U.S. Senate Candidate Brian Herr Fighting for Name Recognition
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
Brian Herr, on the left, met with Republicans at Pittsfield campaign headquarters Thursday morning.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Brian Herr says U.S. Senator Edward Markey is disrespecting voters by dodging the campaign.
The Republican Herr is challenging Markey for the seat but the incumbent has done little to no campaigning. Only one debate between the two candidates has been held and the race has seen little interest across the state.
Herr says Markey's lack of a campaign is disrespectful because it doesn't give Massachusetts voters an opportunity to make up their minds. Markey's avoidance has also made it tougher for Herr to gain name recognition because of the overall lack of interest in the Senate campaign.
"Sen. Markey's strategy is to not campaign. Sen. Markey refused to debate us again. He refuses to come and do things like this. He hasn't traveled across the state extensively and meeting voters one on one. The strategy is to keep this race as low profile as possible," Herr said on Thursday during a campaign stop to Pittsfield.
"If he doesn't campaign a lot of people in the media — in Boston in particular — don't cover the campaign. If they don't cover him, they don't cover the campaign, they don't cover us."
He said the lack of energy Markey is putting into the campaign is "undemocratic." Meanwhile, the race for governor has been stealing the spotlight across the state.
"If Sen. Markey really wanted to talk to the voters of Massachusetts, he would have done so. His decision not to do that is a disservice to the people," Herr said.
The Malden Democrat and former U.S. representative won the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013; this is his first run for a full term. Markey has not campaigned in the Berkshires this election but Thursday was Herr's second visit.
With less than two weeks remaining, the Hopkinton Republican is ramping up efforts to be heard. He'll be launching a series of advertisements to show the contrast between him and Markey.
"We also knew it would be a two-week race and we are in the middle of that two-week furor," Herr said.
He'll need a strong effort as most of the polls show Markey winning the election easily. And he is still challenging Markey for more debates after being rebuffed in his request for them to meet in debates across the state.
"We'd do whatever it takes to go in front of the voters and compare and contrast the two candidates," Herr said.
Despite trailing, Herr said he believes he can win the election. He says there is a huge group of undecided voters that he hopes to get on his side at the Nov. 4 election.
"We are stuck politically and as a result our economy continues to sputter. People in Massachusetts want new ideas. They want new blood. They want new energy," Herr said.
He says his 30 years in the private sector mixed with years of being active in politics creates a "good mix" for the seat. He previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2010. For more information on Herr, click here.
"We can definitely get this done even though it is a quiet race. I don't care if I am the least known Senator in American history. It doesn't matter to me. It is about Massachusetts," Herr said.
He added that in the last few weeks fund raising has ramped up after a "difficult" start to the campaign.
Gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley greets supporters at the Freight Yard Pub after a day of campaign stops that started in Dorchester. She also met with voters in Great Barrington and Pittsfield.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Martha Coakley ended a swing through the state on Saturday by toasting a title she hopes to claim on Nov. 4: Governor Coakley.
The Drury High School graduate vowed she hasn't — and wouldn't — forget her home county to the small group gathered in the courtyard of the Freight Yard Pub.
"I promise you, as your governor, if you help me get elected, and I know we can do this, I will have your back," the Democratic candidate said.
Part of that will be ensuring health care access, Coakley said, including mental and behavioral care.
"Let's make sure that every part of the state, including North Adams, has the primary care and health care you need and deserve."
In North County, most residents believe that means ensuring the former North Adams Regional Hospital reopens in some form.
Coakley noted her office is still investigating the actions of the former health-care system's board of trustees in its closure and the efforts by her office and local and state officials in restoring emergency services.
"It needs to be a full, concentrated effort still to see what else do we need and how do we that," she said. "I will be committed to doing that as governor, as well as working with the your new attorney general, and I believe it will be [Democrat] Maura Healey, who oversees not-for-profits, to make sure we get real access for people out here in the Berkshires."
The Democratic candidate hammered on her campaign platform of educational investment and workforce training, health care access, broadband access, transportation infrastructure, clean energy and development of precision technology to continue to rejuvenate the economy in a sustainable manner, and build on previous efforts by current Gov. Deval Patrick.
"Not just bring in a big-box store and bringing in businesses that take up roots when the economy changes," she said. "Let's build a sustainable economy."
Coakley said she also will continue efforts in sustainable and alternative energy developed by the Patrick administration.
"I've been impressed with what Governor Patrick has done," she said. "Of course, Sen. Benjamin Downing has been a leading voice in moving Massachusetts ahead."
She later added, "We want kind of sustainable, regional economic plan for North Adams, the county, it has to include a clean-energy feature."
What she doesn't support is the current proposal to run a natural gas transmission line through parts of the Berkshires and across the state. The Kinder Morgan Energy project has been heavily opposed by small towns along the route.
"That proposal by Kinder Morgan is not the right proposal for the neighborhoods that they plan to go through," said Coakley.
With less than five weeks to the election, Coakley, the current attorney general, is trying to get some daylight between herself and Republican candidate Charlie Baker. The most recent polls show the two in a dead heat, with Coakley marginally ahead.
Not surprisingly, she has stressed her local connections in a region that's long felt ignored by the heavily populated east end of the state. Born in Lee and raised in North Adams, she also was in the first Williams College class to graduate women who had attended all four years.
Accompanied by her husband, Thomas F. O'Connor Jr., and her two sisters, Anne Gentile and Mary Coakley-Welch (whose husbands also hail from North Adams), Coakley was welcomed by supporters and patrons of the pub, stopping to pose for photographs, talk policy or just greet old friends.
She will also march in the annual Fall Foliage Parade on Sunday afternoon.
"It's heartwarming for me to come home," she said. "I started out my campaign here, we kicked this off here a year ago.
"I said we're not going to get in this race unless we pour our heart and soul into it and we put together a team to help us."
Baker, she said, doesn't have the same level of committment to protecting children from abuse, to keep people from losing their homes or investing in mental and behavioral health care.
"My Republican opponent, if he knows how to get to North Adams, isn't going to come here very often."
Coakley said she won't forget her city or the Berkshires.
"I will make sure that we in Massachusetts, in every corner, from Merrimack Valley to the South Coast to North Adams, we will be prosperous and fair."
Candidates Showing Differences As Governor's Race Heats Up
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
Martha Coakley after Monday's debate, which kicked off what will become a heated six weeks leading up to the November general election.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The gubernatorial candidates are viewing Monday's debate as the true beginning of the campaign for the corner office on Beacon Hill.
Most of the five candidates have been on the trail for more than a year either to win primaries or get a head start in an independent campaign. But, in Monday's debate the jockeying for position and try to separate themselves from the pack really took off.
"This was our first televised debate. I think there are differences here in earned sick time, early education, investing in people, good mental health care, the kind of things most people in Massachusetts, when they really focus on this race, will see that I will be a good governor, a great governor," said Democratic candidate Martha Coakley after the debate at Springfield's CityStage.
"I think that as we focus on our ground game, we'll get the vote out. This race has really just started. We're going to continue to push every day."
The attorney general is in a tie with Republican Charlie Baker in the polls. On Monday, two separate polls showed Baker and Coakley with more than 40 percent of the vote each and the three independents in single digits. So it is no surprise that they were focusing on each other's debate responses.
"I think we disagree on taxes generally. I think most voters in Massachusetts would like to see state government tighten its belt a bit because that's what they felt they've been doing for the better part of the last six or seven years," Baker said following the debate. "I said I am not going to raise taxes. The attorney general has left that wide open."
Coakley said Baker believes in tax cuts in hopes that the benefits "trickle down," which she said doesn't work. Baker used the gas tax as an example, saying Coakley supports linking the tax with inflation while he feels it any increase should be voted on.
"I think there are a lot of differences between Charlie Baker and me. Not just tonight but in the course of this race. I believe in early education and paying for it," Coakley said. "I believe in earned sick time. I believe women should have access to health care without question. I believe I will be willing to invest in our kids, our workforce development, our people in Massachusetts."
While the two leaders say there are dramatic differences between them, many of the hot topics during Monday's debate drew similar responses. Both said they support the MGM Resorts casino project in Springfield. Both said they want to continue investing in both early education and higher education — though their level of commitment differed. Both supported moving forward with medical marijuana as planned. And both talked about working with cities and towns to create an economic development policy.
Charlie Baker, left, is polling at just more than 40 percent. He and Coakley are in a dead heat for the corner office.
"I think the most important thing I bring to the table is a comprehensive vision to grow jobs and build great communities across the commonwealth. We've put that on our website. We've put specific details on that since we got into this race," Baker, a former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care executive, said.
While the two parties battle out their differences, the independents find themselves far behind. Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick trail significantly in polling.
"It is not easy," said Falchuk when asked about closing the gap in poll numbers. "If it were easy, every one would do it."
But he isn't giving up. The entrepreneur says both of the parties are just giving "vague platitudes" in the race and his plan is to present specific viewpoints. He hopes to attract those who haven't picked a side yet.
"It is still early in this race. There is a lot of voters who aren't sure what they'll do," Falchuk said.
While Falchuk seems to be positioning himself as one outside of the current system, McCormick says he just as good, if not better, than the two party candidates.
"Charlie is not a typical Republican candidate. He has experience that Martha doesn't have. And Martha has experience on the legal side. I think we need real business experience to grow the commonwealth," the Boston venture capitalist said.
For him, the debate is all about exposure as he makes the point that he has just as legitimate a shot for the corner office as the front-runners.
Lively proved to be the least like any of the others. The evangelical Springfield pastor made waves with anti-gay remarks and a dismissal of climate change as a "scam." He's a well-known international anti-LGBT activist and a civil case accuses him of heavily influencing Uganda's harsh laws against homosexuals.
"The voters now know there is only one pro-life, pro-family candidate, who holds genuinely conservative viewpoints on the issues. I'm happy to be that candidate," Lively said.
One of his remarks triggered a sharp response from Baker, who felt Lively's statement that sexual perversion was corroding the state was a personal insult. During the debate Baker told Lively that was offended by the remark.
"I brought it up because it was pretty clear he was talking about my family. If you are going to talk about my family, you are going to hear from me. That is the way I am built and the way I work," Baker said after the debate.
Lively had another view saying, "that was a cheap shot by Charlie. I was not attacking his family. I am talking about the whole spectrum of sexual behavior outside of marriage."
When asked about offending others in the first state in the country to legalize gay marriage with such comments, Lively said, "these are people who are very easily offended. They have a completely opposite world view. I am sorry that they feel that way but I am not going to start legitimizing sexual perversion just because they are unhappy about it."
Gubernatorial Candidates Spar In Springfield Debate
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
The candidates took to Springfield's City Stage on Monday in the first debate before the election.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The five candidates for governor sparred in the first debate leading into the November general election.
In the only debate scheduled in Western Massachusetts, the five candidates fielded questions from Jim Madigan, the public affairs director from WGBY-TV.
The candidates are Republican Charlie Baker, Democrat Martha Coakley, and independents Evan Falchuk, Scott Lively and Jeff McCormick.
With a casino proposed for the city, Madigan kicked off the debate by questioning the candidates' opinions on the ballot question to repeal the law that allows them.
Baker said he's been a "one casino person," with that one being in Springfield. He plans to vote against the repeal but, if it passed, he said he would still continue to discuss the Springfield site through the legislative process. MGM Resort's Springfield casino proposal will tie into streetscape and generate more entertainment at the civic center, he said.
"I happen to think that this proposal is more innovative and more creative than some of the other ones. From my point of view, I've always been a one-casino person so if the question is passed, my goal would be to simply engage the site here in Springfield and not the other two," Baker said.
Coakley says the MGM proposal for Springfield will be a kickstarter to the economy and she, too, will vote against the repeal. But, the ills of a casino need to be mitigated, she said.
"We know there are ills and problems associated with casinos. But, I do think that since Springfield voted for it we can use it to maximize the development of the economy for everybody," Coakley said.
Falchuk is also voting against the repeal because "we already voted on this." But he said Baker and Coakley saying they would still support the Springfield project if the voters opt to repeal it is an an example of what is wrong with the current government.
Lively said he'll be voting to repeal the casino law. Lively opposes the gambling industry as a whole, calling it "immoral." He says the state shouldn't be turning toward an industry that "exploits" people.
"It is the last thing we want to see happen in Western Massachusetts," Lively said. "I am a pastor and I'm approaching this from a biblical perspective. I think the problem with economy in the state is a problem of sin. It is a problem of abandoning the standards of God and embracing humanistic alternatives."
McCormick, too, said he doesn't believe casinos are the key to the economic future. There are better ways to increase revenues, he said, ways that do not come with increases in crime while hurting the local entertainment and restaurant economies.
"There is so much potential that we have not tapped into," McCormick said. "We need to do that and I have a bold economic plan to do that. It can be done."
In a broader economic view, Coakley emphasized the investment in regional economies. She referenced growing up in North Adams in saying that she understands the impacts of regional economies and what happens when "the economy goes south." She said the state needs to invest in projects on the local level — such as building a theater in Holyoke. Additionally, she said "finishing that last mile of broadband is essential."
Falchuk agreed, saying, "there is no one size fits all." He called for doubling historic preservation tax credits, and improving the rail line from Springfield to Hartford, Conn.
Lively said the state's economy isn't as good as it was when he was a child growing up in Shelbourne Falls. He says that is because the state has embraces a "Marxist" perspective. He said he would decrease the size of government, which has become too controlling.
"I would go back to localism. I would streamline the government and attempt to give money back to citizens that is now being taken in excessive taxation," he said.
McCormick said he would try to create business clusters. He said he would create an innovation and investment fund to attract small businesses to set up shop and give them resources to grow. The technology fields will be creating hundreds of future jobs, he said.
"The growth is going to come from small businesses," he said.
Baker said he would sit down with every mayor and figure out economic plans for each cities and town, making a list of three or four things to do to do it. In Springfield, the economy is based on north/south transportation and there is a lot of aerospace manufacturing.
"One of the things the folks in Springfield and other places need is to know what the plan is," he said.
Next the candidates tackled higher education. Falchuk called for a much higher level of funding to make it affordable for people to go to college. He said there needs to be much more of a priority on it.
"We have a state that gives really big tax breaks to companies rather than funding higher education," Falchuk said. "I think the priorities we have in Massachusetts are completely backwards."
Lively said he wouldn't increase funding for it because "there is enough of a tax burden." The state is wealthy but has billions of dollars in debt.
"Every one around this table is coming from a liberal, big government perspective ... It is all about more and more and more money being taken from the taxpayers," he said. "I would go the opposite direction. I would work to give more money back to the taxpayers."
McCormick said education in the state starts in technical and vocational schools and then state universities and community colleges. The graduates of those program will stay in the state and create the economy of the future, he said. The funding needs to keep up but he also said "education can be cheaper."
Baker agreed with McCormick that there should be more online education. He says education is what separates Massachusetts from other states and the state should continue to invest in education. He wants more co-op programs and to expand the University of Massachusetts' footprint in Western Massachusetts.
Democratic candidate Martha Coakley is tied with Republican Charlie Baker as front runners in the election for governor.
"We should be serious about creating three-year degree programs. If somebody wants to get their degree done in three years, why should they pay for four?" he said.
Coakley said education needs to be approached from early education all the way to a career. That starts with improving literacy in the early ages to science, math and engineering in older grades and then the colleges need to be aligned with businesses.
"We should be providing pathways for kids starting in the seventh grade," she said. "We should be making our community colleges affordable ... Our colleges should be aligned with our businesses."
When asked about universal preschooling, Lively doesn't support it. He said would put a voucher system to increase other types of education including religious, home and charter schools in hopes to have more parental involvement.
"We shouldn't be taking our children away from their parents and giving them to the government at earlier ages. We should be helping parents have more time," he said.
McCormick cited a lack of proficiency in reading at the third-grade level and that can be improved with more early education.
"They have to learn to read before they can read to learn. I am strongly in favor of early education," he said. "We need to put children on the right track. They will get further and further behind if we don't."
Baker said he supported "targeted investments in early childhood education." The concern, he said, is that whether children will benefit from the programs. He said oftentimes the students lose all of their benefits from preschool if the kindergarten through Grade 8 level isn't up to par.
Coakley countered Baker's claim that preschool doesn't always give children a leg up. She said the state needs to invest in all levels of education.
"We should be good partners in all of our communities to level the playing field," she said.
Falchuk reiterated his point on priorities. While there are 40,000 students on waitlists for preschool across the state, the legislature approved $1.2 billion to expand a convention center in Boston.
"Our legislators are saying nice things but aren't showing up with money when it counts. Maybe that's the problem."
McCormick led of the next question about the state of the roads and bridges by saying government needs to "get creative" in generating revenue. He says the state needs to partner with private businesses. The roads and bridges need to be "up to snuff" for businesses to transport good and residents to get to work.
"Beacon Hill has to change. It has to become friendly for business. It is Beacon Hill's job to help businesses, especially small businesses, grow," he said.
Baker agreed with increasing public and private partnerships. But he said part of his local economic plans developed with the mayors of the cities, the roads and bridges will be included.
"We have to find a way to do things better and cheaper and in some cases faster," he said.
Coakley said the roads and bridges fits into her regional economic plan and said some $400 million could be allocated for infrastructure improvements.
"For the last year, I've been meeting with mayors in Massachusetts — with Mayor Sarno, with Mayor Alcombright, with Mayor Mitchell, you name it," she said. "We've all been talking about what those regional projects in infrastructure need to be. We can hit the ground running."
Falchuk said "we have systematically" underfunded the infrastructure. And to fix up the roads and repairs, it is going to cost money.
"I think we should put tolls on the border crossings for the people who are coming in from New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont. There are estimates of more than $1 billion can come in to make sure our infrastructure is up to snuff," he said. "Historically, all of our governors have been looking at running for president and look at New Hampshire and say 'I don't want to tax those guys.' I do."
Lively said his history as a contractor has shown him that "you have to invest in your infrastructure." And he will support funding for those projects. However, he says he doesn't like the system of contracting. He says "we always get stuck with extra costs." He said he'd make contractors pay the cost of overruns in project budgets.
More importantly, Lively said the state's "moral infrastructure" is what is lost. He said "killing unborn babies and promoting sexual perversion in school" is "corroding us" even worse. That triggered a back and forth between Baker.
"That was a veiled reference to gay people. As the brother of a gay man who lives and is married in Massachusetts, I want you to know that I found that offensive," Baker told him, in which Lively reiterated his "belief in the Bible."
Lively later said Baker was "taking a cheap shot" on him.
Moving on, the candidates were asked if they would support medical marijuana being distributed in pharmacies.
"You ought to be talking about a separate process for the time being," Baker said, adding that the state should monitor the facilities that will be opened and if all goes well, revisit the idea in a few years.
Coakley said since pharmacies are regulated federally and marijuana is against federal law, distributing medical marijuana there creates legal turmoil. Now the focus should be making sure the people who need it are getting it, she said.
Republican Candidate Charlie Baker hopes to take the corner office on Beacon Hill.
Falchuk expanded on the question and said now is the time to look over all of the state's drug laws. It isn't about "being tough on crime," he said, and called for a complete overhaul of drug policies.
"Our jails are filed with people on low-level drug offenses," he said. "It is the 21st century and it is time to have sensible policies."
Revealing more about his history, Lively said "I inhaled. I inhaled a lot." And marijuana was a gateway drug for him to become an alcoholic.
He said he opposes all forms of marijuana now.
McCormick balanced both viewpoints saying he sees how it is a gateway drug but he also sees the benefits. Politics have been getting in the way, he said, and the government needs to play a "huge role moving forward."
As for energy, Coakley said she wants to move toward renewable but recognizes there needs to be a bridge. She opposes the Kinder Morgan natural gas projects and calls for the governors of the other Northeastern states to come together and determine the best course of action.
"I do not believe the Kinder Morgan program, the way it has been addressed, is the right solution," she said.
Falchuk called Kinder Morgan's proposal a "wake up call" for everyone in Massachusetts to answer the question of energy needs.
Meanwhile, Lively rejected the notion of climate change, calling it "nonsense" and "a scam." He said natural gas is a good resource.
McCormick agreed that there needs to be a bridge source but said the state has to be smart about it. There are massive volumes of energy needed and the state needs to find projects that will last a long time.
"I am a huge fan of solar and wind. But it can't take the place of everything overnight. The volumes are huge," he said.
Baker said a 37 percent increase in energy costs is something the state should have been trying to correct years ago. He said everybody knew three coal plants were being shut down and nobody had put in a place a plan to address the shortfall.
"We're still debating whether or not you can pursue something in the already existing right of ways," he said.
Addressing global warming, Baker said he believes it is real and it should be a concern — maybe with the use of Canadian hydro-electricity. Democrats have been taking shots at Baker's 2010 statement in which he said he wasn't sure about climate change.
The debate at Springfield's City Stage was put on by The Springfield Public Forum, The Republican newspaper, Western New England University, WGBY-TV, MassLive.com, CBS 3 Springfield, New England Public Radio, WWLP 22 News, WGGB ABC 40/FOX 6, The Berkshire Eagle and the Valley Press Club.
Democratic Leaders Rally Support For Coakley, Party Slate
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal was one of the speakers at Saturday's grand opening of the Democratic campaign's Berkshire office.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A cadre of elected officials rallied supporters for the statewide Democratic candidates Saturday morning in the new Berkshire campaign headquarters.
The Democratic Coordinated Campaign held a grand opening of a Berkshire office on South Street in Pittsfield with an array of elected officials on hand.
"Over the last four years, led by Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick and supported by the Democratic congressional delegations and Democratic elected officials up and down the ticket, we have put Massachusetts back in the leadership business again," said state Sen. Benjamin Downing, who is the chairman of the coordinated campaign.
"Democrats have a record to run on. For their 16 years of governor, Republicans have a record to run from."
The group threw their support behind Martha Coakley and Steve Kerrigan for the executive offices and a Democratic ticket including Deborah Goldberg for treasurer; Maura Healey for attorney general; William Galvin for the secretary of the commonwealth; Suzanne Bump for auditor; and on the federal level, Edward Markey for U.S. Senate. There are also a series of unopposed races.
Part of the coordinated campaign is emphasizing the difference between the Republican leadership of the past and the Democratic leadership of Patrick, Downing said.
The governor said having Coakley as his successor is a vote for the future of the commonwealth. While many may talk about Patrick's "legacy" as he leaves office, the governor said he doesn't see it that way.
"This election, frankly just like the previous election and the election before that, is not about me. It is about whether we are in fact going to have the kind of leadership that is about the next generation and not the next election cycle," the governor said.
Patrick called the Democrats the "party of opportunity."
The officials at Saturday's event also included U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, state Reps. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Paul Mark, District Attorney David Capeless, Sheriff Thomas Bowler and North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright.
"I'm going to do as much as the campaign asks me to. We were out last Thursday at three or four events with Steve Kerrigan. I've been out a couple times with Martha Coakley. I'll be out with her at two events [Sunday] — one is in Worcester and one in Dorchester," Patrick said. "I'll do as much as I can. I think it is a really important election."
Neal said he already threw a fundraising event to help replenish campaign funds expended during the primary. He said Coakley's campaign is about continuing what Patrick started.
"We've got to move on to keeping his legacy alive by electing Martha Coakley as the governor of Massachusetts," Neal said.
Coakley, currently the attorney general, is a Berkshires native and graduate of Drury High and Williams College.
Capeless said he, too, is holding a fundraiser for Coakley but encouraged other Democrats to get those outside of the party involved. He rallied volunteers to talk to independents and others in hopes to get their votes.
But raising funds is only one step in the process. Officials called on volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls to talk to potential voters.
"We have work to do. It has to be done in the usual ways. It has to be done by talking to your friends, neighbors and co-workers. It has to be done by talking to folks who don't already agree with us," Patrick said.
Downing said Coakley didn't lose the election for U.S. Senate to Scott Brown in 2010 because Brown did anything special but because he was able to get the Republican voters to the polls while Democrats only got 60 percent.
"I have seen a commitment to make sure that doesn't happen again," Downing said.
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