State Sen. Adam Hinds talks with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Quentin Palfrey watched the news of what happened in Charlottesville, Va. He watched as a group of students held a sign against racism while hundreds of others carried signs with swastikas.
And he wondered what he would tell his children about what he did in a time when his morals were put to the test.
"I want to be able to tell them that I stood up. I fought back. I pounded my fists on the table and I screamed until I was hoarse that this isn't the kind of America we want to live in," Palfrey said.
So he is running for lieutenant governor.
The Democrat had previously worked as a senior adviser for jobs and competitiveness in the White House under former President Barack Obama. He was deputy counsel for strategic initiatives at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He previously worked in the health-care division in the state's attorney general's office.
"We worked hard to build an economy that worked for everyone. Last year, like many of you, I worked hard to try to elect a president who would carry on those values. And I have to admit, I'm devastated by what has come since. There is a cruelty to this administration that seeks to rip apart families, put walls up between us and our neighborhoods, knock tens of millions of people off health insurance. There is also an attack on the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy," he said.
He is trying to take his experience and ideals to Beacon Hill in hopes that Massachusetts, with Democrats in the majority in both houses of the Legislature, will become a national leader.
"If we can take back the governor's office, Massachusetts can do things other states can only dream of. We can raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. We can get paid family leave. We can pass a millionaire's tax and really invest in education and transportation all across the state. We can move toward single-payer health care. We can have real solutions to the opioid crisis. And we can fix our broken criminal justice system," Pelfrey said.
But Palfrey isn't the only Democrat seeking office this upcoming election. Democrats have candidates up and down the ballot, from Congress to the Governor's Council to Berkshire district attorney.
On Sunday, Democrats in Pittsfield caucused to choose their representatives at the state convention. And at that caucus, Palfrey was one of eight candidates to take the microphone and give their elevator pitch to the most active local members of the party.
Of those eight were two of the three Democrats seeking the nomination to take on Gov. Charlie Baker for the state's top executive office. They spent the afternoon talking politics with the local party members.
"With Trump taking us backward every single day, it is more important than ever that we are leading here in Massachusetts. But we're not leading under Charlie Baker. He's a status quo, wait and see governor. And it is not good enough. It is not good enough to simply accept the world the way it is and try to manage it better," said Jay Gonzalez said.
"We need a governor who sees the world the way it should and take us to that place."
Jay Gonzalez is one of three Democrats running for the nomination for governor.
Gonzalez has taken to the motto of "aim high" when it comes to the office. His priorities include providing living wages, paid family leave, lowering the cost of housing, debt-free college, transportation, high quality and affordable child care and preschool, and moving to a single-payer health care system.
"This is a former health insurance CEO telling you we need to get rid of health insurance companies. As the only candidate in this race with experience in the health care industry, I will get it done. I will take on the other big challenges we face like climate change and the opioid epidemic, and our broken criminal justice system," Gonzalez said.
"I will stand up for every single person in this state."
His background includes working as a secretary in former Gov. Deval Patrick's office, overseeing the state's budget. He chaired the Life Science Center and the Health Connector. He then went into the health insurance industry to head Celticare.
He also entered the campaign with local support from incumbent state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who endorsed Gonzalez earlier this year.
But before he can take on Baker, he'll have to win the primary against Setti Warren and Bob Massie. Massie wasn't present at Sunday's caucus, though he did have a representative there. Warren used his three minutes to hone in on his top priority: income inequality.
"I believe we have to ask people who are doing really well in this economy, particularly those who make over $1 million a year, to contribute more so we can address some things that matter. Education: right now Charlie Baker is underfunding education. There are layoffs occurring all across this state. We've got to re-do Chapter 70, make sure we fully fund K-12, and we need to add to public education after-school enrichment, summer enrichment, early childhood. I believe in lifelong free public college," Warren said.
The two-term Newton mayor and combat veteran said many of the issues holding the state back stem from revenue. He said the state needs to fix the roads and bridges, invest in north and south and east and west rail system and regional transit authorities, tackle the opioid crisis and improve education.
"This is an epidemic in our state. Since 2014, 6,000 people have died of opioid addiction in Massachusetts. Over five people a day are dying of opioid addiction in the state of Massachusetts. Over 70 people a day are becoming addicted to opioids in the state of Massachusetts. We have to provide resources for more beds, more clinicians, and lifelong, community-based, on the ground wraparound services," Warren said.
To fund those, he is backing what is called the "millionaire's tax" that would place an extra tax on those making more than $1 million a year.
"We can longer embrace or accept Charlie Baker's status quo and low expectations when it comes to educating our children. We can no longer embrace Charlie Baker's low expectations and status quo when it comes to transportation in this state. And we can no longer embrace or accept Charlie Baker's status and low expectations when it comes to treating people with addiction. It is wrong," Warren said.
On the federal level, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal. Amatul-Wadud said she wants to be an inclusive representative who is constantly in contact with her constituents.
"I want to talk about the opioid crisis in a way that is truly meaningful, not just throwing money at it. We need to talk about it and deal with it from a holistic point of view. Not only do we have an opioid crisis, we have crack crisis, a cocaine crisis, and a heroin crisis, and we have vast disparities in how we handle them. We need to move back from a committed model and adopt a clinical and compassionate model. That's the only way we are going to move forward," Amatul-Wadud.
Amatul-Wadud started her career in the legal department at Mass Mutual before moving on to ISO New England. She earned her law degree and then moved on to working family law with Western Mass Legal Services, before starting her own practice.
She supports a "Medicare for all" program, voiced outrage at the lack of economic prosperity in the district, and has made expansion of internet services a priority.
"Many of our neighbors do not even have access to broadband and many more whom it is available but cost prohibited. This is a quality of life issue. It keeps our children and families from advances in economic prosperity," Amatul-Wadud said.
"The status quo is not working. If you believe in the mission I have, which is one of optimism, hope, and motivation, I ask you to follow our campaign."
Tahira Amatul-Wadud is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.
Neal wasn't in attendance but his district aide Matthew Russett represented him.
Russett highlighted Neal's work with historic tax credits and new market tax credits that helped with the redevelopment of the Colonial Theater, Beacon Cinema, and Howard building residences. He said Neal will continue a fight for a fair tax structure for the middle class.
"Congressman Neal is the ranking Democrat on the house Ways and Means Committee. It is a very important committee that deals with all of taxes, international trade, tariffs, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and pensions. If we win the house back in 2018, he is eligible to be chairman of that committee," Russett said.
On a more local level, Paul Caccaviello used Sunday's caucus to introduce himself to the local Democrats -- just days after it was announced that he would be taking over the district attorney's office. District Attorney David Capeless is resigning and Caccaviello will be appointed to head that office. In the fall, Caccaviello's name will be on the ballot to replace Capeless.
"I've prosecuted everything from shoplifting to larcenies, to robberies, to narcotic distributions, murder, homicides, and everything in between. I'm honored and humbled to be appointed on March 14 to be the district attorney, to continue the office's mission of holding the guilty accountable and protecting the innocent, and doing so with integrity and honor," Caccaviello said.
The Pittsfield native now living in Dalton was locally educated and has been working as a prosecutor since 1989. He maintained his position through four district attorneys. He was appointed first assistant district attorney by Capeless in 2004 and says he has worked in every courtroom in this county.
"I serve with the Dalton Rotary Club. I've also been a member of the St. Agnes Academy School Committee. I currently serve as the vice chair of the Board of Trustees at Berkshire Community College. I've been a trustee there since 2009," Caccaviello told the crowd about his community engagement outside of the courthouse.
Meanwhile, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim told the local Democrats why they should choose him to replace William Galvin as secretary of state. Zakim has served on the Boston City Council since 2013, chairs the council's committee on civil rights, and had previously chaired the committee on housing and community development.
He is the author of the Boston Trust Act, which absolved the city's compliance with President Donald Trump's immigration policies.
"That bill and that legislation have made people safer and more welcomed when they live or visit the city of Boston. That is the kind of work we need to continue doing in Massachusetts - standing up for our values that are under attack from a hostile president, a hostile Congress in Washington," Zakim said.
Zakim said his goals are to expand access to voting while at the same time bringing in "innovative ways" to protect election results from hackers.
"We need same day registration in Massachusetts. We need automatic voter registration in Massachusetts. We need to make it easier for people who are at work or school to vote by mail or vote absentee. These are all reforms that are not new, just new in Massachusetts. We can be doing this and we should be pushing for this," Zakim said.
And in the governor's council, Mary Hurley is seeking re-election. She wasn't at the caucus but Ryan Dunn represented her saying that Hurley will continue "to fight for regional equity." He cited a dozen judges appointed from Western Mass as efforts she took to make sure this part of the state is represented.
"Western Massachusetts will not be shortchanged," Dunn said.
There were other candidates represented as well. Incumbents state Sen. Adam Hinds and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who are both seeking re-election, were in attendance but opted not to take part in the speaking portion. Register of Deeds Patsy Harris was there. State Rep. Paul Mark's wife, Cassandra, was there collecting signatures. Former Pittsfield Mayor Gerry Doyle was on hand representing Galvin's office.
Also in attendance were Mayor Linda Tyer, City Councilors Pete White, Helen Moon and Nicholas Caccamo, School Committee member Dennis Powell, and former state Rep. Thomas Wojtkowski. The Pittsfield Democratic City Committee is chaired by former City Council President Kevin Sherman.
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