Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez picked up two endorsements in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Monday.
Stepping out of the sweltering mid-July heat into Dottie’s coffee shop in downtown Pittsfield, a small crowd watched as two Pittsfield city councilors endorsed Jay Gonzalez for governor.
“This year, we have a lot of candidates who are more progressive," said Helen Moon, a first-term councilor from Ward 1. “The reason that I jumped onto Jay’s campaign recently is primarily because of his persistence. He has reached out to me numerous times over the past year. Every event that I go to and he’s there, he always remembers my name, always remembers to say hello, and always asks me for my support. And to me that, I think, represents his dedication to the Berkshire area.”
Gonzalez, 47, was Deval Patrick’s Secretary of Administration and Finance from 2009 to 2013. A graduate of Dartmouth and Georgetown, he served as chair of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care after his time in the Patrick administration, and then as President and CEO of CeltiCare Health and New Hampshire Healthy Families — experience Moon says is vital to understanding Pittsfield’s needs. She said that while the city has cut down this year’s budget in every other area, healthcare spending has risen by 20 percent.
“That is our single largest expense as a city," Moon told WAMC. "We can’t afford to pay for these skyrocketing? prices and maintain our school systems, and maintain our roads, and provide the services that our residents need and require from us.”
“So from my experience as a former health insurance CEO, I’ve concluded we need to get rid of health insurance companies. Our system is so complicated, it is so hard for people to navigate, it’s way too expensive," said Jay Gonzalez. He’s a proponent of a single-payer healthcare system, and says his experience in the field can take Massachusetts there. “This is another example of an area where we’ve got a governor right now who is totally content with the status quo, putting Band-aids on a system that has gaping wounds, crushing anything else because of the cost growth that state government needs to do and should be investing in, and I’m going to change that.”
Republican Governor Charlie Baker boasts strong favorability in recent polls and millions of dollars in his campaign war chest as he seeks a second term.
“To date, we’ve raised — including the public financing — I think close to $1.2 million," said Gonzalez. "We’ve got close to $500,000 on hand, and our fundraising is continuing to ramp up. Look, we don’t need to raise $30 million of dark money like Charlie Baker to win this election.”
If Gonzalez can best Bob Massie — his remaining rival in the September 4th primary after former Newton Mayor Setti Warren dropped out — he’ll face Baker in the fall.
“We’ve got one of the worst transportation systems in the country," said Gonzalez. "He’s cutting funding for regional transit authorities, like the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority, for road and bridge projects that we desperately need all over this state.”
Gonzalez said he’d do more for Berkshire transportation needs.
“For all the people working at the hospital or in the cultural institutions, working late, who rely on public transportation — we can do better,” he said.
Gonzalez waded into another local issue by saying he would be an advocate for Berkshire communities like Pittsfield and North Adams, which have been battling cable giant Charter Spectrum on a variety of issues.
Gonzalez claimed at the meeting that he’d been to the Berkshires around 10 times since announcing his candidacy in January. His campaign later told WAMC that he had visited 5 times in 2018.
“Unlike Governor Baker, I will be a very visible governor in Berkshire County. What the form of that looks like, I don’t know yet. But I will be here.”
Governor Baker has visited the Berkshires once this year — to announce state funding for the Pittsfield-based Berkshire Innovation Center in March. Last week, he announced a $5.5 million grant to Berkshire Community College at an event in Westfield. Lieutenant Governor Karen Polito has visited the county three times since March, including an April trip in part to examine broadband infrastructure progress.
In a statement, Baker campaign spokesman Terry MacCormack told WAMC that "Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito are proud to have strong relationships with their state and local colleagues across the aisle and an accomplished bipartisan record that is delivering results for Massachusetts' communities from Cape Cod to the Berkshires, including finally making progress on long-delayed projects like bringing high-speed internet to Western Massachusetts."
“Governor Baker does not know the people out here very well. He’s here quite rarely, and frankly, I think he writes off Berkshire County," said city council vice president John Krol, who joined Moon in backing Gonzalez. Krol said he’s supporting him because Massachusetts needs to double down on its progressive values — specifically lowering health care costs, raising the minimum wage, and increasing spending on education.
“If you are looking to get a progressive governor in the corner office, then you got to hand it to Jay Gonzalez for the organization that he’s created. You know, you got to win," laughed Krol to WAMC. "You’ve got to have a campaign that’s going to win.”