Why are you running? And how would your background and experience guide your work as a legislator?
Why I’m running is because I have so much to be grateful and thankful for to the South Coast community.
I built my business career here on the South Coast with my wife, Margaret. My professional career, I was the executive vice president, general manager for a large global corporation in the industrial park for 20 plus years. Left there, had a wonderful career at Xerox. Came back after a high-tech career and believe it or not opened up Pub 6T5 in New Bedford on Ashley Boulevard. My wife Margaret has been invested in the New Bedford community for 30 years, running a beautiful women’s clothing boutique called Margaret’s Boutique, also located on Ashley Boulevard.
Always being very active in politics from my days growing up in a three-family in Dorchester, I kept watching the political news — a lack of news — coming out of the South Coast from our current leadership. And what I found striking is that the gentleman I’m running against, no one knew. So, Bill, I kind of felt like was an absentee, ghost leadership.
So, I talked with my wife. I said, “Margaret, I can’t sit by and have things continue in the state of Massachusetts as they are.” So, I started to do some research on Representative Straus and I saw just how two different people we are. And I realized that I could make a difference with my business background, my passion, my love of this country, my love of this community.
What are the top three things you want to accomplish if you’re elected?
Number one, infrastructure. I want to work on finally getting the Fairhaven Bridge going. For 30 years, political people have talked about that. That is an economic problem for our South Coast community. I’m a gentleman who’s managed manufacturing facilities across the U.S. and in the Far East — I know how to get the job done. So, I would target an actual strategic plan to bring in the engineers, the design people, work with Mayor Mitchell in New Bedford, work with the Board in Fairhaven and the other communities to get a bridge done.
Number two, as a legislator I would go back to the taxes and I would try to be the fly in the ointment on Beacon Hill to say: “We can’t be called Taxachusetts continually; we have to do some constructive reforms on our taxes to put money back into people’s pockets.” So, I would fight for tax reforms and the terms of reducing our taxable incomes to the poorest and to help those most neediest families.
And then [I would] look across the board to businesses. I’m a businessperson, and people can always say: “Let’s tax businesses harder; let’s hit them; let’s squeeze some more profits out of them.” When you do that, it’s really a counterbalance to their ability to hire more people, to make capital investments. We should be doing everything possible to attract businesses into the South Coast community, to give them incentives to open up businesses here for high-paying union jobs, for high-paying normal manufacturing opportunities that aren’t present.
The third thing I would do is really take a look at our transportation policies. We’ve been promised a high-speed rail system to the South Coast community. That high-speed rail system is, in essence, a slow-speed moving diesel train built on the old tracks. Instead of innovating, looking at what the rest of the world did like the TGV in Europe, like the bullet train in Japan, they went off of an old technology which only attracts about 2-3% of everybody traveling to get people on the train. People don’t go to utilize the train because it’s considered unsafe and slow. So, I would look to really create an innovative strategy to say, “How do we address the failing MBTA system?”
How should state lawmakers help Massachusetts families cope with high inflation?
First and foremost, we should eliminate the gas tax. It’s not a game; it’s not a gimmick. The gas tax absolutely triggers inflation because gas tax goes to everybody driving to work, every delivery that’s made, et cetera. So, the first thing they should do is a short-term relief in the gas tax, period.
Then, they should look at an economic package to say to the poorest in our society and our senior citizens, how are we going to help them? My idea with senior citizens is no senior citizen should be paying for their health care. We’ve gotta take care of the people that helped build this state with their blood, sweat, and tears.
Then I would look at working-class families to see how we can increase the points that are on food stamps, because they may not be keeping up with the cost of inflation or looking at ways to get short-term tax reduction to those families that are in our lower per-capita income.
How would you address the housing affordability crisis in greater New Bedford?
That is a serious problem. The sad part about housing in New Bedford is that Mayor Mitchell just announced a great program with ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funding, and he designated some key areas for vacant buildings in the city. I have not seen, being in commercial real estate and watching this, any outside developers jump in to say: “I want to put in 20, 30 units; I want to put in 50 units; I want to put in some nice townhomes.”
So, I think we as legislators, as political leaders, really need to make New Bedford known to businesspeople. We’re a welcoming city, we’re a city that you can come in and make a great capital investment.
How do you envision your role in the completion of the South Coast Rail project?
The South Coast Rail has to complete. There’s been so much money put into that rail system that it does have to complete.
My opponent said that they’re already looking at the process of putting in trains in 2030 that are electric. I would start that process now. Because if we’re truly going to go green, to go green means you need the capacity on the grid, you need the plans to generate the power, you need the charging stations for your buses. There is a whole host of infrastructure that has to be built in advance prior to having an electric train. So, I would start those discussions right now because, as we know, the state doesn’t move as fast as business does. But you need someone to have the innovation to say: “Hey, we’re doing this wrong,” and this is from my personal experience. And I think we did that train wrong.
But the project has to finish, just to get something built. You can’t throw that out after all these years of investment.
Where do you stand on abortion rights?
That is perhaps the most divisive, personal question that we face as a country, absolutely without question. Where I stand, to paraphrase President Clinton, his three words were: “It must be legal; it must be safe; and it should be rare.”
I don’t understand why the Supreme Court did what it did at this time. I would hope that it was not political. I would hope that their views were more fundamentally looking at the Constitution from what they said in reading the documents, but I believe that a woman has a right to have an abortion, in the case of rape, incest, health, and I believe that is a fundamental right as the former president said.
With abortion rights, there also has to be the discussion, as a father of four children and grandchildren, [about] sex education and the understanding that contraception should be used and foremost. When a man and woman agree to have a sexual relationship, they need to understand that that relationship can create life. So, I’m a full promoter that in high school, in colleges, to make available to every man and woman contraception so that issue doesn’t come up to be a drama for a woman’s life as a young teenager. So, contraceptives I think should be free, and distributed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We definitely have those funds available, so that’s something I would absolutely push for.
What is the last book you read?
That would be a Tom Clancy novel — I re-read “The Sum of All Fears.” I love Tom Clancy.
What is the last TV show you binged?
That was during the pandemic, because I haven’t binged anything, and it was Breaking Bad. I had heard about it, I went through it, and I have to say, I was anxious. My wife and I watched it. I think we did it in four, five days after we got our work done. It was not a comfortable series. I felt very tense during the whole thing!
What is your favorite place in the South Coast area and why?
My back deck at my beautiful home in Fairhaven, because of the sunsets looking into New Bedford Harbor. Of every place in the world, when I want peace and serenity, I come home. We have a beautiful western exposure, my wife Margaret and I have worked so hard to live in this home. To sit out on the back deck, to have family and friends over, a nice glass of cabernet — I’m a red wine drinker — and to look out at the beautiful water, see the fishing vessels coming in and out, and see the sunset. That’s a great day.
Email Grace Ferguson at email@example.com.