Rep. Mark will seek Hinds’ open Mass. State Senate seat in 2022
Last week, Democratic Massachusetts State Senator Adam Hinds of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district announced that he would run for Lieutenant Governor in 2022. Now, a familiar face has emerged as a candidate to fill Hinds’ Senate seat: 2nd Berkshire District Democratic State Representative Paul Mark. With the results of the 2020 census in, Mark’s sprawling rural district that bridges Berkshire and Franklin Counties will be eliminated as Massachusetts redraws state and Congressional district lines. In an exclusive interview with WAMC, Mark explained why he’s running for Senate – and who he’s backing in the 2022 Democratic primary for governor.
MARK: I'm really happy to tell you today for the first time out of my own lips that I will be announcing my candidacy for State Senate in the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District, which is going to be 57 communities. And so the reason I'm running is because the work I've been doing in the legislature isn't done ye, and the work of this region isn't done yet. And it's such an amazing opportunity to try to work together for the entire county, and for all four counties of the region to try to make sure that our voices are heard. And I think a lot of the work I've been doing over the past 10 years, and most specifically, during the four years that I was chair of redistricting, and really taking a lot of time to try to promote that census, was just making sure that our voice, our rural voice, our Western Massachusetts voice is never forgotten in Boston, and also never forgotten in Washington and trying to maximize the impact of that voice. And so moving over to the Senate is going to be, I hope, a really great opportunity to continue that work and to continue with a bigger platform, a platform that extends across all communities in Berkshire County, and a platform that includes the ability of being one of a chamber that only has 40 members- So, where everybody has, I think, a more equal voice, and a voice where you can really put your stamp and your region’s stamp on some of the amazing, important policy decisions that are going to be before us in the coming years.
WAMC: Now, in the musical chairs of Western Massachusetts politics, the current state senator, Mr. Adam Hinds, is now running for lieutenant governor in next year's election. What's your report card on three terms of Senator Hinds in the role that you seek to fill?
I think Adam has been really accessible as a senator. I think he's done a good job making sure that all of the 52 current communities recognize that he was available and accessible to them and that no community was left behind. And I also think one of the most important things he's worked on was probably his work on the rural school aid, trying to make sure that adequate funding was coming to our most rural communities and our smallest towns that are facing incredible obstacles, trying to keep either their local schools open or trying to fund their local school programs to make sure their students are getting the same quality education that every kid in this state should be entitled to. And like, those are two of the things that as a senator, I really want to try to pick up and run with. I partnered with Adam on the rural school aid, as have all the members of the Western Massachusetts delegation, and I want to continue that work over in the Senate. And then with the 57 communities in the town, 57 cities and towns in the senate district, I want to be as accessible and available to people, as I think Adam has been and Senator [Ben] Downing before him and as I think I've been over in the house. I've always taken a lot of pride in the fact that when I go to any one of the 29 communities that I've represented over the last 10 years in Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties, that they feel like I'm their rep, and also the other towns’ rep. Like, I go to the small town of Rowe with like 350 people and their little information that they hand out when I was coming to an event would say Rowe’s Representative Paul Mark. And that always meant a lot to me. Coming from a town of fewer than 1,000 people, it's really easy to feel like you're not being effectively listened to. And so I want to keep that going and keep that voice really intact as we move into this campaign.
The Western Massachusetts delegation is a small and tight knit group that rarely faces substantive political challenges, certainly over the last few cycles. What was the conversation like behind the scenes when it became clear that both Mr. Hinds had ambitions to run for a statewide office like lieutenant governor and that your district would be essentially erased in the coming redistricting?
So the most important thing throughout this census and redistricting process was to make sure that the voice of this region remained as strong as possible. And when we talk about redistricting, it's really important to say that I think the entire delegation feels this. Redistricting isn't about protecting an incumbent. It's not about making a certain rep or a certain senator have the towns they want. It's about making sure that these communities have the voice they deserve, and a voice that is going to hear them and that is going to be effective down in Boston and in Congress as well at the at the national level. And so the conversations began as we realized Adam was probably going to make this move to lieutenant governor, we started hearing traffic that the senate district itself was actually on the chopping block out here in Western Massachusetts. And I know these numbers very well, having done so much work with the census- The growth in the state was in Boston and in the communities surrounding Boston. And while Berkshire County did a great job turning out in the census, and we beat the expectations, in the end, we're still a region where the population isn't robust and is in this very small level of decline. And so it became a real possibility. We started hearing that our district was going to be split in half, our county was going be split in half. Half of it would go with the senate district based in Northampton, and half of it would go with the senate district in Westfield. And we all worked together as a delegation – and this includes every one of the senators, Adam [Hinds] and the other members of the senate delegation in Western Massachusetts – to make sure that that didn't happen. And so that was a part of the reason that I decided I needed to make this move to try to help preserve that voice. And then on the House side, you almost play chicken with the two committees. You’re trying to not let the people in Boston know what's happening, which is part of why I've been so vague as we've moved through this process and as the press has contacted me to try to figure out what I'm what I'm doing and what everybody's intentions are. And so now we're in a point where the public comment period is still open, but it's ending today. And because of what is being heard, I'm afraid that the city of Greenfield that I currently represent might be split in half. And so we're trying to work together now to try to prevent that from happening and keeping the city of Greenfield whole. But so, a lot going on. And I think we were in in a far better position than we were 10 years ago, when we knew the state was losing a member of the congressional delegation. And of course, when cuts come, they almost inevitably come to Western Massachusetts. And I think the fact that our delegation is close knit and did work together, is going to result in the senate district being preserved, and for Berkshire County, specifically, that we're going to have three districts in the house that are exclusively and entirely within the boundaries of Berkshire County. That means focused representation dedicated to the people of this county.
Now, when it comes to representing Western Mass on Beacon Hill, a lot of eyes are on the Democratic primary for governor, which of course features a Western Massachusetts native: Ben Downing. At this point, do you have a sense of who you might back in the Democratic primary heading into 2022?
I plan on supporting Ben Downing, I think Ben Downing was a great colleague, he was a great senator when I first got into office. And it's always funny- I say this, recognizing that I think he's a year younger than me, he was someone that I had looked up to for a number of years as a young person getting involved and taking that chance at a young age to run for office and really kind of inspired me. And when you get elected, you kind of look to your neighbors. I had someone give me this really good advice: pick like three or four members of the legislature that you think do a good job, and then you try to conduct yourself in the same manner. And Ben was always one of those five people that I that I looked to and tried to emulate. So I think it would be great if he ended up in that corner office, because the ability of Berkshire County and Western Mass to have a voice like that in the governor's office- I mean, we saw with Governor [Deval] Patrick how powerful that can be. And so as we sit here looking at the field right now, Ben would be my obvious choice.
Mr. Mark, what are your promises to the folks of this senate district? If you make it to that next level up in in governance here in Massachusetts, what are you going to bring to the folks in Western Massachusetts?
So the only promise I can ever make is that you will never have anyone work harder than me to fight for you. And I think I've proven that over the past 10 years in the House. I put over 60,000 miles a year on my car making sure that I'm available in every one of these communities as often as possible to make sure that your voice is being heard. And I think I have a track record of showing what I plan on continuing to fight for. And so I think I've been a champion for labor and working families, I've been a champion for trying to promote economic development and workforce development. I've been a champion for education, and that includes higher education. It includes rural funding, and it includes more and more, I think, the idea that childcare and early education is something so important to both workforce development and to the foundation that a child gets, that is going to be with them and help them throughout their educational experience. And then I've always tried to be a champion for the environment. And when you look at Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts, what's bigger, what's better, and what's more important to us than keeping this beautiful, clean region that way and available to people into the future. And so protecting the environment, not only does it mean keeping what we have in good shape, it means planning for the future, and finding jobs in renewable energy and in the green jobs sector that are going to be available as we move forward. And then all of this I think ties in as well with health care, trying to make sure that people understand health care should be a right. Health care helps with entrepreneurship, it helps with job opportunities. And it even helps with educational opportunities, because how many people don't strike out on something, whether it's striking out on their own as a business or taking a chance on maybe a college or workforce training opportunity, because they're afraid of losing that healthcare? So that's the promises. What you're going to have from me is, you've seen my record, I'm always going to stand up for what I believe in, which is the needs of this region, which is the needs of the average person, which is making sure that no person's voice is left behind, and that nobody's going work harder to make sure that our voice is heard.