A Springfield attorney has announced her campaign for the westernmost Congressional seat in Massachusetts. It will be difficult to unseat longtime Representative Richard Neal.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud stopped in Shelburne Falls, Pittsfield and Springfield during her tour of the state’s largest Congressional district to announce her campaign.
The Democrat wants to primary the dean of both the Massachusetts Delegation and the New England Congressional Delegation – Richard Neal in 2018. The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee has been in office since 1989 and has a built up a significant campaign war chest.
“Somebody said to me the other day: You are climbing up an icy mountain,” Amatul-Wadud says. “I understand that conventional wisdom says you don’t do that. But I also understand that conventional wisdom says our district has ridiculously low voter turnout, which says to me that we have apathy that is at crisis and epidemic level. And I wonder how much having that incumbent in office has killed people’s spirits.”
Amatul-Wadud was welcomed at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield by progressive activists she met at the Four Freedoms For All rally in January. She spoke with residents before taking to the podium.
“We are dealing with a president who is out to get us – us being those who fall within this district,” Amatul-Wadud says. “We have representation that many people are unhappy or dissatisfied with, and for that reason I feel strongly that this is where I can make the most impact.”
Amatul-Wadud is a 44-year-old Muslim mother of seven and a Springfield attorney who represents marginalized minorities. She has also been a member of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women for roughly four years.
She describes herself as a staunch defender of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, transgender equality, and green energy. Amatul-Wadud is calling for a single-payer health care system, more opioid epidemic relief, student loan reform, and a halt to Republican tax policy.
“I am running an unapologetically progressive platform. I believe everybody in our district deserves to be treated with the respect and the support as each neighbor. I would support whatever broadens human rights and access to human rights regardless of what you look like or how you define yourself,” Amatul-Wadud says.
After Massachusetts lost a U.S. House seat after the 2010 census, Neal ran for re-election in 2012 in the redrawn 1st Congressional District – which spans all of Berkshire and Hampden Counties, and most of Hampshire and Franklin Counties.
Neal easily defeated Andrea Nuciforo and Bill Shein in the 2012 Democratic primary. Shein was popular among Progressives – especially in Berkshire County.
Neal was unopposed in the 2012 and 2014 general elections. In 2016, Neal faced no primary challenger and garnered 73 percent of the general election vote against two minor party candidates.
Congressman Neal’s office declined to comment about his latest challenger’s bid, but Neal was optimistic about Democrats’ chances in the midterms during a recent Congressional Corner conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.
“The chances of that happening, of taking the House are?” Chartock asks.
“I think 50/50 and I think if you look at the generic polling right now it’s even better than that,” Neal says.