Democratic hopefuls will face off in a primary election tomorrow to fill the open 1st Berkshire District House seat.
Gailanne Cariddi, who died of cancer in June, left big shoes to fill in northern Berkshire County.
She served 21 years on the North Adams City Council, including as president, before becoming the first woman to hold the 1st Berkshire District House seat, and the second woman from Berkshire County to hold a seat in the state Legislature. The Democrat was serving her fourth term.
Her death set up a special election in November.
Vying for her seat in the primary election are four Democrats: John Barrett, Kevin Towle, Stephanie Bosley and Lisa Blackmer. Christine Canning is the only Republican in the running.
The race marks a return to politics for former 13-term North Adams Mayor John Barrett.
“Well, it’s never something I expected to be doing at this stage of my life, but having the experience of my past government service I think I can be of help to the northern Berkshire area,” Barrett says.
Focused on reforming state education funding and workforce development, Barrett touts his more than two decades of leadership in the district’s largest municipality.
“Well, I have a good relationship I think on both sides of the aisle. It’s all about collaboration and getting things done,” Barrett says. “When we proposed MASS MoCA way back when, that was not an easy sell. I had to convince basically three governors to buy in to this. I had to convince a community that this was going to be the way to our future and changing our economic outlook for several years to come.”
Kevin Towle says he is up to speed on what the 1st Berkshire District needs.
“For about the last year I have been the legislative aide to the former state representative, Gail Cariddi,” Towle says. “During that time I was able to coordinate a lot of the legislative and budget projects for the office.”
Towle wants to continue Cariddi’s work on economic development and education funding while pursuing renewable energy and paid family leave.
“I would be ready from day one to segue into the position and make sure all of the projects we’ve started for all of the communities get done as well as to make sure that new ideas come to the forefront,” Towle says.
Stephanie Bosley is the daughter of former Representative Daniel Bosley, who once held this seat.
“I really got to see from a young age how you can positively impact the community through the seat,” Bosley says. “I would say a lot of his views on clean energy and supporting our natural resources align with mine.”
Bosley works in client relations at the regional economic development agency, 1Berkshire, and has held similar roles for the town of Adams, Soldier On, the American Cancer Society and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
“One of the things that I would really like to focus on is supporting the great educational resources that we have,” Bosley says. “I think that it is huge for economic development that we have public transportation that is accessible and affordable to people. I also like to focus on making sure broadband is accessible.”
Lisa Blackmer has served on the North Adams City Council for five terms with a stint as president. She has also chaired the Public Safety, Community Development and Finance committees. Blackmer has also served as town administrator for Sandisfield in southern Berkshire County.
“I think my skill set is the fact I care about my communities. I know about the communities here. I have worked not just in the city but in the small towns. I understand the challenges in the small towns and in the small cities,” Blackmer says. “I have articulated those challenges and brought about some change.”
Blackmer is the first Berkshire resident to lead the Massachusetts Municipal Association in 20 years.
“Obviously I would continue my advocacy for funding for unrestricted governmental aid; and for funding for schools; for regional transportation; for increases in the PILOT money,” Blackmer says.
John Barrett leads the pack in campaign dollars with roughly $13,400 reported to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Blackmer reported about $12,500; Bosley, $7,200; and Towle, $4,900.
The top vote-getter in Tuesday’s Democratic primary will advance to face Republican Christine Canning November 7th.