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  • Ben Berke - The Enterprise

Staffer announces campaign to succeed retiring Stoughton Rep. Kafka

BOSTON — With longtime state Rep. Lou Kafka planning to retire in 2021, the Stoughton Democrat’s staff director has mounted a campaign to succeed him at the helm of the 8th Norfolk district, where competitive elections have been few and far between since Kafka won his own boss’s former seat in 1990.

So far the only candidate in a race 11 months out from election day, Ted Philips officially announced his campaign last week, citing 13 years of experience on Kafka’s staff as an advantage toward solving what he called a “legislative bottleneck” at the State House.

Kafka, who announced his retirement earlier this month, said the district hasn’t seen a competitive election since he defeated a Republican challenger in 1992 during his first term as an elected official. Prior to taking office, Kafka worked for more than a decade as chief of staff for Bill Keating, a future U.S. Congressman who represented the 8th Norfolk district during the early 1980s.

Philips said Kafka’s accessibility played a key role in maintaining his strong standing in the district, which includes all of Sharon and parts of Stoughton, Mansfield and Walpole. A regular at Sharon’s downtown coffee shop throughout the location’s numerous turnovers — from Starbucks to French Memories to Angel’s Café — Philips said constituents always knew where to find Kafka in the mornings before he drove into the State House.

In a recent interview, Philips said he plans to be “even more accessible” than Kafka.

“In the 30 years since Lou first ran, constituent services have evolved greatly,” Philips said. “It’s my intention to be more active across social media. I will do everything in my power to go and reach the constituents where they are.”

In his campaign announcement, Philips cited transportation, elder care and economic development among his legislative priorities.

“I’ll be able to move bills faster than people who are just getting there and still learning the process,” Philips said. “There’s no job training with me.”

A graduate of the Sharon Public Schools, Philips said he studied political science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and briefly worked for State Sen. Stephen Brewer of Barre before joining Kafka’s staff in 2006. Philips had been a childhood friend of one of Kafka’s sons.

Kafka said he is retiring to spend more time with family, including children who live in Israel. He said he does not plan to seek higher office.

“Over the last thirty years, my career in the Massachusetts House of Representatives has not been focused on affecting seismic shifts in policy, but on righting specific wrongs within our system of government to make very real, meaningful changes for marginalized groups of citizens within our Commonwealth,” he said in a statement that announced he would not seek re-election. “And we’ve had great success - since I took office, nursing homes that provide kosher meals are reimbursed for the extra cost they incur, phosphates are banned from soap detergent in order to protect our lakes, rivers, and streams from contamination, patients suffering from Crohn’s disease can access a bathroom in the event of an imminent attack, and if you’re a child afflicted by cleft palate or cleft lip, your health insurance has to cover your treatment.”

During his last year as a division leader in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Kafka said he hopes to pass an end-of-life bill that would legalize medically-assisted suicide for some terminally ill patients.

Kafka said Philips would make a “tremendous legislator,” citing his insider understanding of how laws and budgets get finished.

“I think I entered the legislature maybe a little more idealistic than Ted is, not that he doesn’t have ideals,” Kafka said. “It didn’t take me long to realize that it was a lot better to be a realist than a idealist.”


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