Third Hampden debate gets personal

AGAWAM – Incumbent State Rep. Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick) faced challenger Samuel Di Santi, an Agawam Democrat, during a debate last night that was peppered with accusations.
Di Santi stressed Boldyga’s involvement with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit organization composed of legislators, businesses and foundations that promote free-market and conservative ideology.  Meanwhile, Boldyga questioned Di Santi’s financial declarations, or as he said, lack thereof.
The debate was sponsored by the West of the River Chamber of Commerce and held at the Roberta G. Doering School in Agawam. The two men are seeking election to the 3rd Hampden seat, which includes Southwick, Agawam and Granville.
Debate moderator Bob McDonald of the Chamber asked the candidates submitted questions, allowing for timed rebuttal, then the candidates questioned each other Lincoln-Douglas style.
Especially during the latter part of the debate, the candidates got personal.
“A political race is about two things – honesty and transparency,” said Di Santi. “With Nick Boldyga, it’s not about what he’s telling us, but about what he’s not telling us.”
Di Santi proceeded to ask Boldyga how many bills he filed and had passed in the past two years.
Boldyga said there were six bills filed, including one to ensure that when casinos come to the state that they give Massachusetts’s job applicants preference over those in surrounding states.
“I had this significant piece of legislation passed as a freshman Republican,” said Boldyga.
Boldyga also cited a bill he filed to create a sick leave bank, and his support of EBT reform bills.
“I believe you did nothing more than vote on these,” Di Santi said. “You filed an amendment.”
Boldyga asked Di Santi to cite specifics on how he would continue current programs
“Without being in the legislature, I don’t have an idea,” said Di Santi, who added that he believes he would work with his colleagues in both parties, talk to constituents, including veterans, and try to bring back local aid. He then told Boldyga that the incumbent’s main concern was “working with your Republican counterparts.”
Boldyga stressed that he worked with both Republicans and Democrats. Di Santi followed up with a question about ALEC and referenced a recent article in The Westfield News. Di Santi said ALEC’s primary purpose is to privatize schools and create model bills for legislators to bring to the floor that give corporations money.
Boldyga asked Di Santi to name one bill brought forward by ALEC.
“The problem is nobody really knows about ALEC,” said Di Santi. “It’s a secret society.”
Di Santi said ALEC has a mission to “undermine and privatize America” and said Boldyga, who is the state co-chairman of ALEC along with Democrat Harriet Stanley, is “a right wing tea party extremist” who is “not for the best interest of the 3rd Hampden District.”
Boldyga said Di Santi was repeating “Washington talking points.”
“It sounds like election year rhetoric to me,” said Boldyga. “When I’m in the community I don’t hear any of this. I hear about people needing jobs.”
Boldyga said Di Santi’s statement of finances, which he said is signed under penalty of law, declared nothing.
“The statement you signed is completely blank,” said Boldyga. “You’ve stated that you’re a small business owner, so why have you failed to disclose your assets? What else are you hiding?”
Di Santi rebutted that he filled out the statement “completely and honestly.”
“You have nothing more to come after me with except these cheap political accusations,” said Di Santi. “I think you’re overstepping your bounds.”
Di Santi said if there were a problem, the state ethics commission would have contacted him.
“Every candidate, every year has to fill out a financial statement,” said Boldyga. “I filled out mine.”
Boldyga had the opportunity for the last rebuttal and used it to promise to continue to “work hard on behalf of the constituents of the 3rd Hampden District.”

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