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Taking on Rep. Mark in the primary, Templeton lays out case to replace Hinds in Mass. State Senate

Huff Templeton

Western Massachusetts state Senator Adam Hinds is wrapping up three terms representing the sprawling, rural Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district. He did not run for re-election, instead mounting an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor. In the race to replace him, fellow Democrat 2nd Berkshire District State Representative Paul Mark has received Hinds’ endorsement, along with the rest of the county’s statehouse delegation. He faces Huff Templeton in the September 6th primary. Templeton, who lives in Williamstown, has been involved in local municipal boards and is a newcomer to state-level politics. Templeton spoke with WAMC about his campaign and why he opposes policies that Mark has championed like Medicare For All.

TEMPLETON: Well, public service wise, I really started getting involved when my kids were in elementary school, and I didn't really appreciate or like what I was seeing in terms of kids’ on IEPs- individualized education programs and plans. And I just didn't think they were getting those services that the commonwealth was prescribing. So I got involved in the, it's called the Parent Advisory Council, the PAC. And so it's a group of parents who try to navigate the services that are available to kids on IEPs. And it really gave me some insights into the, kind of the disconnect between what's available resource wise and what parents were able to advocate for. So I placed myself in the middle of that trying to help parents advocate for their students, and that was kind of the spark that got me involved in public service. I ended up going on to be a member of the school committee, and now I'm currently on the Williamstown comprehensive plan steering committee.

WAMC: So talk to us- why now? Why is this the right time for you to pursue a larger seat that would, if you were elected, send you to Beacon Hills represent a large swath of Western Massachusetts?

Well, the short answer is I'm an empty nester currently. Really, you know, you have to have time for public service, and a job like this is a serious job that should be done full time without any distractions. And really, I find myself in the rare, rare time in my life where I actually have the time and the space to consider kind of a larger position like this, and one where I think I could do more good, hopefully. I think that Beacon Hill needs people like me with lived experience that are not necessarily political people per se, but people who want to use the system to make lives better throughout the district and throughout the commonwealth.

Talk to me about some ideas you have for legislation that would address some of the concerns you just highlighted?

Well, I really, you know, I really think that we need to take another look at the Massachusetts only Medicare For All idea that this getting pushed around and currently has 43% support in the Senate. And that's one big one for me. I think that union workers have given up pay raises and I think healthcare is such a personal item. I really don't think Massachusetts needs to go it alone in a, kind of a Bernie Sanders, Medicare For All crusade that- In our district, really, we have a lot of border towns. Our nearest hospital here in Williamstown is actually in Vermont. So there just are too many things to work out. I think it's not really clear how it would impact, you know, the companies like Moderna that helped us get through this pandemic. So I just think that it's too risky. I think union members are against it. And I think a better plan would be the Medicare at age 50 buy-in plan that kind of started gaining some momentum.

Now it seems like you're in some ways alluding to your opponent, Mr. Paul Mark, who is certainly a Bernie guy, and he's talked about that in the past on the record at great length. Give me your appraisal of Paul Mark- Why are you specifically a better choice for folks in Western Massachusetts than Mr. Mark?

I think I'm a better choice because I've lived and worked here and raised kids here in the Northern Berkshires, but I've also worked in South County, Central Berkshire, where, you know, Berkshire County has 100,000 people, you know, versus the 167,000 in the district. So the bulk of the district is in Berkshire County. And you know, I've just, I know this place. I've been working, talking to employers to through my workforce consulting work, I've, you know, been on the ground in working through the Berkshire United Way on certain projects. I worked in North Adams, placing interns throughout the county, raising my kids in the school here and, and really just knowing Berkshire County, and really, I'm, I'm excited to get out. And, you know, I spent a whole day in Granville. You know, there are amazing parts of this district that, quite frankly, I didn't even know existed. So I'm eager to get out and talk to people. And I think I'll be great for constituent services, and I've already talked to over 1,000 people just collecting signatures. So, you know, I really enjoy this this type of work.

Give me your appraisal of outgoing State Senator Adam Hinds. What were your thoughts on his tenure? Were the things that you liked, didn't like, things you thought he did well, things you'd like to see the next occupant of the seat do better? Walk us through that.

You know, I think we were lucky to have Adam Hinds, and I'm sorry to see him go. I wish he, you know, had a more successful bid for lieutenant governor. I think part of the reason I'm running is because I think there's going to be a vacuum there. And, you know, I'm hoping that he'll set the next senator up, and be able to, you know, really not miss a beat, because I really think he was on to something, especially with his approach to solving problems. You know, I actually benefited from one of the, you know, he, a few years back, he created this, a workforce czar, you know. He gave $75,000 to the, at the time it was called the Regional Employment Board here in Berkshire County. And you know, that money ended up being seed money that Berkshire United Way ended up piggybacking off of, and so he had a way of sort of creating little brushfires, if you will, to solve problems. He had a great reputation. He was smart, he was caring. I'm going to miss him.

If you had to describe yourself politically overall- You're running as a Democrat, of course. But what kind of Democrat would you say you're most akin to? Do you are there any comparison points that folks in the region might be able to point you to have a sense of where the Huff Templeton brand lies?

You know, I really resist labels. I think that's for other people to say about me. I will say that I am known in the Northern Berkshire and the Central Berkshire region as someone who is very outspoken about racial justice. I'm a former small business owner, so, you know, I have that kind of sense of economic development. I believe that, you know, my, what I just said about Medicare For All is not the typical Democratic, progressive take on things. So I guess what I would say as a label is, you know, don't try to fit me in too small of a box. I think that I can, you know, I consider myself a generalist. And I think that that approach is helpful when new problems come around.

Huff, anything about this campaign I have not thought to ask you that you feel like folks should understand as they consider who to back in the September Democratic primary for state senate?

I mean, I think one of the things is, you know, the, my opponent is trying to run as an incumbent. And I really, I really kind of reject that mentality. I think, you know, his district – Berkshire 2, where he's representing now, and, you know, as a rep – is really overlapping with this new district only in about 10.5% of the population. So, I don't think that people grasp that. I think that, you know, if you think Western Mass is all the same, you know. But you know, these are 57 cities and towns. And like I said, he has 10.5% overlap of his current constituents. I mean, the largest city, overlapping, I believe, is Dalton. Really, I think this race is up for grabs, and that's the part that I would want to impress on people.

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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