Candidates Far Apart on Most Issues in 3rd Essex House Debate

The debate Thursday night between the candidates for the 3rd Essex District House seat highlighted the stark differences between them.

Comments about their opponent’s character and temperament set the tone, with each candidate accusing the other of misrepresenting their records and positions.

Democrat Andy X. Vargas (pictured left) criticized his opponent, Republican Shaun P. Toohey (pictured right), for failing to support a solar panel installation on the Haverhill High School roof, saying the decision was politically motivated and cost taxpayers $10 million.

Toohey, a member of the Haverhill School Committee, declined several times to explain the circumstances surrounding his vote, saying only that he was protecting the city from an untrustworthy vendor.

Toohey condemned Vargas’ support of legislation, called the Safe Communities Act, that would restrict the arrest and deportation of undocumented Massachusetts residents to those convicted of violent or drug offenses, saying the bill is code for “sanctuary city.”

Vargas countered that Toohey was trying to mislead voters because he had nothing positive on which to focus his own campaign.

The candidates diverged on a number of topics, including raising the minimum wage, dealing with shortages in state revenue, and alleviating the opioid crisis.

Toohey opposes an increase in the minimum wage, saying it is too much, too soon.

“I supported the last increase a few years ago to $11 an hour. It’s just not the right time.
The Republican said a minimum-wage hike would be “a business killer.”

Vargas supports an increase in the minimum wage “in a way that’s responsible to small-business owners.” He said closing corporate tax loopholes could provide funding to hold small businesses harmless.

The most important aspect of a minimum-wage increase is the boost it would give to working class families.

On a related topic, Vargas said lawmakers need to take a close look at every line in the state budget to cut where possible to divert money to underfunded areas such as education and infrastructure.

Toohey said new revenues are the best hope for boosting the state budget, pointing to casinos as having the potential to make a significant impact. He opposes any tax increases.

On the issue of the opioid crisis, Toohey emphasizes law enforcement while Vargas stresses treatment.

“I support mandatory minimums,” Toohey said. “If you sell heroin or fentanyl and someone dies, you should go to jail for manslaughter.”

“The commonwealth has come together to launch a campaign that says addiction is a disease and we can’t incarcerate our way out of it,” Vargas said. The Democrat said jailing addicts with drug dealers will not help to solve the problem.

Instead, options for treatment need to expand.

“We have to put money where our mouths are,” Vargas said. “We have to make sure coming back from an opioid addiction doesn’t depend on your health insurance or how much money you have.”

There are a few areas where the candidates agree. Both said they believe education funding is a priority, surrounding communities need to build more affordable housing to help shrink Haverhill’s homeless population, and both said they plan to be full-time legislators if elected.

But the contentious moments in the one-hour debate far outweighed the agreeable ones.

Toohey referred to Vargas’ youth and limited government and work experience, while Vargas noted that Toohey lacks support from local government officials, including his School Committee colleagues.

When Vargas criticized college and university presidents for taking multi-million dollar salaries while running nonprofit institutions, Toohey lobbed a comment about U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who will come to the city this weekend to campaign with Vargas.

“How much does she make to teach one class?” Toohey asked. “Isn’t it about $300,000?”

Vargas ignored the comment, saying he was there to talk about Haverhill.

In his closing remarks, Vargas called on voters to reject the “toxic politics” of his opponent.

“I’m here to fight for Haverhill values. On Nov. 7, we will rise above this moment and define who we are as a city,” Vargas said.

Toohey told voters that he his proud to have the endorsement of Gov. Charlie Baker, who has agreed to “work hand-in-hand and side-by-side with me” to bring fiscal responsibility to Beacon Hill.

“This race is about much more than who’s going to replace Brian Dempsey,” Toohey said. “It is to make sure that Haverhill is a better place to live.”

Vargas and Toohey are competing to replace Dempsey, who represented Haverhill in the House of Representatives for 27 years and held the position of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee when he retired earlier this year.

The special election to fill the 3rd Essex District House seat will take place during the municipal election on Nov. 7.

Thursday night’s debate was sponsored by the Greater Haverhill League of Women Voters and took place in the HC Media studio in Harbor Place. It was televised live on local access cable and broadcast live on WHAV-FM.


17 thoughts on “Candidates Far Apart on Most Issues in 3rd Essex House Debate

  1. “I’m here to fight for Haverhill values” Vargas said

    You mean the like the values your grandmother had when she broke the laws of this country by entering it illegally from the Dominican Republic so your mother could be born in the USA?

    You mean like the values your father had when he broke the laws of this country by also entering it illegally from the Dominican Republic and then stole jobs from US citizens?

    You mean like the values you showed when you put lives of Haverhill citizens at risk when you broke the law by committing “obstruction of justice” and “aiding and abetting criminals in the commission of a crime” when you intentionally warned criminal illegals in the city that the Federal government was in the city doing its job?

    You mean like the values you had when you disappeared and said nothing as Hispanic students at Silver Hill Charter School were used as a pawn by the Haverhill Teacher’s Association so that you could get their endorsement?

    You mean like the values you had by keeping your mouth shut to protect your liberal agenda when a young Hispanic woman your own age was dragged into the woods in a city park and raped by two criminal trespassers in the country illegally?

    You mean like the values you’ve shown by AGAIN keeping your mouth shut when criminal illegal gang members are having shoot outs at Little League games?

    You mean like the values you’ve shown by saying nothing about the criminal invaders bringing the drugs to Haverhill that are wiping out a generation of your peers?

    You mean like the values you’ve shown by saying nothing about the $15Million taxpayers pay EVERY year to pay for the 1,100+ students attending Haverhill schools who are children of parents illegally in this country JUST LIKE WHAT YOU AND YOUR PARENTS DID!

    You mean like the values you’ve shown when you’ve refused to answer questions by Eagle Tribune reporters if you are in favor of making Haverhill and official sanctuary city?

    You mean like the values you showed when you refused to return phone calls to The Valley Patriot newspaper on why you deleted your Facebook post warning when it was found out if you weren’t trying to help criminal invaders in the city?

    Anyone paying attention should know by now Andy values are with his core constituency…people who are illegally in the USA. In the process of supporting these criminal trespassers, he’s totally disrespecting Haverhill citizens who have to pay for all their educational costs, not to mention the law enforcement and public safety costs.

    • Right on cue – Jack Haverhill spewing the same old-hat vitriol without a shred of evidence. You’d really save yourself some time each morning by just writing what you really feel – “I hate brown people”.

      And the Valley Patriot isn’t a newspaper. It’s a hack, right wing piece of garbage. I’ve seen more informed writing on the bathroom stalls in highway rest stops.

      Good thing Haverhill citizens aren’t all as misguided as you. Haverhill isn’t being ‘invaded’. It’s not a war zone. No one’s lives were put at risk. It’s not perfect, but it’s making an effort to clean up, no thanks to you and your perpetuation of racists ideology.

    • We saw two different people in last nights debate.

      One who is well educated, well spoken and who can complete a cogent thought.

      And the other, who would be best off just selling cheap linoleum and be done with it.

      The choice for State Rep is simple…Andy Vargas

        • “(Vargas) at the same time, empty, without substance.”

          Well, Fred, the difference is this…

          Vargas MAY be empty, [and] without substance.

          Toohey HAS PROVEN [to] be empty and without substance

          So Fred, here’s your only choice…don’t vote.

          They’ll show ’em!

        • Fred, say what you want about Shaun Toohey and his policy positions…at least his parents and grandparents didn’t BREAK THE LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY by entering it ILLEGALLY like Vargas’s family did!!

          The last time I checked Shaun didn’t put the lives of Haverhill citizens in danger by warning criminal trespassing illegals that THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT was in the city working to take drug dealers of city streets like Vargas did.

      • Andy will win. But he shouldn’t. He lacks real life experience and a respect for law and order. He proved his inability to have a social media account without putting people into a panic. He has all the wrong people behind him so he’ll win. It’s gross but he’ll win. What a shame. But then again, look who our Mayor is. Disgusting.

        • So Gil, you think “The 10 Million Dollar Man” should win.

          (Vargas) “He proved his inability to have a social media account without putting people into a panic.”

          So Gil, you want to talk about the fake Haverhill High Facebook account created last cycle by Maura. Suckered parents in by making them think they were on an official City Facebook page, so she could shill for her Brother-in-law Shawn.

          You’ve got to give’em credit…they’ve got sleaze down pat!

  2. Toohey said. “If you sell heroin or fentanyl and someone dies, you should go to jail for manslaughter.” –

    Taking the hard-right, Jeff Sessions route which does nothing for the person who OD’d because their dead. We can fill our jails with drug dealers and it won’t put a dent in a drug trade, a drug trade run by The Dominican Cartel in our area using stolen PR identities. A trade that has become increasingly violent because drug dealers can’t go to court to settle their differences when they’re wronged. Of course, when it comes to opioids, our own government is one of the bigger hypocrites from all the money they take from the #BigPharma industry and their lobby, including AG Maura Healey. Treatment in the budget is but a pittance, because once again, no on cares and it would take money away from the crony friends of Beacon Hill pols.

    “Vargas supports an increase in the minimum wage “in a way that’s responsible to small-business owners.” He said closing corporate tax loopholes could provide funding to hold small businesses harmless.” –

    Minimum wage is not one size fits all. Boston could handle it, as well as surround communities, but go West of 495, it would destroy small businesses. Those championing it most, like State Senator Dan Wolf and CEO of Cape Air, doesn’t even pay his own employees $15/hr, yet another hypocrite. $15/hr would keep the poor, poor. The wage would be high enough to meet income thresholds where they would be in jeopardy of losing social welfare benefits and possibly put them in a worse economic position. This is especially true here in MA because of the massive income disparity we see here. Those corporate “loopholes” Andy suggests is repeating the Elizabeth Warren mantra, as history has shown Democrats have been just as responsible for them as Republicans.

    MA GDP, which Andy pointed to as being “positive” is actually a near mirror of federal, and is actually worse with ZIRP and the debt accumulated to get us the 2.0 GDP. In MA case, a hundreds-of-millions shortfall every year, now totaling a net position of $60 BILLION in the red, dragging the middle-class down with it as they’re most impacted when Bacon Hill engages in the theft of other peoples labor.

    “that would restrict the arrest and deportation of undocumented Massachusetts residents” –

    What we really need is a cessation of all types of immigration sans folks that can positively contribute to the economy from day one. We have enough Americans not doing anything or engaged in criminal activity, unfettered immigration is negatively impacting everything in our economic, social welfare, and education systems. No, the Haverhill rapist, non-English speaking illegal immigrant living at 50 White Street was not paying taxes, he was working for a roofer under the table. ALL illegals can get access to free health care thanks to the MA “safety net”, and of course children of illegals, free education. State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, the architect of the “Sanctuary State” Bill, is simply an ideological asshole, thank goodness someone is running against him.

    • “in a way that’s responsible to small-business owners.”

      What does someone who has NEVER had a job outside of a government community organizing or volunteer/intern position know about running a business?

      Are the people of Haverhill so stupid that they’d elect a person to make laws in this state who has no literally no work experience at all?

    • “What does someone who has NEVER had a job outside of a government community…”

      Jack, given that Bill Ryan derives much of his retirement income from years of government ‘service’ (i.e. your taxes and mine) , perhaps you should direct your question to him.

    • Toohey “…saying only that he was protecting the city from an untrustworthy vendor.”

      See, this is an example of the kind of political foolishness that the likes of Toohey, Maura Ryan-‘Whats-Her-Name’ and Scott Wood have been steeped in for their entire political careers. (they learned on the knee of ‘The Master’).

      Rather than worry about the city….rather than worry about the citizens…rather than worry about the students & parents, they spent their time creating chaos, derision of colleagues, and scoring little ‘wins’ so they can gather ‘political points’ against their perceived enemies. (the ‘enemy’ is anyone who is not them)

      This kind of childish behavior goes mostly unnoticed by the general population but none-the-less it has an over all negative effect on the city as a whole. (Almost like that cold you can’t quite shake off)

      “The Great Toohey-Ryan Solar Panel Screw-Up & Debacle of 2017” is, however, a little different. This time the political back-stabbing of an honest school committee member has cost this community some REAL MONEY. Ten Million dollar of real money….

      Nether Shawn Toohey nor Maura Ryan deserve to return the seats of government to which they were elected to protect.

      They have both failed the city.