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Pittsfield City Councilor Launches Bid For Massachusetts House Seat

A Pittsfield city councilor has launched a bid for a state representative seat 10 days after being sworn into his third term.Standing on the steps of Pittsfield City Hall Thursday, Christopher Connell announced that he is running for the Massachusetts House.

“This city needs more funding for infrastructure repairs and for our educational needs such as alternative schooling and adjustment councilors,” Connell said in his prepared remarks. “We also need to explore options of regionalization with neighboring communities due to shrinking populations and increasing costs.”

If elected to the State House, Connell says he plans to continue serving as a city councilor.

“As a councilor I’m kind of in a box,” Connell said. “And I keep hitting the top of that box and I can’t do any more for the city. I can submit petitions. I can form study groups. But the bottom line is it really comes down to funding and we need to get much of this funding at the state level or have somebody advocate for that funding. And that hasn’t been done.”

Democrat Tricia Farley-Bouvier is seeking her third full term as the 3rd Berkshire District representative. She ran unopposed in 2012 and 2014 after narrowly winning a 2011 special election. A former Pittsfield city councilor herself, Farley-Bouvier says being in municipal and state government at the same time is not feasible so far from Boston.

“It is indeed legal to collect both those paychecks, but when you represent someplace in the Berkshires it’s not possible to do both those jobs well,” Farley-Bouvier said. “So he’s either fooling himself or he’s fooling the voters.”

Saying he’s gotten the OK to hold both offices from the state ethics commission, Connell says he believes he can logistically handle it. 

“I want to provide a direct link from local government to state government,” Connell said. “I want a local voice in the State House.”

Connell’s plan is not without precedent, though it is rare. Timothy Toomey Jr. has been a Cambridge city councilor and a state representative since the 1990s. Connell, a former city council vice president who’s worked as a regional manager for Cumberland Farms and in real estate, says he is running as an independent for the time being. He represents Ward 4 on the city council and one of his constituents happens to be Farley-Bouvier. So what are Connell’s thoughts about the work of the current state representative?

“If I didn’t feel I could do it, be a more valuable source for the city, I wouldn’t run for office and I’ll leave it at that,” said Connell.

Farley-Bouvier, who worked in Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto’s administration, has spent much of her time as a state representative working on social and economic justice issues. She serves on two joint committees: Mental Health and Substance Abuse and Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

“My record is a strong one,” Farley-Bouvier said. “I ran four years ago on making government accessible. State government happens right here in Pittsfield. I want people to be really involved and know that they have good representation. I think I work on issues that are important to the people of the commonwealth and Berkshire County. I think I reflect the views of my constituents. I listen well. I’m out with people as much as I possibly can and people know that they can reach me with the concerns that they have.”

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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