for him as chair of the Transportation Committee.
Infrastructure is a major part of Swift’s platform too. The Republican candidate says he wants to increase funding under Chapter 90, a state program that distributes money to municipalities for road and bridge maintenance.
But Swift distinguishes himself from Straus with some decidedly Republican positions. Like GOP gubernatorial candidate Geoff Diehl, he’s against letting undocumented immigrants have driver’s licenses. He has also called himself a supporter of parental rights, though he has not outlined any specific policies he would enact to expand them.
“I’m a big fan of parents being able to try to dictate what their children are taught,” he said. “And I’m also cognizant of the fact that the parents do have a role in electing their school committee.”
The fishing industry is also important to Swift.
“I would, as a local representative, try to represent the fishing industry with regards to their ability to maintain productivity and continue to produce high-quality fish and decrease obstacles that might be put up unnecessarily,” he said.
But it’s another issue for which he has not proposed any specific policies. When interviewed the day before the New England Fishery Management Council was scheduled to vote on scallop leasing proposals, he said he was still deciding his stance on the issue.
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Swift said he isn’t against clean energy. But he said he thinks that goals of being carbon neutral in the near future are unrealistic, and he warns of “a rush towards these green ideals.” Much of his concern centers on the drawbacks of clean energy, like the inability to store the energy as easily as fossil fuels, which can sit in a barrel instead of a battery.
“As you try to run towards this goal, are you actually going to make energy more expensive for the local consumer?” he said.
The Republican candidate faces an uphill battle in this election. Straus has won all eight of his previous match-ups against GOP candidates with at least 57% of the vote each time. Even if Swift is elected, he will find himself in the minority party, and polls predict that the state’s next governor will be a Democrat.
“There’s no doubt that I am an underdog,” Swift said.