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Outgoing Western Mass. State Senator Hinds endorses fellow Berkshire delegation member State Rep. Mark to succeed him

State Senator Adam Hinds holds a microphone at an outdoor event.
Becki Joppru Connolly

After three two-year terms, Democratic Massachusetts State Senator Adam Hinds of the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district is not seeking re-election. His effort to make the September 6th primary ballot for lieutenant governor failed when he fell short in delegate support at the Democratic state convention in June. This week, he endorsed fellow Berkshire legislative delegation member State Representative Paul Mark in the race to fill his seat. Mark has represented the 2nd Berkshire district since 2011, and has already received the support of the rest of the all-Democrat Berkshire delegation. WAMC spoke with Hinds about the endorsement and his advice for representing Western Massachusetts on Beacon Hill.

HINDS: I've had the pleasure of working with him for now six years, and even before that, as well. And you get to see a couple of key features that we need in our legislative representatives in this region, you know. So, one who knows how to engage with colleagues from across the commonwealth- just last week I was with him in Berkshire County with a state senator, chair of the Transportation Committee, and he's already reaching out to folks to say, look, I'm going to stand up for my region. And that's a key part of it. I think what's critical is, as you know and talked about, he's, you know, lived in a small town most of his life. And so he understands that dynamic as well. This is a district that currently is 52 towns, soon to be 57- Well, including two cities. And so you need to understand what that means when you're coming from a small and rural area as well. So that's another piece. He's got the lived experience. And he's just so strong on labor and working families. Everything that he does has that thread coming through it, and that's also what we need in this moment in time. And so those are just some of the examples of why he's the right choice.

WAMC: What are the issues you would say he needs to focus on as quickly as possible should he win the election in November?

You know, we've been focused on making sure we get our fundamentals right. That's why I've been focusing on transportation connections for the region and our school aid and making sure that, you know, our small schools and rural schools have the attention they need. I think getting those fundamentals right is critical. We've been working on the kind of other kind of ways that we're going to come out of the pandemic stronger, and that includes a lot of workforce development needs. And so, you know, there are some top level items that are certainly raising to the top and he's been strong and every single one of them and involved in them. So he really brings that experience to know what's needed on day one.

Mark faces a challenge from Huff Templeton of Williamstown in the Democratic primary and independent Brendan Phair in the general election. There's a running theme in Massachusetts politics that often candidates are not challenged, and we've seen the entire Berkshire delegation at this point fall in line behind Paul Mark. Can you speak a little bit to that dynamic of having a healthy democratic process of well contested races versus, sort of, the delegation falling in line behind their own- Who, at this point, you know, Mark's been in office for over a decade. Talk to me about that dynamic.

Yeah, I agree that it's important that we do have competitive elections. I think I was slightly concerned that we would see another race without any political dialogue. So I'm glad that others have thrown their hat in. And it speaks to the challenge of this district as well, to be quite honest. It's a large district and it's the furthest away from the state capitol. And so you know, when your own state senate district is the size of Rhode Island in terms of square miles and it requires going back and forth to Boston, it doesn't mean that we have a long list of folks stepping up, and so- But look, you know, we've got the right guy. And so Paul Mark is, he understands how to operate in the State House. I've seen it firsthand. He's been engaging and won the respect of leadership. And so he's really going to step right in and do a great job in the Senate.

What have you learned from representing a region that, as you've just underscored, is the farthest from Beacon Hill literally, and many could say, looking at population numbers, looking at the economy, certainly is also far away from the eastern portion of the state. What have you learned from that that you would want to impress on to whoever succeeds you next year?

You know, we've really been very deliberate in saying, how do we shift the, you know, the policy choices or the budget formulas so that they take into account our unique challenges. And this has been true for everything from our school funding to economic development and housing funding and really down the line- Transportation infrastructure. We've been working with, you know, other partners, including the auditor- I was just on a tour yesterday with the auditor exploring some public safety buildings, because there's a recognition that the state has not stepped up for some basic infrastructure investment in our region. And guess what, you know, we've seen that the implication of that is that we've- Two of the counties, the only two counties experiencing population decline are in this senate district: Berkshire and Franklin County. And so, you know, really, it means standing up and making sure that folks understand that these regions need to be treated differently, and being creative in how we do that, whether it's, like I said, funding and budget formulas or policy choices and so, you know, that's a big one. Paul's already understood that. As I mentioned earlier, he's already engaging Senate colleagues and making sure they're seeing firsthand. To this day – this is my sixth year – to this day, I have Senate colleagues who still remind me of the time I brought them out to the district to show them that cell phone coverage and some of those basics are a real challenge. It was at a time when a large number of towns didn't have high speed internet. And when they see firsthand that there is real disparities and that there is a real gap, then they don't think twice about stepping up to support major state investments in this area. So that's a big one for me.

During the Charlie Baker era, you played a complicated game where at times you were deeply critical of the Republican, and other times, you were close to make sure that there was open dialogue between this part of the state and the governor's office. It looks like from polling, Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey is, as of summer 2022, the most likely next Governor of the state- How different is it going to be for Paul Mark should he succeed you to have a Democrat in office compared to Baker?

It’s a big difference. Look, we've we have this challenge of, the legislature authorizes spending, but then oftentimes, we have to go hat in hand to the administration either to release those funds to our region or shift programs in our direction. And so, that's a, there, you're putting your finger on an underlying dynamic, which is you do need to have those positive relationships for shifting state funding in our direction. That said, when there are differences, you shouldn't be shy to point those out. And, you know, that's also how you stand up for the region and for policy choices that we would prefer. And so, you know, it's, I've never had a problem doing that. It's a part of how we govern. And you're right, it will be it's a rare thing that we have a Democrat in the corner office in Massachusetts. And so I am a little upset that I'll be missing that dynamic, but, you know, we'll see. I think it's great news that we're working on getting the governor out here- Excuse me, gubernatorial candidate out here soon, and making sure that Maura Healey really is well versed and briefed on all the critical issues for Western Mass as well.

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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