METHUEN — State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, and her challenger in the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, Jessica Finocchiaro of Methuen, sparred over the minimum wage and Gov. Deval Patrick’s transportation package Monday night.
While the exchange was spirited, both candidates adhered to moderator Michelle Houle’s directive against personal attacks. The debate was aired over Methuen Community Television and will be rebroadcast.
Finocchiaro, who won a seat on the Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee last November by seeking write-in votes, criticized O’Connor Ives for voting against raising the minimum wage.
“I don’t think that was the right way to go,” Finocchiaro said.
O’Connor Ives said she voted against the Senate version of the minimum wage bill, which would have based increases on inflation. She backed the House version, she said, which did not include that provision.
The House version prevailed in a conference committee and Patrick signed it into law. The minimum wage, now $8.25 per hour, will rise to $9 Jan. 1. It will then increase to $10 per hour Jan. 1, 2016 and finally $11 per hour a year later.
Finocchiaro said she knows what it’s like to work at a minimum wage job. She later told The Eagle-Tribune that the minimum wage should be based on the Consumer Price Index and people in the lower income brackets should not have to keep begging for an increase.
In a separate interview, O’Connor Ives expressed an opposing viewpoint. Legislators, she said, “shouldn’t wash their hands of the issue.”
During the debate at Timony Grammar School, Finocchiaro said she was not satisfied with O’Connor Ives’ explanation of her position on the minimum wage.
“I still feel as though you haven’t answered my question,” she said.
“I take exception to the comment that I did not respond to your question,” retorted O’Connor Ives, a former Newburyport city councilor who was first elected to the 1st Essex District seat two years ago.
After the debate, Finocchiaro said O’Connor Ives cast her vote in favor of the higher minimum wage after she, Finocchiaro, entered the race.
Finocchiaro also took O’Connor Ives to task for her vote against Patrick’s transportation package. O’Connor Ives said she objected to the tax increases that were included in that proposal.
She also said she’s unwilling to increase spending until major reforms are made in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Finocchiaro said the governor’s proposal would have helped the Merrimack Valley. People need more public transportation options, she said.
The winner of the Sept. 9 Democratic primary will face the Republican candidate, Haverhill School Committee President Shaun Toohey, in the Nov. 4 general election. The district includes Methuen, Haverhill, Merrimac, Amesbury, Newburyport, Salisbury and half of North Andover.