Sen. Durant backs Dudley selectman to serve in his old Central Mass. House seat

Sen. Peter Durant said Tuesday he is backing a Dudley selectman looking to run for a Central Massachusetts House seat last held by the Spencer Republican, who won a special election last month for a Senate district in the area.

A special election has not yet been called for the House seat, but two contenders — Dudley Selectman John Marsi and Southbridge Town Councilor David Adams, both Republicans — have indicated they are ready to run if one is scheduled, according to state campaign finance filings. The seat covers Dudley, Charlton, Southbridge, and Spencer.

Marsi said he has served on the Dudley Board of Selectmen for 12 years, giving him a “pretty good pulse” on the issues in the district. He said he wants to focus on economic development, public safety, and quality of life.

“But to be more clear about what that means for a state rep run, it’s public safety, its affordability, which encompasses economic development, and local aid and stuff, and education,” he told the Herald. “Some of these statewide themes play right into every single one of those things. And the migrant issue is a huge issue. The state didn’t really plan very well for it, didn’t have a plan to pay for it and it’s going to put downward pressure on the towns if local aid gets cut.”

Adams did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to his cell phone. He filed paperwork with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to run for the seat last month.

House Speaker Ron Mariano has the power to call a special election to fill the seat but has not yet detailed any plans for a potential future contest.

Durant first won the seat in a 2011 special election after a 2010 general election ended in a tie between Durant and former Rep. Geraldo Alicea, a Democrat. Durant faced general election challengers in 2012 and and 2014 before running unopposed in the next four general elections.

Durant said the district, like many areas in Central Massachusetts, is in need of economic development.

“Charlton has some old mill property as does Southbridge. Southbridge is obviously the largest town within the district,” he said. “Its major employer was the old American Optical. And once that left, like a lot towns, like Spencer, once those mills leave there’s a tough time filling those voids. So it’s been a lot of economic development, it’s been a lot of downtown revitalization.”

Local issues, Durant said, are going to be “the bread and butter” of a campaign for the House seat.

“But I do think that we’re going to find that this immigration crisis is a large issue across all of our districts. And it’s going to affect all of our towns,” he said.

Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair Steve Kerrigan said he is “quite certain” potential Democratic candidates are having conversations with their family and friends about running.

“Whoever gets elected in a special election faces the voters again in November,” he told the Herald. “A special election is a difficult race, particularly in a red to purple district. But I know there are good Democrats out there giving it every consideration. That’s the determination they’ve got to make with their family and their friends.”

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