I had a lovely chat the other day with Doug Belanger, a Leicester resident who is running for the Democratic nomination for state Senate. Points in his favor: he forgave my pronunciation of Leicester (I know it’s “lester,” I had a brief teleprompter moment. You’d think I wasn’t born and raised in Massachusetts), missed our first phone date because he ran overtime on his other interview and was so chatty and exuberant when we finally did touch base the next day that I fully understood just why his other interview ran over: the guy loves to talk, and not in a stilted career-politician kind of way.
“Bumper sticker, short message politics is what got us into the mess we are in today,” Belanger said.
Belanger will be opposing Millbury Selectman Michael Moore in the primary. On the Republican side is Shrewsbury Selectman John I. Lebeaux and Steven Baer of Shrewsbury is running under the Green-Rainbow label. I’ve emailed all of them with the exception of Baer, whose contact info I haven’t tracked down yet; Belanger has been the only one to date to take me up on the offer (and, a mere breath after I posted this, a correction: my inbox has an email from Moore, who hopefully can chat with me within the next week).
So what are people talking about on the campaign trail? Whether it’s education, health care, gas prices, transportation or veterans’ services, they all boil down to one thing: the economy.
“Whether you’re a senior citizen worried about paying for your medication or a college student wondering if you can afford school, it all comes back to the economy,” Belanger said. “Whether it’s education, seniors or veterans’ issues — we as a community need to say ‘this is our moon shot, this is our Normandy Beach.’ We have to figure out what to do.”
Belanger started his career in grocery stores, owning/operating a small chain before selling it off and moving into management in a large chain. That experience led to a career as a union organizer and negotiator — a background he says is quite useful in the political world because, he believes, there is always common ground on which he can work a compromise.
Belanger also has experience with the area’s transportation issues through his work with the Worcester Transit Authority. He agreed that more needs to be done in terms of mass transit in the area — while the commuter rail does help if you have a job in Boston, it’s of no use if you, say, need to get to Milford or Hopkinton.
So let’s talk about the issue that started this blog: school space. Have situations like Newton’s ridiculously expensive high school tainted the state funding pool for the small-town folk who just want a freaking building for their children’s education?
Belanger noted that the funding situation has become tougher — Leicester managed to build a high school with 87 percent state funding just a few years ago, while the funding split is now more along the lines of 50-50. “That’s pretty high for a local community,” he said. He thought the idea to have building designs from which to choose was a good one.
Want to meet him for yourself? Belanger is coming to Grafton on Aug. 29, where he will be scooping ice cream at the Grafton Senior Center at 12:30 p.m.
“My family does ice cream socials right,” he said. “We don’t just have ice cream and jimmies — we’ve got sauces, candies, they go nuts with it. We’ve got it all.”
A note as the political season gets into full swing: the focus of this blog is Grafton Grafton Grafton. Also, I will be keeping track of all calls to my house requesting my vote, whether by annoying phone robot or campaign operative. In other words, keep my inbox local and don’t use the stupid robo-calls!