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Today's primary will determine Richardson-Walsh race

Posted by Megan McKee  September 14, 2010 10:00 AM

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Today's primary election will determine the Democratic nominee in the hotly contested race for the state House of Representatives in the Sixth Middlesex district, which includes several Framingham precincts.

Chris Walsh is challenging incumbent Pam Richardson two years after he lost to her by only 138 votes with a third person on the ballot.

Walsh, an architect and small business owner in Framingham, has said that he wants to harness his professional experience and extensive work on numerous town committees and boards to encourage revitalization and bring substantive economic development in the town.

The Sixth Middlesex diistrict encompasses Framingham precincts 1 through 7, 9, 13, 14, and 17. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., The winner of today's election will face unenrolled candidates Jim Pillsbury and Jim Rizoli.

Richardson has pointed to her track record in the state legislator, which is her full-time job. Prior to winning the election in 2006 through a write-in campaign—her predecessor, Deborah Blumer, died after the ballot closed that year—she had been on the Framingham School Committee and served as vice-chairwoman.

In the 1990s, Walsh sponsored a charrette—a collaborative event that harnesses the talents of multiple designers—and invited architects volunteer their time to re-envision downtown.

At a debate last week, he said he didn’t want to dwell on the negative impact of social service agencies, and suggested alternative solutions to dealing with economic concerns.

“What we have to do is not demonize social services but create economic opportunities in urban areas that compete viably with social services agencies,” said Walsh. By making the town attractive to a wider range of businesses, Framingham will have a greater economic base and raise the assessed values of properties in town, he said.

Richardson offered another perspective on downtown revitalization. She said she’s been researching the national Main Streets program and has talked to Framingham officials about it as well as officials in Salem, a town she said successfully adopted the program.

Later, she talked about the importance of reaching out to Brazilian community members, many of whom run businesses downtown.

“The Brazilian community in many ways feels discriminated against… I think it’s critical that they step up and be part of the community,” said Richardson. “The Brazilian families who own businesses downtown need to work with Town Hall. We shouldn’t be trying to push out the people we don’t like.”

Richardson, 40, said she helped secure the grant funding for the infrastructure upgrades underway in Technology Park, which will add 250 biotech jobs in town.

“I have shown the people of Framingham that I am extremely effective both at the State House and on issues in the community as a community leader,’’ said Richardson in an interview

Walsh, 59, has been a Town Meeting member since 1992, and served on several Town Meeting committees. He is past president of the Framingham Historical Center, and current chairman of the town’s Historic District Commission.

Walsh said Framingham needs to make downtown a destination area for shoppers with common gathering spaces that invite people to linger.

One of his ideas is to work with the state’s Office of Housing and Economic Development to use funds collected by the new MetroWest Tourism and Visitors Bureau to create special economic zones on brownfield sites, like Framingham’s downtown rail yard, to encourage private redevelopment.

“We need to have representatives and senators and federal representatives and senators making this happen,’’ he said in an interview.

Click here here for coverage of the Richardson-Walsh debate; here for details about their campaign finances; here for an in-depth profile of the race; and here for candidate questionnaires.

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com.

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