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Democratic House Candidates Spar Over Experience In Pittsfield

The Berkshire Brigades sponsored the debate between Mike Bloomberg and Tricia Farley-Bouvier at Berkshire Community College.
Jim Levulis
The Berkshire Brigades sponsored the debate between Mike Bloomberg and Tricia Farley-Bouvier at Berkshire Community College.

Pittsfield State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier is facing a challenge in September’s Democratic primary. The two candidates debated on Thursday.“My name is Mike Bloomberg and I grew up here in Pittsfield,” the challenger said in his opening statement. “I went to Pittsfield High and the University of Massachusetts. And like an ever-increasing number of young adults I left this city and sought opportunity elsewhere.”

The fact that Bloomberg has spent a good portion of his life away from the city he is looking to represent in the State House was the most contentious part of Thursday’s debate at Berkshire Community College. For clarification, Bloomberg and the former New York City mayor of the same name are first cousins once removed. Farley-Bouvier is a longtime area educator and served on the Pittsfield City Council.  Seeking her third full term in the State House, Farley-Bouvier says the race comes down to experience, questioning her opponent’s.

“He puts it out there, it’s on LinkedIn,” Farley-Bouvier said. “It indicates some really impressive internship placements. The Olympics, Bloomberg Sports, Bloomberg News. Good places to be, but certainly not opportunities that most kids in Pittsfield might have the privilege of accessing. Looking further we note that Mr. Bloomberg hasn’t retained any paid employment for more than eight months. You look at Michael’s experience in the city that he wants to represent, it’s almost nonexistent. He’s only lived here for a few months and it appears that he came back to Pittsfield for the sole purpose of running for office.”

In response, Bloomberg says he is running for office to give Pittsfield residents the opportunities he had. In defense of his employment, he says worked for a startup hedge fund called Kora and also held a position at the financial institution Bridgewater Associates.

“In Boston and in effectiveness, you have not passed a single bill yet,” Bloomberg said. “You have brought back less money to this district than any of your other fellow representatives through personal budget amendments in five years. So I think it is incredibly important that we do look at the resume.”

Both candidates are advocating “progressive” issues and tend to agree on the state’s major political topics. They oppose lifting the cap on charter schools and support paid family leave and Attorney General Maura Healey’s ban on so-called “copycat” assault weapons. Both say they support renewable energy, with Farley-Bouvier adding that Massachusetts needs to ban hydrofracking. To spur economic development in Pittsfield, Bloomberg says education needs to be the focus.

“The number one thing that I will be advocating for in Boston my first two years that I believe is attainable is necessary funding for lengthening the school day at our two community schools, Morningside and Conte,” Bloomberg said. “It’s very plain and simple. I’m not going to dance around this issue. Economic development does not happen without strong communities. The number one way to build a strong community is with strong schools and it starts in the neighborhoods that have been left behind the longest and with the people who have been left behind the longest.”

Farley-Bouvier says there is more of a wage problem than a jobs problem.

“We should be and we have started to target particular professions, for example early educators and healthcare workers,” Farley-Bouvier said. “To raise their wages specifically because those are skilled workers beyond the entry level.”

The difference between the two candidates seems to center around experience and approach. Farley-Bouvier pointed to her relationship with House Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“We have been able, especially over the last two years when I have sort of taken on the co-chairmanship of the progressive caucus, we have proven to him [DeLeo] that we are reliable, we can get him good information and we can deliver votes for him when he needs them,” Farley-Bouvier said. “For example, the progressive caucus worked very hard, diligently and quite frankly creatively when it came to passing the transgender public accommodations act, something he very much wanted to pass and it was very difficult to get the votes for that.”

Bloomberg says he doesn’t agree with the “trading votes” attitude. 

“It’s about working together that shows what we do when you help us in Boston it pays dividends,” Bloomberg said. “It’s going to bring a return to our community. You have to show that it works. That’s how you get things passed. That’s how we need to function in Boston.”

Farley-Bouvier and Bloomberg are facing off in the September 8th primary. Pittsfield City Councilor Chris Connell is running as an independent for the 3rd Berkshire District seat.

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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