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Lavery to challenge Pignatelli for Mass. state rep. as Green-Rainbow candidate

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Michael Lavery
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Michael Lavery.

A Becket, Massachusetts select board member is hoping to unseat the longest-standing member of the Berkshire County state legislative delegation. 51-year-old Michael Lavery is representing the Green-Rainbow party in his bid against Democrat Smitty Pignatelli, who has represented the Southern Berkshires since 2003. The race is in the 3rd Berkshire District following the latest round of redistricting.

A member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Lavery says frustration with the Democratic Party on both the national and state level following the 2020 primaries led him to the Green-Rainbow camp. Lavery tells WAMC that a vote for him is a vote for truth and transparency on Beacon Hill.

LAVERY: We currently don't have a roll call vote system in place. At the town level, I'm expected to provide full meeting minutes and the votes are recorded due to the Open Meeting Law, but at the state level, it's just not as cut and dry. And in 2022, I think we could provide the citizens of the commonwealth with the votes that their elected officials make at the committee level and the full House and Senate level. So that's one thing. I think that there's a gap in the light between my opponent – or the current person holding the seat – and myself. I also want to note that when this vote came up, none of the Berkshire delegates voted for open a system of government.

WAMC: You're running against incumbent Smitty Pignatelli. This is someone who's spent a long time in office and has a lot of local sway. What do you think your pitch would be to voters that you'd be the better option than him in this coming election?

You know, Smitty’s a great guy. And we've worked together in issues at the town level, for the spring that was going to be closed down and did eventually get closed. But it was a controversial issue. And he helped. I mean, there were citizens calling his office. So he's been a good guy, and I respect him. And I can't compete with being in a Norman Rockwell painting and his integration with the towns in his district. But I am a newcomer to the Berkshires. I've lived here for 12 years. I think I've learned a lot in the five years that I've been a select board member. We have a lot of the issues that the hill towns around Becket also share- Namely Chapter 90 funds, which are the roads and bridges and things and culverts that we have to rely on. We get a lot of use, and we have unique issues. The hills put a lot of strain on our system, and heavy snows in the wintertime, so, I know that the current representatives and senators are working on that, and it's a tough road to hoe. But I would continue that process. The unique issues of the Berkshires are that we live in a beautiful part of the country and it's spread out. But we also need to have a 9 to 5, 24 hours a day computer service that it's reliable and high speed. And that's come a long way since I first took office. Even Becket, I think it's the last town to get high speed, but we are almost 85% of the way there and we'll be there by the end of the year or beginning of next year. So that's great, too. I think going forward we'll have to look at climate change and resiliency and renewable energy and electric vehicles are taking the forefront as President Biden and the federal level has pushed that as a new goal. Becket's ready and on board with that. We have four EV parking spaces at the town hall. We hope to add more hybrid vehicles to our fleet. We got one through a grant for a police cruiser, it's a hybrid. And we'll continue to do that every year if we can get that same grant. So this is some of the things I learned at this local level and I’d continue at the state level.

You're running as a Green-Rainbow candidate, which means you won't have to primary Smitty.

Yeah.

Beyond that, what's the significance of that decision? What does the party mean to you?

So, thanks Josh. Yeah, I'm really passionate about it. I don't want to lambast the Democratic Party, but I was a Democrat for 30 years, so I must have seen something that kept me there. But in the past few years, there was issues with the federal Democratic National Committee not playing fair with some candidates, namely Bernie Sanders, at the presidential level in both 2016 and 2020, and also the state level, at the commonwealth, holder of the chair of the Democratic level. Gus Bickford was not playing fair when Alex Morse ran against Richie Neal and they not personally slandered his name, but they did, they were complicit by providing legal names of lawyers for the folks who dragged Alex Morse’s name through the mud. So I- That really didn't sit well with me and I left the party, and Green-Rainbow has always been appealing to me. And when I look at all the planks on their platform, it resonates with me, and I'm going forward with the Green-Rainbow Party for the next half of my life. Hopefully I live that long.

Now you're also a member of the Berkshire chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Tell me- What does that mean to you?

I joined the Democratic Socialists when I lived in Springfield in 2008. So I've been a longtime DSA member. The Berkshire chapter, when it came about, was something that I jumped right into and signed as a chapter member when they ratified their bylaws and I've been with them since day one. So, you know, before Bernie was a big DSA guy, I was already on board. The politics and what they stand for- The workers’ rights and labor is big with Democratic Socialists, and it's just a great system. They want things to be for the people and by the people. That doesn't mean seizing the means of power, like some versions of socialism, it's more of a, the workers should be part and parcel of the process. And places like Ben and Jerry's that, in Vermont, share their profits with the workers and all of the folks have a say in how things are operating- That sort of democratic socialism. A Norway version, not Venezuela. If there was a Democratic Socialist Party, I would be on board, but the Green-Rainbow is as close as I can get in Massachusetts as an officially designated party.

Mike, any last words on your candidacy that you want people to understand as you head out on the campaign trail?

Yeah, I'm at MichaelLavery.com, and folks can visit my website there. The issues are out in the open. I'm for lowering the number of folks in jail for small petty drug crimes. That means decriminalizing drugs at the Portugal and how Oregon, with Measure 110, has shown good progress getting people into treatment instead of into jails. I do want to see us go to carbon neutral or carbon zero by 2050. And I hope that folks will hear those things and it will resonate with them and I can count on their vote in November.

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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