Rep. Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover, will face off against Republican challenger and former Georgetown Selectman Lawrence "Lonnie" Brennan on Nov. 4 in a rematch of their 2006 state representative race.

Brennan and L'Italien are fighting for the hearts and minds of the 18th Essex District, a piece of political turf that includes parts of Haverhill, Andover, North Andover, Methuen, Boxford and Georgetown.

L'Italien, 47, won the seat in 2002. She had held no political office previously, but said she "worked really hard," knocking on 4,000 doors and parlaying her years of activism in the townwide PTO, the League of Women Voters and the Andona Society into winning votes.

Brennan, 48, ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2006, losing by more than 2,500 votes. But he's hoping for better luck this time. He recently completed a three-year term on the Georgetown Board of Selectmen and served for eight years on the Salem School Committee, from 1984 to 1992.

They differ on a number of issues. On abortion, L'Italien is pro-choice. Even though she has never had the opportunity to cast a vote on that question during her tenure as a representative, her parish priest barred her from serving as a cantor at Mass because of her stance. She called it "an unfortunate situation."

Brennan said he is "unabashedly pro-life." He said he realizes he can't overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to have an abortion, but he backs cutting off state funding for abortions.

Brennan said he once voiced support for Question 1, the ballot question that seeks to eliminate the state income tax, to "send a message" to the Legislature.

But he has since dropped his support of the question, as state and national economic news has gotten worse. Besides, he said, "You can't send a message to a liberal Legislature."

L'Italien is unequivocally against Question 1, calling it "absolutely reckless."

Brennan has chided L'Italien for voting against lowering the state income tax from 5.3 percent to 5 percent. But L'Italien said the issue has not come up for a vote since she took office and chided Brennan for "sloppy research" for making that claim.

But Brennan explained that L'Italien voted against procedural moves to allow a vote on that issue.

"She's not fighting to reduce the income tax," he said.

Brennan also criticized L'Italien for voting to increase the cigarette tax, saying the $2.51 per pack tax is excessive.

But L'Italien noted that the tax helps pay for the state's mandatory health insurance law.

What is the 18th Essex District?

There are no entire communities in the district, which was created after the 2000 census. It includes Ward 2, Precincts 1 and 2, Ward 5, Precinct 2, and Ward 7, Precinct 2 in Haverhill; Precincts 1, 7 and 8 in Andover; Precincts 7 and 8 in North Andover; Precinct 7 in Methuen; Precinct 2 in Boxford; and Precinct 2 in Georgetown.

18th Essex District state representative: One, two-year seat

Barbara L'Italien

Age: 47

Address: 5 Harper Circle, Andover

Family: Married to Kevin Hall; four children, Rudy, 18, Alexandra, 16, Samantha, 14, and Andrew, 11.

Education: Bachelor's degree in political science, Merrimack College, 1984

Professional experience: Social worker, Elder Services of Merrimack Valley; also worked with the Greater Lawrence Mental Health Center elder abuse hot line

Political experience: State representative from January 2003 to present.

What is the most important issue facing the district?

"The most important issue has to be the economy," said L'Italien, noting that unemployment in the Lawrence area has climbed from 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent in the last year; and in the Haverhill area, from 4.1 percent to 5 percent.

If the state had extra money, how would you spend it?

L'Italien said she would put it toward education. She added, "I am an advocate for the safety net for the elderly and disabled." She would also use extra money to recruit businesses into the state, "to broaden the economic base."

Why should people vote for you?

"In uncertain times, it is more important than ever to have a steady hand at the helm," L'Italien said. She said she has demonstrated "independent leadership skills" by voting in favor of "reforms to pare down state spending." She voted "present" on whether to re-elect Thomas Finneran speaker of the House, shortly after she was sworn in. She backed then-Gov. Mitt Romney's proposal to merge the state Highway Department with the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and she voted against a pension for the widow of longtime state Rep. Michael Ruane.

Lawrence "Lonnie" Brennan

Age: 48

Address: 9 Hamilton Terrace, Georgetown

Family: Married to Dianne; three children, Wesley Thomas, 19, Elyse Rose, 17, and Kinsey Marie, 14.

Education: Bachelor of science degree in business administration, University of New Hampshire, 1982; master's degree in technical writing, Northeastern University, 1992

Professional experience: Self-employed technical writer, doing work for Integras; graphics, photography and instructional manuals

Political experience: Eight years on the Salem School Committee, one, three-year term as a Georgetown selectman.

What is the most important issue facing the district?

"Focusing on the state budget and setting priorities to protect local aid," Brennan said. He said the budget deficit is estimated at $1.4 billion, and "we don't know the depth."

If the state had extra money, how would you spend it?

"I focus on the extremes," Brennan said. By that, he means extremes in ages. He would provide more funding to help the elderly and pay for early child care.

Why should people vote for you?

"I have said no to spending increases and no to tax increases," Brennan said. "I know how to separate wants from needs, by listening to the community and responding. I have 11 years of direct experience of getting hammered by the public, trying to balance the needs of the community. No fear, no favoritism," he added.

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