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Attorney General Candidate Miller Calls For Professionalism, Not Politics
By Andy McKeever On: 10:00PM / Tuesday June 17, 2014

John Miller says the attorney general's job is not a political one.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Attorney General Candidate John Miller says it is time to vote for the person, not the politics.
 
Miller has launched a campaign for the attorney general's office. He will be on the ticket as a Republican but he says that shouldn't and won't matter. What matters, he said, is that he has the skills and experience to do the job.
 
"Fundamentally it is not a political job. The law in this state is built on the Massachusetts constitution. On top of that, our statutes. And, on the side, 300 years of common law decided by our courts. The basic job of the attorney general is to protect that law," Miller said. 
 
The 61-year-old has spent his last 36 years as a construction attorney working with public contracts. He knows procurement laws and he has seen how state contracts are awarded.
 
And he says he knows how to make sure the state's money goes to where it should be going.
 
"Every day I will find out how to make it increasingly dangerous to steal from the state," Miller told the Berkshire County Republicans during a dinner Tuesday night in Pittsfield.
 
In both the social programs and then on the contractual side, Miller said he will organize and layer the state's databases to help root out mistakes or malpractice in payments and funding.
 
"This isn't about malevolence or evil. This is just an administrative improvement," Miller said. "You have to start looking systematically."
 
Miller says he will also be "a real partner" with the district attorneys and sheriff departments. And, he promises that he will handle the office independently and not politically.
 
"I just think that we are not paying attention at this job, at this time. It is a professional approach to this job [I am bringing], not a political one," Miller said.
 
While he promises the independent nature, Miller is running on the Republican ticket. He says he always been a Republican so it "was natural" to take their nomination.
 
Now living in Winchester, Miller grew up in New Britain, Conn., before attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After earning his master's degree, he went to Boston University for his law degree. He returned to MIT at the age of 40 to finish up a doctorate.
 
"My parents dropped me off when I was 17 at MIT and I have a civil engineering degree, master's degree and then I went to law school. When happens when you put civil engineering with law school, what pops out is a construction lawyer," Miller said. 
 
"I've been a construction lawyer for 36 years, which has taken me into public contracts. My wheelhouse, most of my professional life, has been in state contracts."
 
Since 1977 he has worked in a few law firms focused on construction. He stopped for 10 years to teach at MIT before going back to practicing at Patton Boggs, LLP. 
 
"I have the experience and the skills. I'm 61 and it is time to give back. I've had a great run as a public contracts lawyer but I think it is time," he said of why he decided to run for his first political office. "The ship of the state is leaking a little bit and I think I have some skills I can contribute."
 
Miller launched his campaign for the seat in March and is the only Republican candidate. The seat will be open because current Attorney General Martha Coakley is running for governor. The Democrats will be holding a primary between Warren Tolman and Maura Healy to pick their nominee.
 
Miller says he has no plans for any officer higher than attorney general and just wants to do the job as the state's attorney.
 
"I think we need someone to pay attention. I think in order to be a good lawyer you have to remember who the client is and that the client's interest is paramount," Miller said.


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Pignatelli and Mark Supporting Grossman for Governor
By Andy McKeever On: 12:48PM / Friday June 13, 2014

William "Smitty" Pignatelli is supporting Steven Grossman for governor.

LENOX, Mass. — Treasurer Steven Grossman is expected to win this weekend's Democratic convention.

State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli is hoping Grossman will be the next governor.

"I think he is the only Democrat in the field currently that can win in November. Any one of these candidates can win in the primary, but the Democrats have to look at who win in November," Pignatelli said earlier this week.

"We know who the Republican is going to be. It is going to be Charlie Baker and he is going to be well-financed, really organized, and we have to put up somebody who can go toe to toe with him."

The dean of the Berkshire delegation expects Grossman to "run away" with this weekend's convention.

"He makes it personal. He looks you in the eye and tells you why he wants to be governor and I think he's making a connection with people unlike any other candidate in the field," Pignatelli said. "For that reason, I think he'll run away with this thing."

State Rep. Paul Mark says he leaning toward Grossman as well.

"It looks like I am with Steve Grossman. I think he would do a really good job working with the Legislature," Mark said on Friday. "I see Steve Grossman as someone who can walk in on day one and get things done."

But, the primary race is "wide open," both Pignatelli and Mark say. The Democratic Party has five candidates running for governor but there hasn't been a "clear cut favorite."

The field consists of two well-know candidates in Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley and then three lesser known candidates in Donald Berwick, Juliette Kayyem and Joseph Avellone. The candidates need 15 percent of delegates to be on the primary ballot.

Polls have shown that while Grossman is expected to win the convention, Coakley is still the favorite for the primary. Some polls have even shown Berwick leap-frogging Coakley in delegates at the convention.

"I think it is wide open," Pignatelli said. "I think that shows that there is some good momentum and some great grassroots democracy going on in Massachusetts."

Mark said if all of the candidates could run on the same ticket, that would be an amazing administration because of each of their experiences. But Mark too is expecting Grossman to be the winning of the convention.

"I would predict that Steve Grossman is at the top with the delegates," Mark said, but with limited delegates for five candidates, he expects at least of the five to fall short of the needed 15 percent.

While Coakley and Grossman have been the leading candidates leading up to the primary, the race remains tight. While Pignatelli has come out in favor of Grossman, others have not. State Sen. Benjamin Downing has not and says he might not lend his support to any of the candidates before the primary.

"I just haven't felt compelled to make that statement yet. I fully plan on supporting the Democratic nominee for governor but I don't know if I will involve myself in a primary just yet," Downing said.

Downing, who said he is "skeptical of the power of endorsements anyway," will be active in the election with his role as co-chairman of the party's "coordinated campaign." But looking at the field, Downing says it might be best to let them sort out the nomination on their own.

"No one candidate has caught on fire like Deval Patrick did in 2006 but those five candidates have been out there for the better part of a year plus in some cases," Downing said.

Later adding, "when it gets close, you are better off letting the candidates decide it."

However, in the lieutenant governor race, Downing has already threw his support behind Steve Kerrigan.

"Steve Kerrigan is more than just a candidate I support. We've been good, close friends for a number of years. He is someone who has the skills and the ability to be a successful lieutenant governor for Massachusetts," Downing said.

Pignatelli feels the primary for lieutenant governor is Kerrigan's "race to lose." But, Pignatelli says he hasn't determined who he supports. Mark says he has not yet decided on that race.



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Downing to Serve as Chief Surrogate for Coordinated Campaign Effort
On: 01:13PM / Wednesday June 11, 2014

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Democratic Party has named state Sen. Ben Downing co-chair of the Coordinated Campaign, a crucial post that will serve as the chief surrogate for Democratic efforts throughout the election cycle.

Downing, of Pittsfield, is a rising star in Democratic politics and has represented the Berkshires and portions of Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties since 2007.
 
As chair of Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, Downing’s leadership on clean energy has helped make Massachusetts No. 1 in the nation. According to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, there are now nearly 80,000 clean energy jobs in Massachusetts, with a 24 percent growth in the last two years.
 
“Massachusetts is back in the leadership business because of the Democratic Party,” said Downing. “As Democrats, we’ve got a great story to tell about leading the nation in business competitiveness, education, clean energy and veteran’s services. I’m excited to travel the commonwealth and tell that story.”
 
Downing’s Coordinated Campaign co-chair will be named at a later date.

 



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Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick Says He'll Be On Ballot
By Andy McKeever On: 10:32AM / Monday June 02, 2014
The crowd at the law office to hear Berwick spilled out into the hallways. The candidate has seemed to gain support from the more progressive in the Democratic party.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With the Democratic Convention just two weeks away, gubernatorial candidate Donald Berwick believes he will have the votes to get on the ballot.

Berwick needs 15 percent of delegates to vote his way to be placed on the primary ballot. And with the momentum his campaign has gained recently, he believes he will get it

"I'm sure we are going to be on the ballot. The momentum is stunning. We've had the best fundraising month in our history in May, the number of volunteers has swelled fivefold in two months," Berwick said.

"The response to progressive messaging, for specific bold issues, I can feel it, the momentum is there."

The former administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he oversaw implementation of many aspect of the Affordable Care Act, has been gaining support throughout the state from the more progressive Democrats.

Of five potential Democratic candidates, he is the one advocating for a single-payer health care system. Berwick's campaign centers on improving the health care system to pave the way for other progressive issues.

On Sunday, Berwick visited the law office of Sherwood Guernsey, where he met with dozens of progressive Democrats and received support for his vision. Berwick told the crowd that the progressive message is to "show up" to help others of need.

Whether it is helping the homeless, addressing criminal justice reform, to providing more mental health and substance abuse programs, Berwick told those in attendance that he'll talk about and focus on the issues that others have back away from.

"We have a fight on our hands and, with a progressive agenda, we have to assert our values," Berwick said.

Berwick may have hit a niche — especially in the Berkshires where he has campaigned more than most of the Democratic field — with a progressive agenda to get him on the ballot. The next goal would be to win the Democratic primary to be the candidate to take on Republican Charlie Baker.

More on Donald Berwick

"Everyone on the Democratic side is very concerned. We have got to keep the corner office in Democratic column. I think I have the best chance at beating Charlie Baker and our momentum is extraordinary," Berwick said.

The campaign, he says, has been built to not only gather delegate support but also is gaining mass attention from the community. The volunteer base has grown to be ready to fully expand the campaign after the election, he said.

Two Democratic candidates entered the race as highly touted elected officials. Treasurer Steven Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley are both seeking to replace Gov. Deval Patrick. With most name recognition, they have been the leading candidates in polls.

They could also narrow the number of convention delegates for candidates like Berwick, Juliette Kayyem and Joseph Avellone, to gain their 15 percent.

Even with the two top names expected to be on the ballot, the state Democratic Party has not aligned itself behind a single candidate yet.

In a recent interview, Kayyem, who perhaps has campaigned as much in the Berkshires as Berwick, said the longer it takes for the party as a whole to come to a decision, the better it is for candidates like her.

Kayyem, a former National Security secretary, has been gaining an appeal with the independent voters, so she stands to fare better in a primary than she will at the convention.

She, too, believes she will receive the 15 percent of delegates to be on the primary ballot. Kayyem and Berwick have been running close to each other in polls behind the two leaders.

Avellone, however, has been falling behind and the question leading into the convention is how many Democrats will appear on the ballot.



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Independent Candidate For U.S. Senate Walks Into Pittsfield
By Andy McKeever On: 09:40AM / Thursday May 29, 2014

The systems dynamics engineer is running for Congress in an effort to start pushing money out of politics.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bruce Skarin specializes in understanding the dynamics of mechanical systems over time.

After the terrorist attacks of 2001, he adapted that model to understand the dynamics of political systems — revealing that the attacks were in the making for a long time and could have been prevented and predicted if the "big picture" had been carefully analyzed.

"It was that day when a lot of things were turned upside down for me. I wanted to see what I could do with these new skills I had in trying to take on big problems. I did a model on terrorism and I was able to simulate the 10 years leading up to September 11," Skarin said last week as he walked through downtown meeting with residents and collecting signatures for a run for the U.S. Senate.

"I was able to simulate how things were building up and how different pieces of the problem were trying to prevent terrorism from happening and how other pieces were reinforcing the likelihood."

Now, in 2014, he says the government system is setting the wrong course. Instead of complaining about the influence of money in politics, the lack of environmental protections and a poor education system, Skarin has already announced his intention to challenge U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.

"Two years ago, when my second son was born, I was getting increasingly concerned with the future we're creating right now," he said. "As a simulation scientist, I understand how much inertia problems like national debt, climate change, a stagnant economy have. They have huge amounts of inertia that when the problems are starting to brew, it might not seem so bad. But by the time the really bad stuff starts happening, it is really hard to change."

Basically, Skarin believes Congress isn't moving fast enough the address coming issues. And, the main reason behind that is because of the influence large companies have over the elected officials.

"I'm independent because I believe both parties are blowing it. Neither one of them understand what the daily challenges are for most people," Skarin said. "I think the Washington elites are very much disconnected to the people they are supposed to represent."

For example, when it comes to global warming, he says Congress depends so much on the campaign donations from energy companies that it prevents any energy policy that will curb the issue.

Another example Skarin used is that in the future, vehicles and transportation will move to automatic systems — cutting down on car accidents. However, the insurance and health care industries benefit greatly from them. Instead of seeing he issue before it arises and starting to plan a future around those changes, Congress is swayed by the businesses that donate.

"I'd say that is the first issue. Until we can effectively deal with that, which is why I am running a citizen funded campaign and why I want to spend more of my time and energy connecting with people as opposed to raising money," he said.

In the current trajectory, money is growing in influence over public policy, he said. He wants to work toward removing that influence and said that then that economic markets can compete fairly, boosting the economy.

"It has gotten more and more expensive to run elections because people have gotten less and less interested in what's going on. They don't buy it anymore," he said. "It is reinforcing because the more money they raise, the more disgusted people get. The more disgusted people get, the more they tune out. The more they tune out, the more they have to spend to hit those prime time slots."

Skarin is walking eight to 20 miles a day through Massachusetts towns. He's meeting people, talking politics and having face-to-face conversations.

"I feel this is the right way to do it. I won't raise as much money as Markey. But he can't get out here and do this," Skarin said. "It isn't supposed to be about the money or running attack ads."

The 37-year-old Milbury man characterizes his political believes as taking the "best parts" of Republican Democratic platforms. While he sides with Republicans when it comes to fiscal conservative and individual responsibility principals, he sides with the Democrats when it comes to social justice issues.

"They're heart is in the right place but they don't really understand how to create sustainable solutions," he said of Democrats, taking the minimum wage debate as an example of a temporary fix and then the U.S. debt as unsustainable.

He also is placing a high priority on revamping the national education system to prepare for the advancement of technology.

"We can have a very forward thinking strategy," he said.



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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Primary
Tuesday, Sept. 9

Voting is from 7 to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation is Aug. 20; only unenrolled voters may select which primary to vote in. More information on registering can be found here.

Candidates on the ballot in a race for their party nomination; all others on the ballot are unopposed

Republican
  Governor: Charles D. Baker & Mark R. Fisher

Democratic
  Governor: Donald M. Berwick, Martha Coakley & Steven Grossman
  Lieutenant governor: Leland Cheung, Stephen J. Kerrigan & Michael E. Lake
  Attorney general: Maura Healey & Warren E. Tolman
  Treasurer: Thomas P. Conroy, Barry R. Finegold & Deborah B. Goldberg
 

Municipal Elections

The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams will hold municipal elections for mayor, city council and school committee in 2015

You may vote absentee: if you will be absent from your town or city on election day, have a physical disability that prevents you from voting at the polls or cannot vote at the polls because to religious beliefs.

2010 Special Senate Election Results

Election 2009 Stories

Election Day 2008

 

 

 



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