By: Oriana Durand
Statehouse Correspondant, Sentinel & Enterprise
The incumbent has served in her current role for nearly six years after 13 on the Oxford Board of Selectmen. Her opponent is a political veteran at the age of 26, serving his second term on the Gardner City Council.
While Governor’s Councilor Jennie L. Caissie, a Republican, and her challenger, Matthew Vance, a Democrat, are different in terms of party, age and experience, both candidates for the 7th District seat on the Governor’s Council are clear about the importance of considering the governor’s judicial appointments.
“I’ve really developed an appreciation of what a judge should be, of what makes a good, effective, fair and compassionate judge,” Caissie said.
“It’s pretty darn important we get the right people in those jobs, and I think I’ve got the breadth of experience in vetting judicial nominees.”
Vance noted the long-term consequences of judicial appointments.
“They are going to be there for a long time, with their viewpoint really shaping the court system,” he said.
Caissie and Vance are running for the seat on the Governor’s Council to represent District 7 of Massachusetts, which includes many communities in central Massachusetts.
Also known as the Executive Council, the eight-member elective body has the main task of advising the governor on judicial and other court nominations, as well as pardons and commutations of criminal sentences. Members serve two-year terms.
Caissie, 43, the only Republican on the council, has held the position since 2011, and says she has been a fierce advocate for public safety, victims’ rights and the Second Amendment.
“I’m proud to say I was on a prevailing side of a 5-to-4 vote to put the victims’-rights advocate on the Massachusetts Parole (Board),” she said.
Caissie says she found her purpose to run for public office while writing her thesis on victims’ rights at the New England School of Law.
“I found myself weeping at times at how victims were treated — victims of violent crime, rape and murder,” she said. “I’d read about something that really frustrated me about our criminal-justice system, how judges would act or treat people.”
Caissie served for 13 years on the Oxford Board of Selectmen, where she was chair for eight years. She was also a member of the Oxford Planning Board and has been a legislative aide in both the state House of Representatives and Senate.
In addition to her elected role, she has been an attorney in private practice for 18 years, both in criminal and civil litigation.
Vance, began his political career at age 20, serving on the Gardner School Committee for four years.
He is now 26, serving his second term as a city councilor. He emphasizes the importance of selecting the most qualified candidates for judicial nominations.
Vance says his main priority is taking a holistic approach when appointing the judicial nominees, rather than disqualifying them for their particular positions on issues.
“I think that there are a lot of issues that you can look into, but it all boils down to, ‘Is this person the best fit, best qualified for the position?” Vance said. “I’m going to work incredibly hard, doing the research, doing the homework in looking into these candidates.”
As Nov. 8 approaches, Vance says he has been going out to meet with voters at different events, including festivals, fairs, local shops and grocery stores to introduce himself and explain the importance of serving on the Governor’s Council.
“I want to take the experience that I have and really use that to shape things in a better direction,” he said.