A Week Before Primary, W. Mass. Senate Race Heats Up

Sep 1, 2016

With a week to go until the primary election, the race for an open state Senate seat in western Massachusetts is heating up with infighting among the Democratic candidates.

Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds are all vying for the seat held by retiring Democratic State Senator Ben Downing. Ahead of September 8th’s primary the race has gone into overdrive. Following the release of campaign financing reports, Harrington is calling on Hinds to return donations from people connected to energy companies and political action committees.

“The next progressive issue for me is getting money out of politics,” Harrington said. “The money is what affects legislators. It’s not good for making of public policy. I’ve been very deliberate in who I accept money from. When I look at the energy lobbyists that have given money to Adam Hinds’ campaigns it really calls into question how can he claim to be independent.”

Harrington highlighted donations from people associated with Berkshire Gas, Exxon Mobil and New England Power Generators. She pointed out a pledge she and Hinds took to not take money from major fossil fuel companies.

“For me I don’t know how the voters are supposed to know where Mr. Hinds stands on the issues or what kind of state senator he’s going to be when he’s already violating the pledge that he says that he took,” said Harrington.

Hinds says the $50 and $100 donations from people connected to Berkshire Gas and New England Power Generators came from paid meet and greet events. Hinds says the Exxon donation is from a former classmate.

“This past Monday, August 29, I proudly took the pledge not to accept money from big fossil fuel companies,” Hinds said. “I reviewed the donor list and saw this potential conflict and returned my friend’s check/money immediately. The trouble with this report is that the reporting period ends on August 21.”

According to the campaign finance reports, Hinds raised nearly $75,000 and has spent about $55,000. Harrington raised nearly $21,000, spending more than $15,000. Political action committees have donated to both Hinds and Harrington. A number of area leaders including Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer, Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy and former Massachusetts Congressman John Olver have donated to Hinds’ campaign. Hinds calls Harrington’s attack ridiculous saying he’s never taken that route.

“It’s a sign of desperation,” Hinds said. “We’re in the last week and Andrea Harrington is now using negative campaign tactics.”

Meanwhile, Del Gallo’s campaign has reported a $500 balance with no expenditures. Del Gallo says he is greatly concerned about that and continues to point out that Hinds, a Buckland native, only recently returned to the Berkshires working in both Pittsfield and North Adams.

“We’re up against a big political machine,” Del Gallo said. “A guy that’s been here for two years, but just happens to be politically connected, buying name recognition with campaign donations with access that people like me just simply do not have.”

Furthermore, Del Gallo continues to blast his opponents saying they are weak on progressive environmental issues. He’s in favor of windmills in the Berkshires, but Hinds and Harrington say they are not.

“You need to be serious about global warming,” Del Gallo said. “They’re not serious. Instead they’re pandering to people that don’t want to look up at a windmill. That’s not leadership.”

Hinds is also defending his stance on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour against Del Gallo’s claims of flip-flopping during debates and public events.

“I’ve been very clear that I support it,” Hinds said. “I have said it’s true that there could be some exceptions for farmers and teenage trainees. I think going about this incrementally, as we currently are in the commonwealth, right now it’s a $10 minimum wage, next year it’ll be an $11 minimum wage, that’s just practical policy.”

Del Gallo and Harrington have expressed support for a $15 minimum wage. The winner of September’s 8th primary will face Republican Christine Canning in November’s general election. Canning has raised more than $3,000 and spent about the same.