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3rd Berkshire House seat candidates talk housing, climate change, MCAS and more at Becket forum

3rd Berkshire House seat candidates Leigh Davis, Jamie Minacci, Marybeth Mitts, and Patrick White (left to right).
Josh Landes
Community Television for the Southern Berkshires
3rd Berkshire House seat candidates Leigh Davis, Jamie Minacci, Marybeth Mitts, and Patrick White (left to right).

The four candidates running for the 3rd Berkshire seat in the Massachusetts House met for a forum Tuesday.

After more than two decades representing Southern Berkshire County on Beacon Hill, Democrat Smitty Pignatelli is stepping down at the end of the year. Three Democrats – Leigh Davis, Jamie Minacci, and Patrick White – as well as one independent – Marybeth Mitts – are in the race to succeed him. They gathered for a Becket Democratic Town Committee-hosted event at town hall Tuesday to lay out their visions for the district.

White is a Stockbridge select board member.

“I've been in the select board for going on five years," he said. "Nobody's ever come out here and said, in Massachusetts, it’s legal to do tax credits, alright? We're not going to get another GE, alright? But what we got, what we could get, is the is the first scale of a business where maybe they have 50 climate tech jobs. Those are something that we could put in the district, and we're not getting those because we're not doing a good job at pitching them, and I think that we need to get better at pitching them. I think part of this job, frankly, is not just to bring resources from the state back here, but to bring those companies, where I frankly speak their language, into this region and let them see the benefits of some of these communities in terms of of scaling their businesses. You know, you want to keep young people here, you better focus on jobs, because there aren't good enough jobs, there aren't good enough housing solutions.”

Minacci also sits on the Stockbridge select board.

“What I'm most interested in is the MCAS," she said. "Currently, students who are in their senior year have to take a test to graduate from high school. If they do not pass this test, they cannot graduate. And as we all know, we have to have a high school education as the starting point, and then a college education, which is not a subject I want to talk about right now, but just that, to change the legislation of taking that requirement away from high school, from students, that affects their families and students, and we all know some of us can't test well, and it shouldn't be the only [way] the only way to finish school.”

Davis is Vice Chair of Great Barrington’s selectboard.

“I work in housing, I advocate for housing, and I actually qualify for the housing that I advocate for," she said. "I am a single mom with three kids, all in college. I'm on a nonprofit salary, so I have a lot of insight about the difficulties in housing. Housing is tied to economic development. It's not about housing necessarily- It's about the challenges, it's about job growth, it's about incentivizing families to move here, okay? It's about allowing seniors to age in place, so that we can take care of our seniors, and we can make sure that they're not forced to move away or go to a nursing home if they don't want to. So, this is a big problem. It's not just about bricks and mortars, it's about community, it's about connection, and because I have a lived experience of having been housing insecure, and because I work at a job that day in, day out, I'm receiving phone calls of people living in cars, people needing tents that are really struggling with what's going on.”

Mitts serves on the Lenox select board.

“I'm probably going to align myself with the Democrats, because they're the majority," she said. "My personal agenda is very progressive. I have three daughters, two of them are queer. I believe very strongly in a woman's right to choose, because I have three daughters, and I had that right growing up and they don't. It's really, really frustrating. So I am going to be fighting tooth and nail to preserve women's health, to making sure that there are housing options available for everybody at every income level, and that there are mental health resources available for everyone in the community. Those are my three top issues.”

Pignatelli – who has taken on a side gig as interim town manager of Lenox in the waning months of his term – has not endorsed in the race.

The Massachusetts primaries are September 3rd, with the general on November 5th.

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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