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Debate: Candidates state issues
How to get the best results for the residents of the 4th Hampden District was a matter of disagreement.

By TED LaBORDE, Union-News Staff writer 10/25/2002

WESTFIELD - The two candidates for state representative from the 4th Hampden District in the Nov. 5 election squared off in their first formal debate last night, agreeing on the major issues facing Westfield residents but differing on the path of action.

The only strong commitment made by Democrat Barry D. "Bo" Sullivan and Republic Donald F. Humason Jr. is to foster legislation, expected to be filed shortly by state Rep. Michael R. Knapik, R-Westfield, protecting the rights of veterans and their families to display the American Flag on veteran graves.

Humason and Sullivan, who want to succeed the retiring Rep. Cele Hahn, R-Westfield, agreed the major issues facing Westfield are education, health care, economic development and infrastructure.

The debate format had Humason and Sullivan responding to questions presented by representatives of the local media, Westfield State College and Westfield High School. The debate was televised live over the city's public access Channel 15 and college television studio manager Mark St. Jean said he plans to rebroadcast the debate on Oct. 29 at noon and at 7:30 p.m.

Sullivan said he can be successful as Westfield's next representative because he will be a member of the majority party. Humason said he can be successful because of his legislative experience as a former legislative aide and former director of legislative affairs for the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

"Education, seniors and health care and our roads and bridges, are the issues," Sullivan said. "But, number one is education. If we educate our children everything else will fall into place," Sullivan said.

Humason listed education, infrastructure, health and public safety as his major issues but said "We must listen to the public to know what is important to you."

Both candidates said they support bilingual education and criticized Question 2, which will require English immersion within one year, as going to far. They also indicated support for the Community Preservation Act which Westfield voters will act on during balloting Nov. 5.

"Question 2 is poorly written and we should have local control by our superintendent of schools," said Sullivan.

Humason said he supports bilingual education and "we should get kids up to speed as soon as possible."

They also agreed that negotiated contracts for state college faculty and staff should be funded.

As for prescription medicine for seniors, Sullivan supports a bulk purchase by the state and Humason sees the current situation as a federal issue. "There needs to be negotiation with that industry," Humason said. Sullivan suggested that doctors, when possible, prescribe generic medicine.

Sullivan called for construction of a Westfield State College dormitory downtown which he said will improve off-campus interaction by students and the community and help in future city development. Humason said the "state should help but not be responsible for downtown development."

The debate was courteous and friendly until Sullivan said his first action in the Legislature will be to "contact the people who make the decisions. Our representative needs to be part of the decision process."

Humason shot back that the decision makers "revolve around (Speaker Thomas) Finneran who ignores the public wishes."

 Ted LaBorde can be reached at tlaborde@union-news.com


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