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Massachusetts Democrats Rally in the Berkshires in Preparation for 2012 Elections

By Patrick Donges

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-970113.mp3

Pittsfield, MA – Congressman John Olver, who has represented Berkshire County in Massachusetts' First Congressional District since 1991, was just one of several Democratic officials, ticket hopefuls and supporters on hand for the rally, organized by countywide Democratic organization the Berkshire Brigades.

Brigades chairman Lee Harrison kicked off the event with a video montage featuring images of local Democratic campaign events cut together with photos of Olver and other party officials and video of President Barack Obama, all set to the Jefferson Airplane's 1969 counter-culture anthem "Volunteers."

He also offered a joke he said crystallized the national political scene that began with three people seated at a table

"One is a CEO type. From Goldmann Sachs, or GE, or Coke, oil, one of those companies. There's also a union worker, and a Tea Partier. In the middle of that table is a plate with 12 cookies on it. Well, before anybody says anything, the CEO reaches out and grabs 11 of those cookies. And then he turns to the Tea Partier and says, watch out, that union guy wants a piece of your cookie.'"

"They've rigged the game folks, and they've got us fighting over the scraps. That's what's happening out there, that's why we're seeing in many places Democrat fighting Democrat. It's wrong, we have to work together."

Democrats across the country were stunned last year when Republican Scott Brown won the U.S. Senate seat formerly held for decades by the late "liberal lion" Ted Kennedy.

John Walsh, chairman of the state Democratic Party, outlined the party's strategy to win the seat back and spoke about some of Brown's recent votes, including one to block funding for a state summer jobs program for at-risk youth.

"We know we've got to cut back and we've got to figure out how to get through this tough time, but what Scott Brown has been voting in Massachusetts on who's going to pay, is a lot different than if you were voting on who's going to pay."

"Scott Brown says kids who need a summer job, they're going to have to step up a little. Man up in this recession. But people who make a million bucks a year, damn they need their tax cuts. Do you understand the choice, the choice that is out our plate right now?"

Walsh encouraged supporters to begin speaking to their neighbors about the 2012 election this year, noting that an enrollment advantage for Democrats would count for little without a comprehensive outreach campaign.

One candidate vying for the chance to run against Brown is Bob Massie, who ran as the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor in 1994.

"We've heard about the problems our country is having and they are severe, but there have been many moments in our national history when we have faced severe difficulties, and we have found in past generations the will to move forward."

"When we had Teddy Kennedy for 47 years and he went into a room, we knew whose values he was fighting for. When Scott Brown goes into a room and the door closes and the T.V. lights go off, I don't know who he's fighting for. In fact I worry about who he's fighting for. When I go into that room, you will know I am fighting for you."

Massie will be up against an ever-growing field that included current Newton mayor Setti Warren, who entered the race earlier this month. A representative from the Warren was on hand at the rally and made a brief statement.

Congressman Olver's remarks touched on several issues, including the budget plan recently released by Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan that would transform Medicare into a voucher system.

"Speaker Boehner's Republicans have targeted the poor, the infirm, the struggling, the venerable, the elderly and the too young to vote in every aspect of their budgeting. They would leave state and local governments no choice but to make their own deep budget cuts affecting these same groups."

In an op-ed published Monday in Politico, Brown said while he applauded Ryan for starting a conversation about Medicare reform, he would not vote to support the voucher plan.

In addition to defending his seat from Republican challengers, Olver may also be forced to face another Democratic incumbent during next year's election.

Massachusetts will lose one of its 10 House seats during this year's redistricting process. Depending on which district is eliminated, Olver may have to run against Second District Democrat Richard Neal, who has served in Congress since 1989.

Members of the state legislature's joint committee on redistricting will hold a public hearing in Pittsfield on June 11.