In what is likely to be the only meeting of the two candidates for the 7th Middlesex District, State Rep. Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) and former Ashland Board of Selectmen Jon Fetherston, a Republican, discussed their views at a forum, sponsored by the Framingham Coalition, at Wilson Elementary School Wednesday night.
The 7th Middlesex District consists of the Town of Ashland and precincts 8, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 in Framingham. Framingham has three state representatives.
Audience members were asked to put questions for the candidates on index cards and place them in a basket. Coalition members then sorted the questions and decided which ones to ask the two Ashland residents and candidates.
More than half of the questions focused on education. Sannicandro is chair of the house committee on higher education.
Most of the audience was made up campaign workers, Democratic and Republican committee members from both communities and few actual residents of the precincts in Framingham that the winner will represent.
Each candidate was given 5 minutes for an opening statement and 2 minutes for a closing statememnt.
Editor's Note: Both Sannicandro's and Fetherston's closing statements are uploaded as unedited videos attached to this report.
Sannicandro stressed he has the experience as the incumbent. Fetherston said his experience as the former chair of the Ashland Board of Selectmen makes him just as qualified.
Prior to this week's forum, there has been debate over holding debates. Fetherston has asked for 2-3 debates between the two candidates.
Sannicandro only agreed to this week's forum, sponsored by the Framingham Coalition, a social service organization that works to reduce drug and alcohol abuse.
Sannicandro's campaign turned down proposed debates sponsored by a Republican-leaning taxpayers association and a business association in Ashland.
Other questions asked during the Wednesday's forum included downtown traffic, road conditions, veterans services, property taxes, undocumented workers, green communities, infrastructure and party affiliations.
Fetherston said a state represnetative should be non-partisan position. Sannicandro said he worked with Republicans on Beacon Hill to get legislation on special education and disabilities passed.
Sannicandro said more money needs to be put into higher education. Fetherston said the "American education dream is broken" when students leave college with crippling debt and no jobs. "Seventy percent don't have a job" he said.
Taxes, said Fetherston, is the "problem in this state. We don't have a revenue problem in the state we have a spending problem."
Sannicandro said he worked hard to triple school funding for Framingham and Ashland, citing it has only increased 31% state wide.
Framingham Patch has asked both candidates to be interviewed for an election preview report to run in November.