2nd District Still Waiting Results
Update: According to reports from MassLive.com, Paul Mark has won the 2nd Berkshire District Democratic primary with 2,762 votes (44 percent) and 21 of 23 precincts reporting. Coming in second was Thomas Szczepaniak with 2,310 votes (37 percent) and Noreen Suriner with 1,229 votes (37 percent).
The race to chose a new representative from the 2nd Berkshire District appears to be going down to the wire, with Democrats Tom Szczepaniak of Dalton and Paul Mark of Hancock running neck and neck.
An update from PCTV at 11 p.m. had Mark in the lead by 6 percent of the vote.
The campaigns were still awaiting official results from the sprawling district, which includes parts of 22 towns spread across three counties.
On the Republican side, Michael Case of Washington appears to be the choice to represent his party in the Nov. 2 general election, which will also include independent Stefan Racz of Buckland, who unsuccessfully ran against Guyer in 2006.
On the Democratic side, Szczepaniak, a Dalton selectman since 2001 and owner of Variety Trucking and Demolition in Pittsfield, said he was confident he would pull through against two other Democrats. In his hometown, he won 788 votes to 413 for Paul Mark of Hancock, and 228 for Noreen Suriner of Middlefield.
At about 10:30 p.m., he said he was confident of a strong performance in Berkshire County, but unsure about other towns that still hadn't reported.
"It's been a long, vigorous campaign," he said from Shamrock Restaurant and Pub in Dalton, where he was awaiting the results with supporters. "Meeting the people has been a blessing. It's a new world for me and I'm excited about it."
For the Republicans, Michael Case, a veteran and longtime Pittsfield police officer, said he had put up a clear lead against Rosanne Frieri of Pittsfield.
"I'm glued to the TV," he said from Jacob's Restaurant in Dalton, where he was gathering with supporters. "I've got a feeling I'm going to win."
The district is geographically the largest in the state and includes the Berkshire towns of Cheshire, Dalton, Hancock, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, New Ashford, Peru, Richmond, Becket, Washington, Windsor, and a part of Pittsfield. It also includes the Franklin County towns of Colrain, Bernardston, Ashfield, Buckland, Leyden, Northfield, and Shelburne, and the Hampshire County towns of Cummington, Middlefield, and Plainfield.
The winner of the race will replace Denis Guyer of Dalton, who was first elected to the seat in 2004, winning that election with 70 percent of the vote. He replaced Republican Shaun Kelly of Dalton, who had represented the district since 1990.
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GOP Candidates Detail Goals for 2nd District
The Republican candidates for the 2nd District debated Monday night at Berkshire Community College.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Republican candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District debated before a lighter audience but differed more sharply on several issues than their Democratic counterparts.
Michael F. Case of Washington called for a Western Massachusetts caucus while Rosanne Frieri of Richmond suggested hiking the sales tax at the second of three debates held Monday night at Berkshire Community College.
The debates, which also included one for Berkshire County sheriff, were sponsored by The Pittsfield Gazette and hosted by BCC. Jenn Smith of The Berkshire Eagle was the moderator.
Case and Frieri are both veterans. Case did two tours in Vietnam with the Air Force, joined the National Guard and served with peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and a year in Iraq. Frieri is a 20-year veteran of the 104th Air National Guard and veteran's service officer for Pittsfield.
Michael F. Case
Both pointed to their military careers as proof of their leadership capabilities. Case is also retired Pittsfield Police officer and holds a master's degree from American International College. Frieri said she overseees a $600,000 budget in the veterans office and ran a photography business for more than two decades while working in GE corporate.
Frieri said property tax reform is an imperative, along with developing answers to high utility rates. "We have lost business and jobs because of high energy costs." She also advocated for more transparency in government, limiting lobbying and ensuring the state's laws apply to lawmakers as well as citizens.
Case said he push for a Western Mass caucus if elected. "Boston has an inordinate amount of influence over policy; we need a bigger voice." He also said he would lobby for the Federal Communications Commission to change the region's placement in the Albany, N.Y., market to get more channels and more news about what's happening in Boston.
Case said the state needed raise revenue but on the backs of businesses. It should start cutting from the top to field more police, fire and inspectors, he said. "The head of the BRTA makes $450,000 a year — that's more than the president of the United States."
"The business climate is terrible out there," Case continued. "Everybody wants to tax business, tax business, tax business; business is not going to expand and hire people by increasing their taxes."
Frieri said residents and commercial operations would both benefit from property tax reform. While not going into to detail, she's taken up the cause of Williamsburg attorney Patricia Quintilian who has spearheaded a group of homeowners fighting what they says is illegal overassessments.
"We have to look at our property taxes and really hold small-town assessors accountable," said Frieri. "If we could take the property tax and level or reform it and boost our sales tax, I think we'd have more opportunity for small business and getting them to come here."
But while Frieri suggested the sales tax was more equitable, citing the example of North Carolina, Case was adamantly opposed.
"I think we need to reduce the sales tax. We're making it much easier for our citizens to go out of state and buy products in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, and even Connecticut," said Case. "We need to reduce the sales tax so our business can be competitive against our neighbors."
Rosanne M. Frieri
Both agreed that it was important for the state to encourage small business, particularly niche businesses, in the region. They also supported casino gambling in Western Massachusetts but didn't think it would be a "good fit" for the Berkshires region, and broadband expansion as an economic driver.
In response to if they would support a comprehensive, single-payer health care plan (a group in 2nd District is gathering signatures in support of that issue), Case said he wasn't a fan of single-payer but said the state had to do a better job in controlling costs.
"We're subsidizing people whom we really shouldn't be subsidizing," he said. "I think everybody deserves the right to emergency care but that's where it should stop."
Frieri said costs even for affordable plans were out of control. "I think we really have to take a real hard look at our health care," she said. "I think we need to cross state lines and be more competitive and I would support that legislation."
The primary is set for Sept. 14. The Republican winner will take on the Democratic primary winner and independent Stefan G. Racz, a Buckland selectman, in the November election.
The debates were televised by Pittsfield Community Television; check the schedule for repeat showings.
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Debates Slated for Sheriff, 2nd Berkshire Candidates
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College, in collaboration with the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television, will host the following debates Monday evening, Aug. 30, in K-111 on BCC's main campus. Seating is first-come, first-served and voters are invited to attend one or all three debates
The first event will begin at 6 p.m. with a debate between Democratic candidates Paul W. Mark, Noreen P. Suriner and Thomas S. Szczepaniak, who are vying for the nomination for representative for the 2nd Berkshire District.
Michael F. Case and Rosanne M. Frieri, the Republican candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District, will begin their debate at 7.
Jenn Smith, reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, will moderate both debates.
Daniel E. Bosley and Thomas N. Bowler, who are running to replace retiring Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, will debate at 8 p.m. Clarence Fanto, freelance newspaper and radio journalist, will moderate this debate.
The debates will be telecast live on CityLink, the government channel of PCTV, and through streaming at www.pittsfieldtv.org. The event will also be rebroadcast on PCTV several times prior to the Sept. 14 primary elections.
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Frieri Calls for Property Tax Reform, Relief for Homeowners
RICHMOND, Mass. — Rosanne Frieri, a candidate for representative in the 2nd Berkshire District, is calling for immediate property tax reform and relief of homeowners.
"The property tax system is simply unjust to homeowners and does not have adequate checks and balances to protect homeowners from disproportionate assessments," said the Richmond Republican. "Property tax laws by design place every property owner at a distinct disadvantage."
Frieri has met with property owners and reviewed multiple complaints that the Department of Revenue and other state agencies have largely ignored.
"It is outrageous that homeowners continue to have their property taxes raised in a market that has not just slid, but avalanched downhill since 2006. On top of that is a property tax system with outmoded laws that favor assessors and place every homeowner at substantial risk for an unfair assessment."
Frieri also cites another troubling trend of escalating property tax rates in small towns that offer few services. "What are these good citizens getting in return for the high property taxes they pay?" she asks.
Frieri lists a multitude of problems with the current property tax system, from assessors with no meaningful oversight to an Appellate Tax Board that has no enforcement power. Additionally, current laws force homeowners to pay their property tax bills in full on incorrect assessments or their right to appeal is disallowed, foreclosure sales are not factored into market value, and the appeals process is too complicated and costly.
According to Frieri, property tax issues are impacting everyone negatively, from business owners to homeowners to renters who have property tax increases passed on to them by their landlords.
"Many people are unemployed, or on fixed incomes such as the elderly and our war veterans. Under the current property tax system, they are faced with losing their homes to seizure unless these skyrocketing property taxes are paid, and how are they supposed to pay them?" she asked.
Frieri said she is committed to advocating property owners' rights and sponsoring bills to reform the property tax system, which has not undergone a major reform in over 30 years with many of the laws dating back to Colonial times.
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