James Arena-DeRosa, Loring Barnes face off to represent 8th Middlesex District

By Upstateherd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Melissa Ellin
Boston University Statehouse Program

Democrat James Arena-DeRosa and Republican Loring Barnes will go toe to toe for the Massachusetts House of Representatives 8th Middlesex District seat this general election after Democrat Carolyn C. Dykema — who represented the district for 13 years — resigned in February.

Arena-DeRosa, of Holliston, cleared the Democratic primary against Hopkinton Town Clerk Connor Degan, winning about 57% of the vote. Barnes ran unopposed for the Republican nomination.

Following the 2020 Census redistricting, the 8th Middlesex District state representative will represent Holliston, Hopkinton, and parts of Millis and Sherborn — almost 50,000 residents. Barnes is from Millis, which was not formerly in the district.

Dykema — now in the private sector working for the clean energy company Nexamp — was elected as state rep in 2008, and for the past five elections ran unopposed.

The general election is Nov. 8. 

Here’s a look at who’s running.

James Arena-DeRosa

Arena-DeRosa Courtesy Photo from the “MetroWest Daily News”


Residence: Holliston

Age: 66

Employment: Part-time educator, consultant, semi-retired

Endorsements: Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, Massachusetts AFL-CIO and others

Why are you running?

As soon as Dykema stepped down, Arena-DeRosa said he joined the effort to find a new candidate to fill his district’s seat, but he didn’t yet know that person would be him.

“At first I thought we would just be supporting a great candidate, and then as it turned out, a lot of people approached me to run,” Arena-DeRosa said. “I thought ‘Yes, this is the time I can do this service.’”

Once he started thinking earnestly about running, Arena-DeRosa said it all made sense.

“It’s a really critical time in our state’s history and I still have a lot of energy and passion left to make a difference,” Arena-DeRosa said.

He said his background in politics, as a community volunteer and as an educator, helped him decide to run. Over time, Arena-DeRosa said he has worked as the director of public advocacy for Oxfam and was New England regional director for the Peace Corps.

“I have spent my whole career helping people meet their basic needs, and also making sure that the communities that I worked with — whatever communities they were — had a voice in the chorus of power,” Arena-DeRosa said.

After seeing the Legislature pass laws without always consulting community members, Arena-DeRosa said he is frustrated. If elected, Arena-DeRosa said he would put in extra effort to help his constituents navigate government bureaucracy and ensure their ideas are represented in the Legislature.

“To be effective, you’ve got to be out there in the community, be responsive to constituents and also be involved in the work on Beacon Hill,” Arena-DeRosa said.

What issues face your district and how do you plan to tackle them?

Arena-DeRosa said engaging community members in decision-making before voting as a Legislature is crucial for improvement.

“Too often decisions get made and they’re not talking to local town people,” Arena-DeRosa said. “What are the impacts? How is this going to affect what goes on in communities?”

Right now, Arena-DeRosa said he’s looking at issues of affordability in the neighborhoods he is vying to represent.

“I’ve met so many senior citizens who have lived their lives in these towns and they’re worrying about getting priced out,” Arena-DeRosa said. “I’ve met young people who’d like to buy houses in the towns they grew up in, but they can’t afford to.”

Outside of housing costs, Arena-DeRosa said the general economy is facing serious problems, which inflation exacerbates. He said the Legislature needs to get serious about determining where money should be spent.

While money from the state tax surplus should go back to residents, Arena-DeRosa said, other money is available for use.

“We should do more locally that can help our school systems and help with local infrastructure,” Arena-DeRosa said.

When it comes to climate change, he said the state cannot “grandstand on the issue.” Solar panels and offshore wind are some alternatives to fossil fuels, but any solution will require large investments.

“If we do it right, the green economy will provide more jobs for people and it will really be a great long-term win for the environment,” Arena-DeRosa said.

Loring Barnes

Barnes Courtesy Photo from the “MetroWest Daily News”


Residence: Millis

Age: 60

Employment: Business development and communications strategist

Endorsements: The National Federation of Independent Businesses, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito

Why are you running?

From the moment she moved to Millis 35 years ago, Barnes said she got involved in community affairs. She has served as chair of the Select Board and helped found the Economic Development Committee, which she currently is on.

Not someone to sit and watch, she said running for office felt like a natural next step that fits with her commitments and drive for Millis and the district.

“I looked into the future and felt again that I could contribute to making life better for not only my town, but its new grouping of towns,” Barnes said. “I decided to put my hat in the ring.”

While attending town meetings, Barnes said she started to take notice of “a tsunami of unfunded mandates” happening, which spurred her into action.

“What was happening in Millis turned out to be a microcosm of what is happening across the state,” Barnes said.

Barnes said she increasingly felt like residents were getting left out of important financial decisions for the town, which she did not feel was right.

“I pay everybody in the State House — as a taxpayer — to work for me, to work for my family, to work for my town, to work for small business, and we weren’t having conversations at all,” Barnes said.

What issues face your district and how do you plan to tackle them?

Barnes said her agenda revolves around three facets: communication, collaboration and transparency. She added that taxes are skyrocketing, largely due to unfunded mandates, and to solve this issue, the Legislature should consult the people before making decisions.

“We’re not even being shown the respect for our wallets, much less for how can we solve these problems differently?” Barnes said.

At the same time, Barnes said the state is facing dissonance between improving the economy and environmental best practices. Having brokered successful collaborations in previous roles — including her time doing marketing and communications for the MBTA — Barnes said her goal is to forge new connections that will help solve the issues facing the state as a unit.

“I look around the room, I’m not interested in what people’s ideologues are,” Barnes said. “I’m interested in their energy, their talent, their ideas, potentially their networks or their ability to create networks from industry, who would bring expertise and knowledge to whatever it is we’re trying to tackle.”

With the state facing challenges including inflation and increased energy pricing, Barnes said the Legislature needs to be more responsible with its spending. Money from the state surplus, she said, could have gone toward water supply and quality issues, for example.

Barnes said that she thinks it is important to boost engagement with the private sector. Introducing outside experts into the conversation can offer new solutions, Barnes added, and inform legislators before votes.

“I just want to have different types of conversations,” Barnes said. “I’m not a government bureaucrat so I’m a very different type of offering, but I definitely feel like that would be better for the community.”

This story originally appeared in the MetroWest Daily News.

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