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Western Mass. Voters Face Primaries For Senator, Rep. And Sheriff

Voters in Western Massachusetts are deciding which Democrat they want to send to the general election in the races for state senate and state representative on today’s rare Thursday primary.Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds are seeking the Democratic nomination in the state senate race. Democrat Ben Downing is retiring after 10 years representing the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district. Hinds has worked in community development in Pittsfield and North Adams since returning to the area after 10 years of conflict negotiation with the United Nations. He’s drawn the support of Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright and former Congressman John Olver.

“People are excited about my seriousness about inspiring,” Hinds said. “Politics is inspiring and not negative. It’s a focus on taking on the big issues and leaning forward as we can from this district and this commonwealth. That’s what’s exciting. That’s why I got into this race and I’m really looking forward to Thursday.”

Harrington, an attorney from Richmond, is backed by a number of unions, but not as many major political names as Hinds. Harrington says her experience is what sets her apart from the two other candidates.

“I understand what the voters of this district are going through because I go through it too,” Harrington said. “I’m grappling with how do I raise my family here where we have a really tough economy. I have kids in public school and I’m frustrated by the culture of testing. When I’m working with my clients in the courts I see how people are really struggling. So I have the personal experience where I really get it, I can relate and I can bring those stories to Boston to really effectively advocate for us.”

Del Gallo, an attorney who has spent time working on environmental issues in Pittsfield, is open about being a political outsider. He calls himself a Bernie Sanders progressive. The three candidates agree on most of the major issues, all taking largely liberal stances. They support Attorney General Maura Healey’s so-called crackdown on assault weapons, they want to lift the solar net metering cap, raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and support some form of progressive income tax. However, Del Gallo says his outspoken opposition of a now suspended natural gas pipeline and his support for more wind turbines in the Berkshires set him apart.

“I’m about leadership,” Del Gallo said. “I’m the guy that said ‘no’ to the pipeline immediately, I’m for wind energy and I’m serious about global warming. If you’re against wind energy in the Berkshires how dare you hold yourself out as someone that is serious about global warming or an environmentalist. They’re not environmentalists and they’re not serious about global warming.”

Meanwhile, incumbent Pittsfield State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier is being challenged by fellow Democrat Mike Bloomberg. Both share similar stances on the main political issues so the division has really come down to experience. Seeking her third full term, Farley-Bouvier touts her commitment to Pittsfield, having served on the city council and taught in the region, while questioning Bloomberg’s dedication.

“We note that Mr. Bloomberg hasn’t retained any paid employment for more than eight months,” Farley-Bouvier said during an August 11th debate. “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.”

Bloomberg has defended his history, saying he’s been presented with and taken advantage of many opportunities which he hopes to provide Pittsfield residents. Meanwhile, Bloomberg has challenged Farley-Bouvier’s effectiveness during her time in the State House.

“In Boston and in effectiveness, you have not passed a single bill yet,” Bloomberg said during the same debate. “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.”

Republican Christine Canning is running for the state senate seat and independent Pittsfield City Councilor Chris Connell is running for state representative.

In Hampden County, Democrats Tom Ashe, Mike Albano and Nick Cocchi are running for an open seat. Democratic Sheriff Mike Ashe is retiring after 40 years. Republican John Comerford and independent James Gill are also running. Sheriff Ashe has endorsed Cocchi.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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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