By Michael Bonner, South Coast Today. July 27, 2018.
NEW BEDFORD — When Bob Koczera was first elected as a public official in 1984, Chris Hendricks was about a year old.
In September, Hendricks will experience his first election in a primary for the 11th Bristol District, a seat currently held by Koczera.
“I always saw myself getting into politics in one way or another at some point,” Hendricks said. “I didn’t expect it to be this soon, but with all that’s happened since 2015 and 16 with Donald Trump and, in my opinion, rise of national populism, I think we’re heading into a very scary point right now. I wasn’t going to be comfortable not doing anything.”
Koczera’s service to New Bedford began with a spot on the City Council from 1984 to 1989. He then won the 11th Bristol District in 1989, serving the near North End and Acushnet. He’s held that position since.
Hendricks, a graduate of New Bedford High School, Temple University and UMass Law, shares some of the same values as Koczera, but doesn’t believe he is progressive enough.
While both agree on the importance of education and making it affordable, Koczera doesn’t support free college tuition. Hendricks, though, believes free college tuition should be available at least for public schools. He extends his platform to include universal pre-k schooling.
“The fact that we’re in 2018 and we’re still struggling, we’re still debating things like universal health care and free college tuition, at least on the public level, I think is absurd,” Hendricks said. “I don’t think we have a strong voice in that realm.”
Hendricks is an attorney representing injured workers at the Department of Industrial Accidents. He’s also member of both the Massachusetts and Bristol County Bar associations.
Hendricks said he’s also known in downtown New Bedford from when he worked at Cork for nearly a decade.
“I thought where I come from, as far as being a working class person and representing working class people, I thought running for office would be the best thing how I could help particularly in these times,” Hendricks said.
More than 30 years into public service, Koczera said he still believes he’s creating change.
“I’m excited about the job that I do,” Koczera said. “A lot of the legislation I sponsor and I work towards doesn’t necessarily originate with me but (with constituents).”
Through his time as state representative, Koczera is proud of what he’s done to help seniors, adult learners and younger students as well.
“I’ve always been interested in community service,” Koczera said. “I have a record of that.”
Voters will decide how strong that record is on Sept. 4, the Tuesday after Labor Day.
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 6.