If the contest for state representative in the 9th Norfolk District sounds familiar, there’s a good reason.
Incumbent Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, is being challenged for the third straight time by Democrat Brian Hamlin of Plainville in the Nov. 3 election.
The district covers the three King Philip towns of Plainville, Norfolk and Wrentham. It also includes parts of Walpole, Medfield and Millis, and Dooley was victorious in each community two years ago.
The representative is hoping for a fourth two-year term on Beacon Hill. Dooley is actually in his seventh year representing the district. He initially filled an unexpired term of Dan Winslow, who resigned.
While Dooley was able to take a breather in September having no Republican challenger, Hamlin had to overcome the opposition of college student and fellow Democrat Hunter Cohen of Wrentham in the primary.
Dooley, 54, may be one of few Republicans in the Legislature, but he has displayed an independent streak, criticizing Republican Gov. Charlie Baker at times. Dooley has taken exception to some of Baker’s restriction orders due to the coronavirus.
The legislator has also been a harsh critic of the MBTA, questioning its finances and planning, including the pilot service to and from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, which has since been put on hold.
He has also been an ardent foe of vaping, which has caused many health and other problems among young people.
Dooley says he puts “people over politics” and partisan rhetoric.
He comes with a long resume of public service, including stints as a zoning board and school committee member in Norfolk and as town clerk. He has also served as a call firefighter/EMT in Plainville and had run a contracting business based in Norfolk.
Hamlin, 58, also has a business background and runs a cabinet business in his native town of Norfolk.
His son died from a seizure while recovering from addiction, and Hamlin has served as treasurer of the Brian P. Hamlin Memorial since 2014. He is also on the board of directors of the SAFE Coalition and the Norfolk County DA Coalition.
And he is on the board of governors for Charles River Bank.
“I don’t get into things that I am not committed to. I have been working with people for years in my family business to get through disruption in their life to make things better,” Hamlin said. “I have heard what people say and listen to what they say. We draw our conclusions together and that is what I think a representative to our communities should be doing also.”
Concerns about a rise in problems related to guns, opioid addiction, and mental health has prompted Hamlin to run for public office. His “new voice, new vision” platform also advocates cutting taxes, improving schools, and sustainable energy options.
Both candidates agreed to answer a series of questions posted by The Sun Chronicle via email. Responses have been edited for length and grammar.
Gov. Baker imposed one of the toughest emergency shutdowns in the country in March that cost thousands of jobs but arguably saved thousands of lives, all without much input from the Legislature. The governor is facing a court challenge (and criticism from some within the GOP) that his actions went too far. If elected, would you support the state’s actions and a return to a shutdown if that’s required?
DOOLEY: There are really two parts to this question. First, let me say that during the initial stages of this pandemic I was very supportive of the governor’s handling of the crisis. From making sure that hospitals were fully staffed to creating common sense restrictions — especially given the lack of information that we had and how fast and furious the disease was spreading — he did a great job with the unknown.
Fortunately, we have learned a great deal about the virus, how it spreads, and who is most affected. It would be my hope that if there is a spike in the future that the restrictions wouldn’t be knee-jerk but more thoughtful and targeted given the current medical science that is now available.
We should be hyper-focused on those at greatest risk including those who are seniors and have preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to the virus.
By focusing on helping those people, making their protection our priority, we can concentrate our resources on who needs it most without causing undo restrictions on people and small businesses who are less likely to be seriously impacted by COVID.
With my attorney, I filed an Amicus Brief submitted to the SJC challenging the governor’s overreach. Our concerns stemmed from Constitutional Law and establishing precedent rather than an issue with the governors’ orders themselves.
HAMLIN: I think all and all, Governor Baker has done a good job managing the pandemic. I haven’t agreed with everything he’s done, and we will see what the effects of this next wave of reopening brings. But all and all, we have done better at controlling the spread than some other states.
This being said, I definitely think more voices should have been at the table in formulating this plan, specifically labor, essential workers and small business owners. Legislative input would have been good as well, but I think we need to ensure the voices of those most affected are brought forward by those of us in power.
As far as returning to a shutdown goes, I believe in science, and trust our doctors and experts to tell us if that is needed. I will listen to and follow the data to decide if that is necessary.
A police reform bill has been stalled on Beacon Hill for months. Do you support sending that package of reforms to the governor’s desk, and, if not, what police reform measures do you support?
DOOLEY: Actually, there are currently two police reform bills that have been put forth and are being negotiated in conference committee. While the House bill is slightly better than the Senate version, I do not support either one because they put our police officers in an untenable situation where they are being set up to fail.
That said, I do support the original bill that was proposed by Governor Baker that was done in collaboration with various police organizations as well as members of the Black and Latino caucus.
This was a very thoughtful approach that created additional training, instituted disciplinary measures, and would have been the most comprehensive policing package put forth in America, addressing racism, bias, and taking productive steps to help our officers better serve all communities and all people.
HAMLIN: I do not support every aspect of the current bill, however I strongly support the idea of police reform. This being said, I would look to work with the leaders on Beacon Hill to find a solution that will not make our communities less safe, while also recognizing and taking steps to address the systems of racism in place.
However, any solution would have to come with all voices at the table, including those of police chiefs and the police unions that represent them. I do not see defunding the police as a good option for our communities.
Seven percent of Massachusetts’ population is Black, yet 14% of the traffic citations issued in 2019 were to Black drivers. And Black drivers were criminally cited 18% of the time, compared to 13% for white drivers, who were more likely to be given a warning. The Supreme Judicial Court has called on the Legislature to pass laws that would require police to keep records detailed enough that the stops made by every officer can be analyzed. Would you support such legislation?
DOOLEY: Actually we passed this law in 2019 (the SJC call to the Legislature was regarding a case that preceded this legislation). This law was part of the Hands Free Bill that I co-sponsored. It was passed nearly unanimously last November. (There was one Democrat rep who voted against it.)
All of the relevant information is now required to be collected by every police officer who issues a citation or written warning throughout the state and is compiled by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. EOPSS is required by law to present this information annually and have three public hearings in geographically different regions of the commonwealth.
HAMLIN: I think any attempts to collect more data help make a more informed decision on this complicated issue, so I would definitely support those efforts in any form they took. We also have to balance the years of structural racism that have been felt in communities of color, so I believe the broader issue cannot afford to wait for the data to back it up.
Some lawmakers want the Baker administration to extend new federal unemployment benefits to jobless workers who fall just below the threshold to qualify. They say low-income workers are not eligible for the $300 per week in payments from the federal government because they qualify for less than $100 in weekly state unemployment payments. Would you support extending the benefits for low-income workers who’ve fallen through the cracks?
DOOLEY: While I believe it is imperative that we take care of those who are suffering during this pandemic, I realize it is foolhardy to incentivize people to not rejoin the workforce.
If someone is making under $100 in unemployment benefits that means they were making under $200 per week at their job. To give them an additional $300 per week means that they could actually make twice as much money by staying home and therefore they would have to be crazy to go back to work.
A smarter way to help people who were put out of work during this pandemic is to make sure that everyone is made whole (up to a certain limit) so their quality of life remains the same.
This way, when their company is able to bring them back to work, they will not be taking a financial loss by going back to their jobs. This is much more sound economic policy and a far better use of our resources than the one-size-fits-all approach.
HAMLIN: I’ve been on the record in the past that the Legislature needs to continue to provide direct assistance to unemployed or underemployed individuals in this state. We cannot afford to wait for the federal government on this one. These payments need to, and should, continue until all workers can return to work.
Sen. Ed Markey recently sent out a tweet in support of the ROE Act in the state Legislature. Among other things, the bill would eliminate most restrictions on third-trimester abortions and get rid of parental consent for minors seeking abortions. In light of the possibility that Roe vs. Wade could be overturned, should the Legislature ensure reproductive choice in state law?
DOOLEY: The Roe Act has many different facets — some of which I support and some that I am strongly opposed to. For instance, I am in favor of a change in the law that allows for a doctor to perform an emergency procedure on a mother if her life is in jeopardy without having to seek relief from the courts.
That being said, as a parent, I would never want a doctor to perform any procedure on my 13-year-old daughter without my knowledge as I feel it is my responsibility as a parent to be with her, make sure she is safe, and getting the best possible care.
I also have a real moral issue with the fact that this law allows a full-term healthy baby to be aborted. There are so many people who want to adopt and I just can’t imagine a world where this is considered acceptable. I don’t even think this is my Christianity, it is simply a fundamental belief as a human that all children (even one that is about to be born) should be protected from harm.
HAMLIN: I support the Roe Act and would vote for it if elected as state representative. Simply put, in the national political climate we are in, we need to protect a woman’s right to health autonomy here in Massachusetts, and that would be an easy decision for me.