Two write-in candidates who won their party primaries last month are facing off to succeed incumbent Charles A. Murphy as the state representative for Burlington, Bedford and parts of Wilmington.
Ken Gordon, a member of the Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals and the Democrat in the race, is running against Burlington Selectman Walter Zenkin, a former unenrolled voter who is on the ballot as a Republican. The general election is Nov. 6.
Both candidates mounted write-in campaigns to represent the 21st Middlesex District in the House after Murphy announced he would not be seeking reelection too late to have his name taken off the primary ballot, or to have another candidate’s name added.
Zenkin, 45, said he is running as a Republican “because that’s where my heart is.” He said his business background and fiscally conservative perspective make him best suited to represent the district.
Gordon, 52, a lawyer, said his work as an advocate and negotiator, resolving problems for his clients, over the past 21 years gives him the perfect skill set for the job.
“I’m an advocate, I stand up for people,” he said. “I’m going to apply those skills to representing the people of this district.”
Gordon said he would be a strong voice for public schools and for maintaining state education funding.
He also said finding solutions to alleviate traffic would be his top issue, working from the state level to fund solutions to bottlenecks at intersections along Middlesex Turnpike in Burlington and on Great Road in Bedford.
He said traffic congestion is not only a quality-of-life issue, but also a hindrance to businesses already in the area and to attracting new businesses.
Gordon also said he would work to deal with the debt being carried by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which this year raised fares and cut service in an effort to balance its books.
“We need to solve the T’s debt crisis and not just kick the can down the road,” he said. “It won’t be easy to solve, but it’s something we need to roll our sleeves up and start working on.”
He said increasing fares is not the answer, and wants to go over “all the budgets” looking for places where work is being duplicated and money could be saved.
“I want to try and find ways to get revenue without burdening taxpayers,” he said. If that is not possible, he said, he would consider backing a new dedicated revenue stream to shore up the MBTA’s budget.
Zenkin said his fiscally conservative style and understanding of how burdensome government regulations can be on small business is what’s needed at the State House.
“I know how government works, and I know it’s not working as it should on Beacon Hill,” he said.
Zenkin said his experience as a restaurant and commercial property owner has taught him that when money is tight, you look for places to spend less while providing the same service, rather than raising prices or sacrificing product quality.
As a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner, Zenkin said, “I understand how to have quality and manage expenses at the same time.”
He’d apply that same principle to government, he said.
“We cannot keep raising taxes and increasing fees to satisfy government,” he said. “We need to limit state government without affecting the services provided.”
To do this, Zenkin proposes a 1 percent across-the-board reduction in every state budget without exception, which he said would save approximately $352 million.
“I believe we can look at where the inefficiencies are and make the appropriate cuts,” he said. “Government always looks to cut services first, but we need to look at how we can be more efficient before we make cuts.”
He said he’d use that savings to cut debt in budgets such as the MBTA’s, and to send more dollars back to cities and towns.
Zenkin said individual communities know best how to use the added state aide to make infrastructure improvements to help traffic, boost education, and take other steps to help attract jobs and improve the local economy.Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.