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Sue Bush
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Hodgkins Announces Candidacy During Three-Stop County Trek

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Tuesday, June 13, 2006

State Senate candidate Christopher J. Hodgkins. Hodgkins is a Democrat and a former state representative.
North Adams - "The candidate you see is the senator you get," according to Christopher Hodgkins, a former state representative now seeking the Senate seat being vacated by state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.D-Pittsfield.

He plans to be very visible and accessible as a candidate and, if elected, as a senator, Hodgkins said.

Hodgkins, one of five Democrats seeking the two-year term, formally announced his candidacy during a three-stop June 13 trek through Berkshire County. He has been identified as a candidate prior to the formal announcement and participated in a June 9 candidate debate held in Pittsfield. The debate was sponsored by the Women Helping Empower Neighborhoods [WHEN] organization.

He deliberately selected the northern edge of the Hadley Overpass as his North Adams destination because the site is an example of the current state government's failure to acknowledge Western Massachusetts needs, he said.

"This bridge is a good example of something that shouldn't be," Hodgkins said.

"The State Is The Biggest Contributor To Blight"


Hodgkins talked about the state neglect of the North Adams-based Hadley Overpass while on a three-community campaign trek.
He emphasized that during the early 1990s, state officials pledged to spend about $2 million to replace the overpass, then backed away from that commitment and agreed to repair the bridge. Very little has been done to repair or improve the aging structure, Hodgkins said.

"When you ride over this bridge, ask yourself, what has the state done for you lately," he said.

The state's inaction at the bridge is inexcusable, he said. City Mayor John Barrett III and other community leaders are actively promoting the downtown, recruiting new business, and generating a revitalization while state officials ignore the things that would enhance those efforts, he said.

"Here [North Adams], it's all about revitalization; they wrote the book on revitalization," Hodgkins said, and then directed his gaze to the overpass that links the city to all points south along Route 8.

"The state is the biggest contributor to blight."

Hodgkins launched the junket in Great Barrington, and made a stop in Pittsfield before concluding the campaigning in North Adams.

Education and Health Care

Hodgkins focused on public education while at the Conte school in Pittsfield, he said. The school is losing a third grade teacher and the likely result is a class size of about 27 pupils when the 2006-07 academic year begins, he said.

If elected, he will battle to restore funds to public schools across the Berkshires and will fight to stop the erosion of public school revenues that occurrs when charter schools open under current state education funding formulas.

"Strong schools make strong communities," he said. "And we have to stop what's happening with the charter schools."

While at the Community Health Center in Great Barrington, Hodgkins targeted the expansion and funding of universal health care and early childhood early intervention programs. Hodgkins said that a Southern Berkshires early intervention program is expected to lose state funding. Early intervention programs serve the "most vulnerable" state population and provide needed services, he added.

Giving The Push

As a former state representative, Hodgkins said he is the only candidate with experience at the state level of government. He believes he can be an effective advocate for all Berkshire region residents, he said.

"I want to be the state senator that gives the push that Berkshire County needs," he said. "I want to match the good work Dan Bosley [state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley D-North Adams] does at the [state] House [of Representatives]."

He plans a door-to-door campaign in the city, he said, and stressed that he plans to visit the Northern Berkshires frequently. He plans to return to the Northern Berkshires on June 16 to attend an event and also plans to ride through the area on his Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle with a group of friends within the next week, he said.

Hodgkins acknowledged that the desires and the needs of those who reside in the Northern, Central, and Southern portions of the Berkshires are not all the same.

He is willing and able to represent each population, he said.

"I've made it a point to pay attention to north county," he said.

"I Am A Product Of Public Higher Education"

Hodgkins said that he's met with Barrett, Bosley, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary K. Grant, as well as city councilors, North Adams Regional Hospital staff and administrators, and has also met with several downtown business owners.

"I've met the stakeholders and I know I need to meet more," he said.

Hodgkins is a product of a working-class, single-parent family, he said. He is the youngest of five siblings and "I am a product of public higher education," he emphasized.

Hodgkins graduated from the Berkshire Community College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

"My best education came from my mom," he said. "We struggled to get where we were. We had lots of friends; we didn't have lots of money."

"The best way to elevate people is through education," he said.

"That's Who I Listen To"

Hodgkins said that he has served as a law enforcement officer and a volunteer firefighter, and as a youth, he worked as a bag boy for the former Adams Supermarkets chain, now known as Big Y Inc..

He understands the feelings of middle-class folks, he said.

"I'm talking about advocacy for the common man and woman," he said. "I know that a lot of people are getting squeezed."

He believes that the people of the region are the best judges of what will benefit their families, their lives, and their communities, he said.

"My advisors are at the grocery store," he said. "That's who I listen to."

Hodgkins faces challenges from Democrats Margaret J. Ware of Williamstown, Benjamin B. Downing of Pittsfield, Helen Sharron of Worthington, John T. Zelazo of Adams, Republican Matthew W. Kinnaman of Pittsfield, and Dion C. Robbins-Zust, who has no political party affiliation.

A primary election is scheduled for Sept. 18. The Senate district is comprised of 48 municipalities in the Berkshire region and Franklin and Hampshire counties.

Nuciforo announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection to the state Senate and would seek election as the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds. He is unopposed for that office.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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