Friday, February 23, 2024

Tim Toomey is up for a debate. Long debate.

But the longtime state representative — he has held the 26th Middlesex District seat since 1993 — is proposing a single televised debate with no set end, rather than the five more typical debates suggested by his challengers in the three-way race.

“Rather than trying to squeeze five debates into fewer than seven weeks, I propose a single, open-ended, unmoderated, televised debate with no time limits,” Toomey said Thursday afternoon in an e-mail. “In the past, I have partaken in many debates and, invariably, when the debates have ended there are always important issues left by the wayside. What I’m suggesting is, as far as I know, unprecedented in politics. Let’s go in front of the cameras and discuss all the issues until there is nothing left to talk about.”

Max Chalkin, Toomey’s campaign manager, said earlier in the day the Democrat might be up for two or three debates. “It’s unlikely there will be five full debates. Tim is certainly willing to discuss all issues in multiple locales, but I think it may be a little too close to Election Day to do five well-attended debates,” he said.

Independent Mike “No Money” Connolly, 32, of Cambridge, contacted the Toomey campaign Wednesday with an offer of five debates, and a legislative aide to Toomey, Dan Weber, said Republican Thomas Michael Vasconcelos, 25, of Somerville, had also been in touch. The number was to reflect the districts in Cambridge and Somerville encompassed by the seat: Cambridge’s Central Square and Area IV, East Cambridge and Inman Square and Wellington-Harrington; and Somerville’s Union Square and East Somerville.

Toomey found another way, saying via e-mail:

I am confident that Somerville Community Access Television and/or Cambridge Community Television would be willing to air and rerun our debate, and I’m also willing to stream the debate live on my campaign website. With no moderator, we will have the opportunity to speak directly with one another and to ask tough questions about issues facing our district. With a televised audience and replays online, we’ll help as many of our neighbors as possible to get informed and decide for themselves.

Election Day is Nov. 6.

Toomey, 59, has also served on Cambridge’s City Council since 1990. He is a Suffolk University graduate who served on the city’s School Committee before running for the council; he calls the environment, health care, public safety, transparent elections and transportation as his key issues and highlights his work to undo the Citizens United campaign funding decision by the Supreme Court, work advancing the MBTA urban ring and extending the T’s green line through Somerville into Medford and to lower Cambridge’s speed limit to 25 mph.

He not only understands the issues important to this community, Chalkin said, but “has the experience to get things done on Beacon Hill.”

Vasconcelos studied finance and philosophy at Bentley University, worked in finance and is now a financial analyst at Education First, in Cambridge; he shares the traditional Republican goal of shrinking government, but favors extension of the green line extension and told the Somerville Patch that “There are many in the Republican Party I’m not too happy with. In fact, the majority of them. I’m trying to reform the Republican Party as well.”

Connolly, a project manager for Autonomy Corp., is another interesting candidate in that his campaign accepts no financial contributions and subsequently spends little. “By focusing exclusively on our community, we are building a local network of people who are interested in setting a better example for our democracy,” he says on his campaign website. He asks people to formally donate no money to his campaign, an effort that has even drawn a classic big check from Massachusetts Institute of Technology academic and political dissident Noam Chomsky. He also agrees with Toomey on single-payer health care and, obviously, clean elections, while putting some blame on Toomey for the fiscal problems bogging down the MBTA and the green line extension itself.