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State Rep, Civil Rights Activist Ben Swan Won't Run For 12th Term, Endorses Son

State Rep. Benjamin Swan
WAMC
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A long-time state lawmaker from western Massachusetts known as the “Conscience of the House” is retiring from public service, and hoping to turn his seat in the Statehouse over to his son.

State Representative Benjamin Swan, a civil rights activist who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and championed social justice for decades in Springfield and on Beacon Hill, announced Tuesday he will not run for re-election this year to the state legislature.

Swan, 83, has represented a predominately African American inner-city Springfield district in the Massachusetts House for 22 years.

" To have been elected and to have served the residents of the 11th Hampden District has been the greatest honor of my life," said Swan.

Speaking in his district office in Springfield, surrounded by family members, friends and colleagues, Swan said he decided not to seek reelection after “much thought and deliberation.”

" It was not an easy decision to make," he said. " I will miss my associations with the other members of the House and Senate, but sometimes you got to move on."

Swan said he has no health problems or other impediments that might prevent him from continuing in the legislature. He is stepping aside to endorse the candidacy of his son, Benjamin Swan Jr.

" He has been a valuable advisor to me over the years and one who will be responsive to the residents of the district. He was born in the district and lived his entire life in this district," said the elder Swan.

The younger Swan is a self-employed IT consultant who has never run for elected office. Stepping to the podium after his father, he said he hopes to go to Boston to continue his father’s good work.

Benswanjr.jpg
Credit WAMC
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Benjamin Swan Jr. announces his candidacy for the 11th Hampden District House seat held by his father, Benjamin Swan for 22 years.

" Let me be clear: I do not believe I am entitled to this seat because my name is Ben Swan Jr," said the younger Swan.

Asked what he sees as the top challenge facing the people in the 11th Hampden District, candidate Swan said “jobs.”

In his first try for elected office, the younger Swan will face a challenge for the Democratic nomination from a veteran politician, who has been an on-again, off-again, ally of his father.  Long-time Springfield City Council Bud Williams filed signed nomination papers to run for the seat earlier this month when rumors spread that the elder Swan was going to retire.

Two other Democrats, Larry Lawson and Kenneth Barnett, filed enough certified voter signatures to qualify to appear on the September primary ballot.

Michael Jones, who ran for Springfield mayor last year, has filed to run for the House seat as a Republican.

Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli, who is not advising any of the candidates, said it should be one of the most-watched races this year.

" You will see a lot of attention to the 11th Hampden District. There is only the sheriff's race and a Governor's Council race on the September  ( Democratic) primary ballot ( in Springfield)," said Cignoli.

"Losing Ben Swan is a big deal because he was the big name in the Springfield legislative delegation."

    Swan is a vice chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s credited with securing line-item funding in the state budget to support the work of many social service agencies.  He’s backed funding for the Springfield satellite campus of the University of Massachusetts.

One of Swan’s biggest issues has been criminal justice reform. He opposes mandatory minimum sentences.  He led a successful push a few years ago to shorten the amount of time a person’s criminal record is obtainable by potential employers.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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