Berkshires political institution John Barrett has won office once again. This time he’s going to Beacon Hill.
In Tuesday’s special election for the 1st Berkshire District state House seat, Democrat John Barrett garnered 4,976 votes compared to Republican candidate Christine Canning’s 1,478. Most of the 70-year-old Barrett’s support came from North Adams – where he was mayor for 26 years.
The special election came after the June death of State Representative Gailanne Cariddi, a Democrat in her fourth term.
“Somebody said ‘Well, jeez. Aren’t you a little old to be doing some of this stuff?’ and I said, ‘Well, not according to Gail Cariddi, because she said ‘Do good for as long as you can,’ and that’s what I plan on doing,’” Barrett says.
In a statement, Canning said she would always remember the support she received.
Things came full-circle for Barrett. In 1982, he lost in a primary election for the same seat he won Tuesday.
The veteran mayor now becomes a freshman in the state House.
“It’s going to be a strange experience but no different than the first day when I walked into the first day of being mayor of North Adams, not knowing a thing about it because nothing prepares you for it,” Barrett says.
But he contends his experience as mayor will bring a lot to the table. Barrett touts his role in attracting state dollars under three different governors from both parties to get economic drivers, including MASS MoCA, off the ground.
“I think what I bring there is a wealth of experience to the legislators that are there. That’s what I think I can be helpful – so when you know when you cut Chapter 70 money and it impacts education, I want to tell them about the programs it impacts because they are up to speed on those things and that’s what I think we need to talk about,” Barrett says.
Barrett claims he will be the only member of the Massachusetts Legislature to have served as mayor.
The Democrat says northern Berkshire County needs a fair shake on Beacon Hill. He points to the $30 million in sales tax from the county that goes toward supporting the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston while its own transportation infrastructure lags.
Barrett says the state needs to better fund municipal school districts, and not expect businesses and homeowners to make up the shortfall.
“And when they say we don’t have enough money to do things, we do have enough money to do things. We just have to change our priorities. And our priority should be taking care of the cities and towns of Massachusetts, as well as doing something about the state’s infrastructure grant program,” Barrett says. “And we can do it by realigning our money commitment.”
As for next year, when the seat will up for another election?
“I plan on taking my papers out for first full term probably this spring, and moving from there,” Barrett says. “That’s what my plan is, and God willing, I will be able to do it.”