State Representative David Paul Linsky, a veteran legislator who has represented Natick, Sherborn, and Millis on Beacon Hill since 1999, is facing a challenge in the Fifth Middlesex House District from Republican William J. Callahan, a retired colonel who served two tours of duty in Iraq.
Callahan, 52, who retired from the Army National Guard at the end of June, said military rules prevented him from “actively engaging in partisan politics,” while on active duty, so he was unable to get the signatures necessary in time for his name to appear on the Republican state primary ballot in September.
“But I didn’t want that to deter me,” he said.
So after retiring from the military on June 30, he said he marched in the July 4 Natick parade and began knocking on doors and campaigning throughout the district the very next day. He needed 150 write-in votes in the primary for his name to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as the Republican nominee, and he exceeded that by almost 400.
Callahan, who was born in upstate New York and graduated from Norwich University in Vermont, said his “career of selfless service to my country,” and his strong core values have given him a strong foundation for the job of state representative.
“Respect, honor, personal courage, integrity, duty, and loyalty are values that have been a part of me for a long, long time,” he said.
“I think Beacon Hill has gone astray in terms of integrity,” he said. “There’s not a sense that people feel it’s an honor to serve.”
Callahan said he held numerous senior command positions in the Army National Guard during his two tours of duty in Iraq, and ended his career as a property and fiscal officer in charge of overseeing all federal money that came into Massachusetts for the Army and Army National Guard.
“I have an understanding of fiscal responsibility,” he said.
Callahan said in the military, all programs are audited on a regular schedule.
“When a problem comes to light, you address it,” he said. “In the state, there’s no transparency and controls are not in place.”
He pointed to electronic benefit transfers that were being used by recipients to pay for things other than the food and clothing the benefits were meant for.
“Lackadaisical control allowed people to use that money on alcohol, on drugs, to gamble,” he said, adding that the problem was addressed by legislation this year only after the abuses were reported in the media.
“How many other programs like this are out there?” he asked. “There is a lot of money going out the back door.”
Callahan said the economy and education, which “interlock with each other” are the key issues facing the state and that difficult decisions on where to prioritize funding must be made to make sure schools get what is needed to keep class sizes low.
He would like to see regulations on business eased to allow Massachusetts to compete with neighboring states and said tax incentives and tax breaks should be used to keep companies here.
“Something as simple as easing of the meal tax, even for a week, would help local restaurants,” he said.
Linsky, 55, is a lifelong Natick resident who has spent his career in government, first as an assistant district attorney prosecuting cases in Middlesex County and for the past 14 years as a legislator on Beacon Hill.
“I’m very proud of everything that I’ve accomplished,” he said. “But there is a lot more to be done and I am in a great position to do it because of my experience and seniority.”
Linsky, the senior member of the MetroWest delegation on Beacon Hill and chairman of the House Post Audit and Oversight Committee, said his position gives him clout that he is not afraid to use on behalf of his constituents.
“When we get a call from a constituent in the midst of a crisis, everything else gets put on hold to get that person help. Nothing is more important,” he said.
He said a father he didn’t recognize recently approached him at Roche Bros. supermarket in Natick.
“He said, ‘Thank you for saving my daughter’s life,’ ” Linsky said. The man had called Linsky’s office years ago, he said, because his health insurance company was refusing to pay for care his daughter needed while undergoing chemotherapy.
“We got her the services she needed, and now she’s 10 years old and doing fine,” he said.
“No matter the state agency, when a committee chairman is on the phone, they pick up,” Linsky said. “A freshman legislator just can’t get these things done.”
Linsky said when he was first elected, officials in his district asked him to tip the school funding formula more toward the district, find a way to better fund special education requirements, and get state funding for new school buildings.
He said he was able to accomplish all three.
He said state school funding has increased 150 percent in Natick, 121 percent in Sherborn and 190 percent in Millis, because of changes he fought for. In addition, he said he helped create a fund to assist towns in paying special education costs and was a leader in revamping the school building funding process to allow construction and renovation of several schools across the state, including a new Natick High School that opened in September — on time, and $10 million under budget.
Looking forward, Linsky said jobs will continue to be a priority and that an important way the state can assist business is with infrastructure improvements to allow companies to expand and stay in Massachusetts. He pointed to funds he secured for improvements on Route 9 that made a “major expansion” of MathWorks in Natick possible.
Finding a solution to the budget deficit at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority will be the biggest issue facing the Legislature in the next session, he said.
The last time the Legislature passed a major transportation funding bill was for the Big Dig, according to Linsky.
“That was done on the backs of the people of MetroWest,” Linsky said. “Why? Because back then the delegation didn’t have the seniority, clout, or expertise to protect this area.”
Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at email@example.com.