By Amaris Castillo
State Rep. Colleen Garry and her Republican challenger, Ray Leczynski, participated last week in a debate peppered with tension as the candidates went head-to-head over campaign civility and other issues.
Early on in the Sun-sponsored debate, held Oct. 23 at Harmony Hall in Dracut, moderator Christopher Scott, the enterprise editor for The Sun of Lowell, asked Garry and Leczynski what they admired and liked least about the other.
Leczynski credited Garry's community service and deep involvement in multiple organizations in Dracut.
"I'm not going to say I dislike my opponent ...," he said. "I have a bigger issue with doing business as usual up on Beacon Hill. We've had a long time of one-party government, and I don't think it's done the state any favors, and I think it's time we need the balance that two-party government provides."
Garry said she admires Leczynski's relationship with his adult daughter, Kimberly Griffin.
"The difficulty I have with Ray is that he claims to run a clean campaign but allows other people to do the nasty part under the guise of freedom of speech," Garry said. "These people are associated with this campaign. They are constantly running negative things about me."
Garry said the citizens of the district, which includes Dracut and Tyngsboro, need a legislator who is going to stand up for what's right and not bow down to those who support them.
"First of all, I want to say nobody on my campaign has done anything dirty or negative in any way," Leczynski said. "I would say for my campaign, the only time we even mentioned Colleen's name was why she was refusing to debate in Dracut."
The first-time candidate went on to say that everybody is entitled to his opinion.
"We've got a situation where Ray videotaped outside of the chairman of the Republican Town Committee, his home, and then he turns around and doesn't want to have anything to do with the body-shaming event that they put up," Garry said.
She pulled out a copy of a poster made to look like a playbill that appeared several months ago on the Dracut Republican Town Committee's Facebook page. On it, the silhouette of a full-figured woman stands on a theater stage. "PLAYBILL PROGRESSIVE JACKASS THEATER" is written above the figure of the woman, and, below, "PRIMA DONNA COLLEEN GARRY."
Garry said Leczynski should be held responsible for those posts, adding that he has done nothing about them. Leczynski stressed that the Republican committee doesn't represent him, but simply supports him.
Garry said the advantage for the 36th Middlesex District to elect a Democrat is that they're part of the leadership in the Statehouse.
"When you're on the minority side, there's fewer people to rally for you and fewer powerful people to push for your agenda," Garry said.
Leczynski said Massachusetts is "out of control fiscally" and said a two-party government would bring back accountability and common-sense leadership on Beacon Hill.
Here are some of the other positions of both Garry and Leczynski on several issues brought up in the debate.
n Both are against state-sanctioned injection sites. Garry said she doesn't feel any injection site would be safe, and Leczynski said work needs to be done to break the cycle of addiction and that he would support more treatment beds.
n Both are against sanctuary cities.
n Both said they will vote no on Question 1, which seeks to establish patient-assignment limits for registered nurses working in hospitals.
n Both candidates said they will vote no on Question 3, which would uphold the state law that prohibits discrimination against transgender people in public places. Leczynski said he thinks the law was poorly written, and Garry said she fought to close a loophole in the law and was called a bigot for trying to do so.
Garry, who has served in her role as state representative for the 36th Middlesex District for over two decades, has touted her years of dedication to Dracut and Tyngsboro. Leczynski has said that if elected, he would focus on controlling spending and taxes while increasing local aid for education and public safety.
The election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is acastillo @lowellsun.com.