top of page

8th Essex Rep Candidates Spell Out Their Differences

By Charlie Mckenna | August 29, 2022

If you would like to read the original article, go to

Go here to watch the debate:

MARBLEHEAD — The six candidates running to represent the 8th Essex District outlined their differences during a forum sponsored by Essex Media Group, publishers of Marblehead Weekly News and The Daily Item, Monday evening, with the hour-long discussion focusing primarily on issues of campaign finance and transportation.

All six candidates for the open representative seat — Jenny Armini, Diann Slavit Baylis, Tristan Smith, Terri Tauro, Doug Thompson, and Polly Titcomb — are Democrats, meaning the race will be effectively decided in a week — on Sept. 6.

The hour-long forum, which was held at Marblehead High School, began with opening statements from each candidate. Armini spoke first, saying she has “deep and broad experience” that she wants to bring to bear in the district.

“Yes, I’ve worked on Capitol Hill and I’ve worked on Beacon Hill, I’ve created legislation, and I’ve built the coalitions to pass it,” Armini told the crowd of roughly 70 people gathered in the high school’s theater. “I have this very deep experience, but I also have amazing relationships and in this line of work, relationships matter. State representatives aren’t just policy wonks.”

Slavit Baylis, Smith, Tauro, Thompson, and Titcomb followed with opening statements focused on the experience they would bring to the position and how they stand out from their opponents. During the second portion of the forum, the candidates were given the opportunity to ask one another questions. Titcomb went first, asking Smith how he would work to help manage the annual state budget, which soared to $52.7 billion for fiscal year 2023, considering what she called his lack of hands-on experience in the area.

Smith, in his reply, cited his experience in Swampscott politics as both an elected Town Meeting member and as a student representative on the town’s School Committee.

“I am an elected member of Town Meeting in which that’s exactly what we do. We look at the budget and we discuss the proposals … and pass it in a large legislative body,” Smith said. “Our next state representative’s job is to deliver for our district, to advocate for and articulate our needs, and I’m the right person to do that.”

Thompson and Slavit Baylis faced the brunt of the questioning from their opponents, with both being asked about their ties to the district, having only moved to the area in recent years. Thompson also faced questioning about campaign finance while Slavit Baylis faced questioning about health care.

Slavit Baylis was asked about why she decided to run to represent the district by Tauro, a lifelong resident of Marblehead. In response, Slavit Baylis said she felt as though she had spent her entire life preparing to represent the 8th Essex.

“To tell you the truth, I really have a connection to this district,” she said, noting that her husband grew up in Marblehead. “I have found a place where I definitely want to set out for the rest of my life and for a job I always wanted and that I feel I’m very prepared for.”

Thompson was asked by Armini about how he would represent the district without, in her view, having made any connections to community organizations since he moved to Swampscott. He countered by saying that he made connections in the region long before he moved to the area and that his lack of deep connection to the district could be an asset.

He also faced questioning from Slavit Baylis about the funds he has poured into his own campaign — more than $40,000. Thompson defended himself, saying he is an advocate for campaign finance reform and has invested in himself to avoid being influenced by taking outside money.

During the third portion of the forum, EMG Senior Editor Thor Jourgensen asked each candidate a question specific to an issue facing the district.

Armini was asked about the prospect of a center bus lane coming to the Lynnway, Slavit Baylis was asked about the Legislature’s shelved economic development bill, Smith was asked whether he supported undocumented immigrants obtaining drivers licenses, Tauro was asked to what extent she would push for reform of the MBTA if she is elected, Thompson was asked about how the state’s property tax law works for towns like Swampscott and Marblehead, and Titcomb was asked whether or not she believed the job of a state legislator should be restructured to become a full-time job.

Armini said the bus lane was reflective of the idea that voters need to change their view of transportation and the different modes of transportation that can be used to get to their destinations — particularly as a function of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Slavit Baylis, when questioned about whether she would have supported the bill in the wake of the revelation that Massachusetts is on track to trigger a decades-old provision requiring excess tax collections above a certain threshold to flow back to the taxpayers, said she had not made up her mind on the issue.

Smith was emphatic in his support of the bill, saying he would oppose any efforts to repeal it and noting that he believed there was an important social justice component to ensuring undocumented immigrants had licenses.

Tauro said she would push for increased state control of the troubled transit agency, which she said was not working up to its potential. She said the increased state control was necessary because of the importance of transportation, as well as the role the agency could play in combating the combat crisis by electrifying the commuter rail.

Thompson said he was a supporter of altering the framework of Proposition 212 in order to better serve towns like the ones he would represent if he wins the race. He said he supported altering the law because he sees a need for more progressive taxation across the state.

Titcomb said she believes the Legislature should be a full-time job and operate in formal session year-round because they are, in a sense, essential workers. But, she said, to do so, she would be in support of paying legislators a higher salary to attract more candidates.

The forum concluded with closing statements from each candidate, who concluded by encouraging those in attendance to vote for them, and spelling out why they should do so.

Tauro and Thompson offered differing visions for the office in their concluding remarks — with Tauro focusing primarily on the ways in which she would serve her constituency and tackle local issues, and Thompson pitching himself as the candidate best equipped to deliver large-scale change and solutions.

Smith came in the middle — saying he believes a state representative should wear both hats, tackling local issues and serving their constituents but also working to take on larger issues affecting the entire state.

In her conclusion, Slavit Baylis talked about her experience losing someone close to her to gun violence and using that as a launching board into helping get the state’s red flag law passed.

Titcomb said she would seek to address the underlying issues that cause many of the short term crises the state currently faces — on public transportation, housing, and climate change.

Armini concluded by saying she believes the state, much like the country, is a work in progress, and she believes she is the kind of leader who can help continue that work.

Jourgensen concluded the forum with a note that “these six are a true testament to democracy.”

Charlie McKenna can be reached at

McKenna, Charlie. “8th Essex Rep Candidates Spell Out Their Differences.” Itemlive. The Daily Item, August 30, 2022.

7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

By Dustin Luca, Staff Writer for The Salem News | September 1st, 2022 Note: These are a few excerpts from the original article. To read the full article, go to

By Charlier Mckenna | August 30, 2022 To read the original article, go to

bottom of page