By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — It looks a lot like police Chief Paul Tucker might soon be state Rep. Paul Tucker.
Tucker, a Democrat, wasn’t the only candidate to file nomination papers by the 5 p.m. deadline yesterday — so did Daniel Morris, a 20-year-old Salem State student.
But Tucker is by far the biggest name in the race, now that speculation about what other local heavyweights might run has officially ended.
They are running to replace Rep. John Keenan, who announced recently that he would not seek re-election.
Several people had expressed an interest in running, including City Council President Robert McCarthy, former Mayor Stanley Usovicz, and Grace Harrington, Keenan’s chief of staff. In the end, only Tucker and Morris submitted the paperwork.
Once the signatures they collected are verified, Salem will have its first contested race for the office since Keenan originally won it in 2004; he ran unopposed in the following four elections.
Morris, a sophomore studying history at SSU, said it was exactly that situation — Keenan consistently facing no opposition — that prompted him to run, before he knew Keenan wouldn’t be trying for another term.
“He would’ve had eight years of no competition,” Morris said. “That’s not democracy.”
Morris is from Scituate and moved here to attend Salem State. He identifies himself as a libertarian and is not enrolled as either a Democrat or Republican. He works for the local chapter of Students for Liberty, a group that defines itself on its website as a “rapidly growing network of pro-liberty students from all over the world,” and said his politics are focused on tolerance.
“I am someone who values acceptance at all levels, whether it’s you want to own a gun, you want to get married, you want to smoke weed ... I’m tolerant,” he said. “So long as you’re tolerant of my beliefs, I’ll be tolerant of yours.”
Parts of Morris’s political philosophy seems bound to conflict with that of Tucker, who has been at the police department for 32 years and has been chief for five. Asked about his competition, Morris said Tucker seems like a “nice guy.” He said it’s healthy to have more than one person on the ballot.
Tucker, too, said he thinks having multiple people run for office benefits the public.
“Whenever anybody’s interested in putting their name into the political arena, I think it serves the public interest,” Tucker said. “I applaud him for doing the work. I know what it takes to go out there and get the signatures.”
Tucker intends to remain police chief while he campaigns.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at email@example.com.
Police chief v. state rep salaries