Longtime incumbent state Rep. Christopher M. Markey is facing off against political newcomer Cameron S. Costa for the 9th Bristol District seat, which has been held by Markey since 2011.
Both Markey, 54, and Costa, 21, are running on the Democratic ticket. With no registered Republican opponent for the November general election, the Sept. 6 primary will essentially be the final vote determining who will be the next state representative for the 9th District, which encapsulates Dartmouth and a part of New Bedford’s Far North End.
Costa said he wanted to run for state representative because legislation is the best way to make the greatest impact.
“When you’re talking about affordable housing, when you’re talking about mental health, when you’re talking about food, education, health care,” he said. “Those are all things that are driven by legislation primarily. So that’s the best way to really try and make that impact on people’s lives.”
He also said the 9th Bristol District needs someone who is representative of the people, accessible, and not “really preoccupied” with another job. Markey is a practicing attorney, while Costa is finishing graduate school.
Costa said he started considering a run in December of 2021, announcing his candidacy a few months later.
Markey said he first thought about becoming a state representative while at a basketball game for one of his children. At the time, two Democrats and one Republican were running.
“I did it more so … I could make sure that we were continued to be run by Democrats down here as opposed to a Republican who I thought could win. And then I beat him,” Markey said of his then-opponent, Joe Michaud.
He noted his parents worked in public service (his father John Markey was mayor of New Bedford and a district court judge), and so he said he knew public service was something he wanted to continue after working in the district attorney’s office.
“I think being a father, having someone who’s concerned about the future and all of that, making sure the kids had a good upbringing. Those are all reasons why I got into it,” he said. “I think my advocacy skills as a lawyer helped me, my life experiences, owning a house, owning a small business, having an employee, paying taxes … helped me understand the importance of having a good representative and an experienced representative in Boston.”
Asked about the issues they see as most pressing to Dartmouth and New Bedford, both shared some views, citing the need for housing assistance, whether it be affordable housing or helping people, especially the middle class, become first-time home buyers.
If elected, Costa said getting the Cherish Act passed would be one of his priorities, as it would increase funding to higher education and freeze tuition and fees for five years.
“… when you’re increasing costs, when you’re increasing the tuition and fees … when you’re increasing that on people that are from the community, that is essentially what is their spending money to invest more in our small businesses,” Costa said. “So I would really look to try and pass that legislation as it makes crucial investments in public higher ed, which we know is going to make an investment in people that come from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
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In 2021, Costa served on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, having been appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker as a student member. His mother, Melissa Costa, currently serves on the New Bedford School Committee.
If re-elected, Markey said he is optimistic about passing legislation that would require more oversight of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, especially on how it spends its funds.
Markey also cited legislation he wants to pass that would provide tax credits for farmers and landscapers who use electric equipment. He said he got the idea after talking with a man at a gas station who asked why there aren’t tax credits for electric equipment like there are for electric cars.
“I think it could go somewhere,” Markey said. “There’s a couple of environmental groups that are interested in it.”
The proposed bill, filed last session, says buyers may be allowed a tax credit of not more than 25% of the purchase price of the electric-powered equipment.
Costa and Markey diverge on some other issues.
Markey voted no to override Baker’s veto of a bill that would allow licenses for undocumented immigrants. He said it is a privilege for people to have a license.
“It’s the people who are not here properly and don’t have the proper documentation,” Markey said. “There’s a line of people waiting to get to the United States and they’ve cut the line and now they’re going to get a privilege. And I don’t think that’s right.”
Police chiefs have stated the bill will make their jobs easier and help public safety, as drivers with a license may more likely get car insurance and not leave the scene of an accident.
Markey said he does not believe the bill will solve that problem.
Costa disagrees, stating he believes it will help increase public safety and encourage drivers to get car insurance.
Asked about any endorsements, Markey said he is not seeking any but this week, he posted on Twitter an endorsement from Attorney General Maura Healey.
Costa has received endorsements from a few groups, including the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Reproductive Equity Now, a reproductive rights organization.
Markey in 2020 voted no on the ROE Act because he did not agree with its allowing people as young as 16 years old to access abortions without judicial or parental consent.
“The judicial intervention is a very specific group of female Superior Court judges,” he said. “They’re not trying to talk them out of it … they wanted to make sure that all the children were capable and competent to understand their decision.”
“I don’t think the majority of the people in Dartmouth or in my district believe that minors should have abortions without their parental consent,” he said. “I can remember dropping my kid off at a dentist appointment. He was 16 years old and a doctor called and said, ‘well, I need your consent to be able to provide an X-ray.’”
Markey said he believes abortion should be protected under the constitution, not just codified locally. He voted for the most recent abortion legislation that passed in Massachusetts this summer, which established protections for abortion providers and patients.
As of July 31, Markey’s campaign balance was about $19,000, while Costa’s was about $4,000, per campaign finance reports.
Markey has run unopposed since 2016, earning about 15,000 votes during the 2020 general election. In 2014, when Markey had an opponent in the Democratic primary, he earned about 62% of votes.
The state primary takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Find information on voter registration, mail-in voting, polling hours and other issues related to both the primary election and the Nov. 8 general election on The Light’s Election 2022 page.
Email Anastasia E. Lennon at email@example.com
Correction: This story was updated on Aug. 26, 2022, to specify that the new 9th District incorporates part of New Bedford’s Far North End.