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Berkshire Republicans Discuss Midterm Candidates, Issues

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With all the talk about a possible “blue wave” in Tuesday’s midterms, Republicans in some heavily-Democratic parts of the Northeast — like western Massachusetts — are hoping to secure victories wherever they can. Back in April, WAMC spoke with a handful of the county’s Republicans at the party’s state convention in Worcester. Just before Election Day, WAMC checked back in.

Registered Republicans account for less than 9 percent of the Berkshire electorate — around just 7,700 voters. That’s just below average for the rest of Massachusetts, where the party’s roughly 470,000 registered voters reflect around 10 percent of total voters. 

“I personally think I take the view of George Washington. He always said the mistake of a country will be to vote only based on political party. Really we should be voting on what’s the best interest of the country, and that’s how I go," said Christine Canning-Wilson, a Republican who ran against Democrat Adam Hinds for State Senate in 2016 and Democrat John Barrett for State Representative a year later. WAMC spoke with her back in April at the state convention. This year, no Republicans are standing in local elections.

“Currently I’m the GOP treasurer for the GOP party in Lanesborough,” she told WAMC.

Canning-Wilson, who describes herself as a fiscal conservative with progressive social views, says she won’t be voting the party line.

“I am not voting for Charlie Baker, nor have I offered any support TO Charlie Baker,” said Canning-Wilson.

Saying the incumbent Republican governor was too distant from the Berkshires, Canning-Wilson gave her nod to challenger Jay Gonzalez.

“He only seems to come around when it’s voting time, and personally I would like to give the Democrat the choice to be our next leader,” she told WAMC.

“I’m happy to support Governor Baker again," said Steven Miller. Another Berkshire Republican WAMC met in April, Miller has no such qualms with the first-term governor.

“I think he’s doing a great job in the state, showing how we can work on initiatives that both sides can support,” he told WAMC.

Miller says the biggest change he’s seen over the course of the election is the tone of the nation’s political discourse. He says the Kavanaugh hearings were an example of both ends of the political spectrum falling short.

“Looking at how there was a rush to publish stories without always substantiating them and there was a willingness on one side to ignore due process and on another side to rush to a vote," said Miller. "I think that disgusted Americans on both sides.”

The two Republicans found common ground on U.S. Senate hopeful Geoff Diehl, who faces incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

“He’s a solid person, he offers more of a Republican financial background for sure,” said Canning-Wilson.

“I’ve actually been fortunate enough to meet him," said Miller. “I’ve loved what he’s done to support the hardworking taxpayers of Massachusetts and hope he has the opportunity to do that at the national level.”

In a key race where the roles of politics and party have been hotly contested, some Berkshire Republicans have chosen to back independent write-in candidate and incumbent District Attorney Paul Caccaviello. He lost the Democratic primary to Andrea Harrington. Kathryn Mickle represents the Berkshire County Republican Association. The group officially endorsed Caccaviello in October, but Mickle says she was part of the initial group that organized Caccaviello’s general election bid.

“I was invited personally and two other people on our board were invited to sit in on the initial meeting to see if we would be able to be interested in supporting him if there was a write-in campaign,” said Mickle.

She agreed to join the write-in campaign movement, and days later, helped pitch it to Caccaviello.

“We presented as a group of Republicans, Democrats, and unenrolled a request for him to allow us to do a write-in campaign,” she told WAMC.

Later, at the Berkshire County Republican Association’s October board meeting, the rest of the group that represents “a couple hundred” Republican voters followed Mickle in backing Caccaviello.

“Because of his experience, because of his ability to do the job, because of his passion for helping victims in Berkshire County,” explained Mickle.

Mickle held the party line when asked about the possibility of a “blue wave.” 

“I am optimistic that there will be a possible red wave,” she told WAMC.

While Mickle declined to speak for the Association at large or for Republicans in the county on the ballot questions voters will decide Tuesday, the group’s Facebook page has encouraged a “no” vote on question three – a move that would repeal a 2016 law signed into law by Baker prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in the commonwealth. That puts the group at odds with fellow Republican Canning-Wilson, who sharply criticizes efforts to buck the law.

“There’s no difference between the segregation laws of Jim Crow when they separated bathrooms between whites and people of color then there is today of people who are heterosexual separating themselves from people who may not be heterosexual," said Canning-Wilson. "So I am Republican, and I am supporting the transgender community.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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