Tim Toomey has been in public service for more than 30 years—first as a school committee member, then as a Cambridge city councilor and, since 1993, as a state representative for the 26th Middlesex District.
“I love it,” Toomey reflects as he sips a coffee at Ola Cafe in East Somerville. “Every day is different. Every day, you’re meeting somebody new, facing a new challenge.”
Toomey has held dual roles as a city councilor and representative for nearly a quarter of a century, and on September 8, he’ll face off against lawyer and activist Mike Connolly for the state rep seat in the region’s first contested primary since 2004.
“The demographics of both Somerville and Cambridge have changed dramatically,” notes Toomey, and that isn’t the only change he’s seen over the course of his career. “I grew up in East Cambridge—I couldn’t afford to buy my house now.”
Many—Scout‘s Reena Karasin included—have noted that on the surface, Toomey and Connolly’s platforms might appear to be similar. Both are progressive candidates; both consider affordable housing to be among their top priorities. But Toomey actually sees housing as one of the areas where he and Connolly differ. “My opponent claims he’s for affordable housing, but he actively opposed a development in Central Square that was going to add 50 units of affordable housing,” Toomey says, referring to Connolly’s opposition to the proposed Mass + Main complex in Central Square. In a city as densely populated as Cambridge, Toomey says there’s no choice but to build up. “You can’t say you’re for [supplying more housing], and then you have an opportunity to come out and support it—50 units—and not,” he adds.
One other big difference between the two: their stance on marijuana legalization. Like Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Toomey doesn’t believe that time is right to legalize weed, though he’s for decriminalization and is in favor of medical marijuana. He doesn’t think we have the correct processes in place to handle legalization, and adds that he worries about the potential for abuse and addiction. “I think it’s sort of sending the wrong message to legalize it at this time,” he says, pointing to the current opiate crisis.
Toomey says that finding resources for those struggling with addiction has been a priority for him, and he’s helped secured additional funding for addiction services. He says he’s also worked to bring the Green Line Extension to fruition, and he co-sponsored a Fair Share Tax proposal to address income inequality.
“It’s important to bring that municipal voice to the State House,” Toomey says, emphasizing that he doesn’t want this to be a city of haves and have nots. “Cities are struggling … there are still a lot of people in need in the community.” He helped push through a Home Rule Petition that increased Somerville’s Residential Homeowner Exemption to 35 percent, the highest in the state, in an effort to ensure that those who have owned their homes can afford to stay here. When the East Somerville Community School was destroyed by a fire in 2007, Toomey notes it was rebuilt in record speed thanks to work from the city and from the State House. He says his dual roles as a Cambridge city councilor and a state rep have enabled him to help push through those kinds of changes.
Which isn’t to say he thinks his work is done. If reelected, Toomey says affordable housing would remain a top issue, as would ensuring the arrival of the GLX. (“The Green Line is still very precarious,” he notes.) He has new ideas, too, like potentially creating a registry for people who commit animal abuse, preventing them from adopting new animals.
“When people say ‘new leadership,’ I’m not sure what that means, to be honest with you,” Toomey says, noting his opponent’s call for “passionate new leadership” in the district. “Not tooting my own horn, but I think I’ve shown over my career what leadership is. Leadership is attending community events, being out in the neighborhoods talking—and more importantly, listening—to people.”
“Everybody thinks you just sit at a desk up at the state house,” Toomey notes. “That’s not me … I think it’s more important to be out in the communities doing what you can to assist people.”
Toomey will square off against Mike Connolly on Thursday, September 8. You can learn more about his opponent’s platform here.