Campaign 2014: L'Italien Says She's Never Afraid To Make The Tough Decisions
Oct 28, 2014 05:30AM ● Published by Bill Gilman
State Semator Barbara L'Italien
Barbara L'Italien has been through the political wars over the past several years. There have wins and losses but each campaign seems to leave its own set of scars.
And still she comes back for more.
With seven days remaining in the State Senate campaign against Republican Alex Vispoli, the Andover Democrat says she has never doubted her decision to seek a return to the State Legislature.
"I made the decision to run because I know I'd been successful as a legislator in helping the people of the district," she said, breaking into a smile. "I can remember the first vote I cast. It was against Tom Finneron (as Speaker of the House) and that got me moved to the basement. But that was OK. It didn't matter."
That first vote was cast after she had been elected state representative in 2002. She went on to win three more terms before being defeated in an upset by Andover Republican Paul Adams in 2010. In 2012, she sought to regain her seat but this time the opponent was Andover Republican Jim Lyons and once again, L'Italien fell short.
In Early 2013, L'Italien was back on the campaign trail and won a seat on the Andover School Committee.
During those years, L'Italien remained active in state government. She worked two years in the State Treasurer's office under Treasurer Steve Grossman. Later, she worked in government affairs for ARC of Massachusetts, an agency that works on behalf of special needs adults.
But she makes no bones about the fact that she has never taken her eye off Beacon Hill, where she feels she can have the most impact for the district and on issues close to heart.
One such issues is special education. She is the married mother of four children, ages 17-24, one of whom is autistic. Over the last few years, L'Italien has been a passionate advocate those families dealing with autism and helped get four pieces of legislation passed this year that she says will improve medical coverage for autism.
"The work I've done for people with autism, I want to do more of that," she said. "I know I've done my job when I can get both parties to support legislation."
L'Italien's bid for the State Senate hit a road bump earlier this month when it was revealed that the State Department of Revenue had placed a lien on her family home over two years of unpaid taxes, totaling more than $7,000. L'Italien has described the issue as a "dispute" over tax deductions she and her husband claimed regarding medical expenses for one of their children. Larger than usual refunds in 2011 and 2012 red-flagged their returns and prompted audits by the state.
L'Italien claims half the money owed was paid back in April and that she thought the state would be open to some type of a payment plan on the rest while an appeal was filed.
"The first I heard about the lien was when I was contacted on the phone by a reporter," said L'Italien. "We didn't get official notification of the lien in the mail from the state until Oct. 4. And we paid the full amount on Oct. 5."
In a recent debate, Vispoli said her decision to loan her campaign $13,000 while she still had an outstanding issue with the State DOR was "poor judgement."
She doesn't disagree.
"If I had known it would have come to this, I would have just taken care of it (sooner)," she said. "It's been an embarrassment to me."
While L'Italien has participated in numerous campaigns, this one is unique. The 2nd Middlesex Essex District includes Tewksbury, Andover, Dracut, and Lawrence. Most of it is territory L'Italien has never campaigned in before. She says she has enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and hear the stories of what matters most to them in their lives.
"I'm not going to tell people what they need," she said. "I'm going to let them tell me what they need. I know one thing people want and need is fiscal responsibility. I'm not afraid to make the tough decisions."
L'Italien said she supports initiatives to spur small business growth and touted her involvement in the Small Business Banking Partnership, which helps to keep state dollars in-state, helping address the capital needs of small business.
If the latest polls are to be believed, Republican Charlie Baker has a good chance to be the Commonwealth's next governor. L'Italien said she would have no trouble working with a GOP administration.
"When I was in the Legislature the first time I worked with (GOP) Sen. Bruce Tarr and (Gov.) Mitt Romney," she said. "You have to be able to reach across the aisle and work with everyone. The work that's done in the State House has to be bi-partisan."