State Democratic Chairman Rallies Berkshire Voters
State Democratic Committee Chairman John Walsh rallied Berkshire Democrats on Sunday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — John Walsh delivered a dose of adrenaline to Berkshire Democrats on Sunday as the party ramps up campaigning for Edward Markey.
The chairman of the state Democratic Committee was the main speaker at a ceremony opening the regional Democratic office on North Street. Walsh was joined by state Rep. Paul Mark and state Sen. Benjamin Downing in giving rally speeches.
Walsh asked local Democratic leaders to forget about their other responsibilities for the next month and focus on the campaign because the U.S. Senate seat, he said, is too important to lose.
"I don't want a United States senator voting in my name against an assault weapons ban, against a women's right to choose, against Social Security. I want Ed Markey and I know with Ed Markey that I can trust him because he's done this for us. He's a national leader," Walsh said to loud cheers from dozens gather at the new office.
"We're never going to replace the glory days we had with Ted Kennedy and John Kerry as the stalwarts of the United State Senate. But, I'll tell you, with Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, that's pretty good."
Markey is going up against Republican Gabriel Gomez in a special election on June 25 to fill the seat vacated by Kerry, who resigned to become secretary of state. Voter turnout is going to be key, Walsh said, because many people will forget about election day.
"I know it is a bad time. I know it is a challenging time of the year. Your friends, who you can count on, will forget this," Walsh said.
He encouraged Democrats to do everything they can in the next month to spread the word and remind people to vote. He called for campaign leaders to have "face to face" conversations with voters, knock on doors and make phone calls because Democrats can't afford to again lose a Senate seat.
"Are we going to send somebody to Washington who will support President Obama's agenda or are we going to send someone who will become a national figure in opposition?" Walsh said. "We spent a year and a half making sure that we finally sent a strong woman to the United States Senate in Elizabeth Warren and it is about time."
Warren's vote would be countered by Gomez, he said, recalling how Democrats lost the last special U.S. Senate election in 2010 when Scott Brown defeated Martha Coakley. The party doesn't want that to happen again.
"The first thing is to remember how you felt the morning after the last United States Senate special election. Remember that feeling. Now, remember how you felt on election night last November. Remember how you felt when the networks called for Elizabeth Warren. Remember those two feelings," Downing said.
The opening of the regional North Street office, a partnership with Berkshire Brigades, is an indicator of the importance of the coming elections to the Democratic Party even in deep-blue Western Mass., where Warren picked up 70 percent of the vote.
"We could sit idly by as Republicans in Washington try to spin small mistakes into big scandals, try to spin huge coverups out of nothing. We can sit idly by and we can can get one of those results. Or we can do what we do best as Democrats," said Downing. "We can go door to door. We can talk to our friends. We can talk to our family members. We can talk to our neighbors. We can talk to our fellow employees in the business place. We can talk to everyone we know about why we need Ed Markey to be our United States senator and we could have that exact same feeling that we had in November."
Brown's election was seen as an affirmation of the tea party movement and led to many Democrats being ousted from seats, Mark said.
"We're not going to let that happen. We're not even going to let Gabriel Gomez get within 5 percent. We're going to put him away because we're not going to have him drafted for governor. We going to make sure we win this year; we are going to make sure we win next year," Mark said.
Reception Planned for Senate Candidate Markey
|U.S. Rep. Edward Markey|
The public reception for to U.S. Rep. Edward Markey has been rescheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 19, from 5 to 7 at Itam Lodge in Pittsfield.
Update: The reception for Rep. Markey has been postponed because of Friday's snowstorm to a date to be announced later.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Brigades is sponsoring a reception for U.S. Rep. Edward Markey on Friday, Feb. 8, from 5 to 7 at Itam Lodge. The reception is free and open to the public.
Markey, 66, formally announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by John Kerry, who was confirmed as secretary of state last week.
The Malden Democrat has served in Congress for 36 years, representing the 7th Massachusetts District, and was elected to the 5th District last year after redistricting.
U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston, who served for 12 years representing the 9th District before being elected in the 8th District last year, has also announced for the Democratic nomination. So far, no Republican nominee has come forward. The last day to submit nomination papers is Feb. 27.
The primary is scheduled for April 30 and the special election for June 25.
Senator Downing Weighing U.S. Senate Run
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Benjamin Downing could soon have an opportunity to join the "center of the debate" by bringing a fresh face and energy to U.S. Senate.
The senator, who was just elected to his fourth term, hasn't hidden that he wants to move up the in the political ranks. Last year, he weighed the possibility of running for the U.S. House. Now with what many are considering the imminent appointment of U.S. Sen. John Kerry as secretary of the state, Downing is prepared to mount a campaign in a special election for that seat.
If he decides to run.
"Why I am considering it is why I got into politics in the first place," the Pittsfield Democrat said on Thursday. "If you care about economic development, the center of the debate is in the U.S. Senate."
Downing is one of several Democrats reportedly exploring the possibility of running. U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Michael E. Capuano, and Edward J. Markey have all hinted at running for the nomination; Attorney General Martha Coakley has not ruled out a second try for the Senate.
There also has been fringe talk of two well-known names entering the race — Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy Jr. (who lives in Connecticut but owns a home at the Kennedy compound on the Cape) and actor and Oscar winner Ben Affleck, who's been involved with Democratic campaigns, including Elizabeth Warren's unseating of U.S. Sen. Scott Brown.
Who actually enters the race is on all of their minds. Downing is waiting to see who is planning to run and then developing and examining his campaign strategy to see if he has a "legitimate" shot at winning.
"Successful statewide races are not handed to people who are the next in line," Downing said, believing he can energize both the Democratic base and unenrolled voters.
Brown himself has signaled that he may resurface as the Republican candidate, noting in his farewell speech on the Senate floor that "victory and defeat is temporary." The special election — and the timing — would be similar oddly enough to the circumstances that propelled the still popular Brown into the Senate the last time around.
Downing and Brown served together in the state Senate, although Brown also served three terms in the House before moving up to the Senate two years before Downing. Downing, of Pittsfield, easily won his first election and has run unopposed his last three terms for the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin district, the largest district geographically.
The move would be a large jump for the 31-year-old but not one that hasn't been done before.
"While it is a significant step, it is one Scott Brown and Barack Obama took," Downing said. "I believe I can stand toe to toe with Scott Brown."
Downing knows how brutal campaigns for a national seat can be — he was recently part of the Warren campaign that defeated Brown — and he says he is ready for it.
"When it comes, I will be ready to take the step," Downing said, adding that he is ready to hit the ground running if he decides to make the "hard decision" of entering the race.
Neal Wins Primary Battle for 1st Mass Seat
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal will move from the 2nd Mass District to the 1st in the next Congress after winning Thursday's primary.
By 9:30 p.m., Neal was outpolling his opponents 3-1 with fewer than 100 precincts left to report in the race for the 1st Massachusetts District. With no opponent in sight for the November election, Neal is the representative for the newly redrawn congressional district.
The writing was on the wall early on as the veteran 2nd District congressman began pulling away from the Berkshires' two candidates — Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Bill Shein — when the results began coming shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m.
Both Nuciforo and Shein campaigned heavily in Neal's Springfield base, hoping to pull some votes there way but they failed to make significant inroads against the 10-term congressman.
Neal, who was endorsed by retiring U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, did as well as expected in Springfield, taking 9,883 to Nuciforo's 1,553 and Shein's 394. But he also did well in the Berkshires, easily outpolling both men on their home turf.
Nuciforo, who'd been planning his run since 2008, surpassed Neal in Dalton (483-379) and Hinsdale (150-111) and tied him in Lee at 297. He also won in Otis and New Ashford.
By 7:30, a half-hour before the polls closed in Clarksburg, only 129 of town's more than 1,100 voters had cast ballots. One of the election workers described the day as "steady slow."
Clarksburg voters cast 116 ballots in the Democratic primary, giving Neal 53 votes, Nuciforo 46 and Shein 11. Thirteen Republican primary ballots were cast, giving Michael F. Case nine votes and Michael Franco three votes in the Governer's Council race. Results for the Governer's Council on the Democratic side were Michael Albano 46, Gerry Roy 8 and Kevin Sullivan 42.
In Williamstown, the turnout was better at 22 percent but Town Clerk Mary Kennedy had forecast around 1,200 ballots being cast. The final number was 844.
"I thought we would at least break 1,000," she said.
Neal took Williamstown with 318 votes, 100 more than Nuciforo, a former state senator from Pittsfield. Shein, of Alford, polled 243.
Williamstown, not surprisingly, went blue with 791 votes in the Democratic primary and 49 in the Republican. One ballot was also cast in the Green-Rainbow primary, which had no races.
North Adams also went Neal with 366 votes, Nuciforo with 282 and Shein with 181. Only about 10 percent of registered voters turned out, with 872 out of 8,724 casting ballots.
Election Warden Ronald O'Brien said the low turnout at North Adams was expected but not by this much.
"There really isn't a big race for North Adams," O'Brien said.
Both he and City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau spoke highly of the city's election workers.
"I think voters should be very appreciative of the election workers of the city," Gomeau said. "They should be commended."
In the 8th District Governer's Council race, Michael Albano was holding a slim lead over Kevin Sullivan in the Democratic primary, with Gerry Roy a distant third. On the Republican side, Michael Franco was leading Michael Case by several hundreds votes with 15 precincts yet to report.
For full results, see Boston.com.
Updated Friday, Sept. 7, to note Shein's better showing in South County and that Michael Albano and Michael Franco will face off for the Governor's Council seat in November. Final unofficial numbers were Neal at 40,165 votes (65 percent); Nuciforo at 15,123 (25 percent) and Shein at 6,048 (10 percent) per Boston.com.
Shein Accuses Berkshire Democratic Wing of Favoritism
Congressional candidate Bill Shein says the Democratic Party hasn't been neutral enough in the 1st Mass primary.
"Berkshire Brigades is an official part of the Massachusetts Democratic Party and can't endorse or show favor to any candidate pre-primary," said Shein. "But it has been, all year, ongoing and obvious."
Shein said election, communications and organizing efforts by the group have promoted Rep. Richard Neal's candidacy disproportionate to that of himself and former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.
The Alford writer pointed to Brigades Chairman Lee Harrison stepping down from that post to participate in Neal's campaign.
Harrison announced his temporary departure as chairman in a July 27 letter to the editor of The Berkshire Eagle in support of Neal, which notes he had stepped down in June "to take an active part in the primary campaign." Pre-primary FEC filings indicate that Neal's campaign made a payment in the amount of $2,000 to Harrison on July 24.
"It's really a non-issue," said Neal campaign coordinator Matthew Fenlon, "In the letter [to the Eagle] Lee made it perfectly clear that he was stepping down from the Berkshire Brigades as of June to take a full-time role on our campaign."
Neither Harrison nor interim Chairwoman Sheila Irvin was able to be reached for comment on the accusations of favoritism, but former state representative and Brigades founding Chairman Sherwood Guernsey dismissed the statements as "sour grapes."
"The Brigades has not taken an official position at all on any of the candidates," said Guernsey, who continues to serve as a board member. "It is true that individuals within the Brigades are supporting individuals within the congressional race. The Berkshire Brigades is all about supporting the Democratic candidates."
"We haven't gone around publicizing anything for Neal," Guernsey told iBerkshires. "We haven't gone around publicizing anything for any one of them in particular."
A keyword search of the Berkshire Brigades website turns up 18 posts that mention Neal, but only one mention of the other two candidates, in a brief post announcing the air time of a WGBY candidate debate, one of two held in this election cycle.
In addition to reposts of Neal's own campaign statements on prominent endorsements, the Brigade's blog posts also include bulletins on several local canvassing efforts coordinated by the group on behalf of Neal in conjunction with those of Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, upcoming campaign events, and an appeal from his campaign for volunteers.
Shein also voiced concerns that an episode of the Brigades' public access television show "Common Sense" had featured more airings of its episode featuring Neal than those of the other two candidates. Neal's episode ran on two separate days, on July 16 and Aug. 13, for a total of eight showings, according to Pittsfield Community Television records, as opposed to that of Shein's, which ran five times and Nuciforo's, which ran four. These aired at different times of day on Aug. 20 and 27, respectively.
A representative of PCTV told iBerkshires this was because of an error in program scheduling, and that the July 13 airings had not been intended by the Berkshire Brigades.
Nuciforo's campaign declined to comment on the allegations of favoritism or apparent disparity in campaign representation in the organization's website, but did confirm that Berkshire Brigades does not appear to be on any of the campaign's email mailing lists.
While the Brigades' blog page has been updated regularly throughout the summer, its informational page has not been updated to reflect the change in chairman. A campaign mailing for Kevin Sullivan for Governor's Council that arrived at some local residences today also lists Lee Harrison as chairman of the Brigades.
Shein previously boycotted the state's Democratic Party convention in early June, citing several instances of what he called "consistent breaches of party neutrality" by the state Democratic apparatus throughout the 1st District congressional race, including invitations to canvass for Neal in communications paid for by the state Democratic Party.