Coakley Stresses Commitment to Berkshires
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."
Kerrigan Pushes Regional Economic Plan in Pittsfield
State Reps. Gailanne Cariddi, William "Smitty" Pignatelli, state Sen. Benjamin Downing and lieutenant governor candidate Steve Kerrigan talked economics during a morning walk down North Street.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lieutenant governor candidate Steve Kerrigan is back to work after winning the Democratic nomination last week.
Kerrigan was in Pittsfield on Wednesday morning to walk North Street with state Sen. Benjamin Downing and state Reps. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and Gailanne Cariddi.
The local officials explained the mixture of economic development projects — from the streetscape and the proposed Hotel on North to ideas on how to free additional commercial space. They explained the county's economy as well and how it works alongside of Pittsfield — or as Pignatelli put it, "Pittsfield is the hub of a wheel."
Kerrigan and gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley are pushing a plan to create
16 regional economic sectors and invest more than $500 million over the next decade into a mixture of projects such as are happening in downtown Pittsfield.
"It was important to have Gail and Smitty here. Through Gateway Cities [state program], Pittsfield can access to a lot more services and resources through the state. But, Adams and parts of Gail's district and Lee and parts of Smitty's district cannot," Kerrigan said.
"With this regional economic approach where we'd create 16 different regions and give folks $500 million over 10 years so, they can look at the projects they would like to do and work together inside of their community to prioritize those things. That flexibility and giving the local folks a chance to decide their own future and grow their own economy is critical part of how we are going to move Massachusetts forward."
Kerrigan contrasted their plan to the Republican ticket of Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito, saying they would be cutting investments.
"We cannot be complacent in this election. We need Democrats and independents and even Republicans to show up and support the Coakley/Kerrigan ticket because we have the right vision for the future of the commonwealth and Charlie and Karyn Polito have a backward vision," Kerrigan said.
Kerrigan said in the race for governor, it is important for the Democrats to reach as many people as possible and tell them "what's at stake." While Baker and Polito will try to campaign as moderates, he said they'll governor in a much more conservative way and cut funding for projects.
"Karyn Polito and Charlie Baker both ran much more tea party campaigns in 2010 and the only thing that has changed in four years is that less people like the tea party so they are changing their tone and trying to convince us that they are the happy warriors. We can't let them get away with that," Kerrigan said.
Baker on Wednesday unveiled an economic plan
of combined tax credits, increased local aid and the creation of 25 "Opportunity Zones."
Kerrigan and Coakley were first out of the gate to challenge the Republicans to six debates across the state.
He said both he and Coakley, the current attorney general, have already formed a strong base heading into first the convention and then the primary.
"We started early organizing and building the grassroots organization across the state. We mobilized for the convention and then carried on through and it worked," Kerrigan said. "We hope to bring that forward to win in November."
He added, "We're going to be a great partnership and our teams are working well together."
The Kerrigan/Coakley ticket is not only the best on the ballot, he says, but also a "historic" one.
"It is a great ticket. It is going to be a historic ticket. We've got the chance to elect the first woman governor, which is going to have a big impact on folks," Kerrigan said.
Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick Makes Primary Push in Pittsfield
Donald Berwick personally thanked supporters for their volunteer efforts in this last weekend before the primary.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It was April 2013 when Donald Berwick first came to Pittsfield asking for support in his bid for governor.
Since then he's laid the ground work and earned enough support at the Democratic convention to stay on the ballot. This weekend it all comes to fruition — or, as he says, "it's game time."
"This has been an amazing week. You can feel people who have not been paying attention to the race turning their attention to us. We're emphasizing the distinctive differences between me and the other candidates," Berwick said.
"I am the only candidate committed to single-payer health care, which is Medicare for all and is a major step forward for the state. I am the only candidate opposing casinos. I am the only candidate speaking with clarity what we need to do for hunger and homelessness."
Berwick is hoping for the Democratic nomination and a chance to face off against the presumed Republican candidate Charlie Baker. Berwick was one of the first candidates to staff Western Massachusetts offices and the only one to open an office in Pittsfield for volunteers helping with the final push. In the month of August alone, the campaign has raised about a quarter of a million dollars, he said.
In the next few days, 80,000 doors will be knocked on and thousands of phone calls will be make from volunteers telling residents why they should vote for the doctor.
"I think this state stands a chance of being the kind of example the country needs and it's not going to happen with the regular politicians. It just isn't. We've seen too much of it. It has to be someone coming in with a different background," Berwick said.
Berwick comes from outside of the political sphere. He started as a pediatrician and then formed the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a nonprofit organization that has grown to have hundreds of employees. He got his first taste of public life as a presidential appointee to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he was tasked with implementing a majority of the Affordable Care Act.
"My whole life has been about solutions," Berwick said in a rally speech to the Pittsfield volunteers on Saturday.
He says his competitors Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman won't take the bold steps he is willing to take. It is those difference Berwick says he is trying to show voters before Tuesday's primary. He says he is the best candidate for election in November because he makes decisive statements.
"The insider baseball, the lobbyist influence, the back slapping is just too great. It is paralyzing us," Berwick said. "It is one of the reasons, as opposed to my opponents, to speak out with real strength on issues that are hard to address but we've got to address — single-payer health care for the commonwealth."
He later added, "the core idea is that if you really want solutions and problem solving in the governor's office, I am your candidate. I don't owe lobbyist favors. I didn't pat anyone's back on Beacon Hill," Berwick said.
Ann Berwick is attending some 20 campaign rallies this weekend with her husband.
Sherwood Guernsey, former state representative, says he'll be voting for Berwick based on his values.
"I'm attracted to Don because he understands that it is not just one class. It is not about political interest. It isn't about any of that. What are your values?" Guernsey said. "Here is a guy who stood up for us. He didn't have to do this. He is not a lifelong politician."
Berwick is also opposing casinos, citing an array of negative affects they bring to the economy — a stance neither of the other candidates have taken.
In speaking to the volunteer base on Saturday, Berwick pulled a note from his back pocket from a homeless artist with the words "remember me" on it. He told his staff that he's heard that statement at nearly every campaign stop. And Berwick says he won't just be here asking for votes before the election but he'll be back after.
"I believe in regional equity. The concern people have about being forgotten, they don't have to worry about that for me," Berwick said.
Berwick's wife, Ann, appeared with the candidate Saturday.
"He is just as warm, honest and compassionate and frankly inspiring as he appears," Ann Berwick told the supporters.
She later said, "there are two kinds of voters in this election, those who support Don and those who haven't met him."
The Road To The Primary:
Ex-Medicare Chief Mulling Run for Governor
04-09-2013 - Former Medicare chief Dr. Donald Berwick was in Pittsfield on Tuesday to introduce himself and listen to Berkshire Brigade members as he 'strongly considers' a run for...
Berkshire Elected Officials Support Grossman Campaign
Sheriff Thomas Bowler, state Rep. William 'Smitty' Pignatelli and Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman toured Apex Resource Technologies on Thursday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Just slightly more than a week before the primary, Steven Grossman was in town to announce the endorsements of Sheriff Thomas Bowler, City Council President Melissa Mazzeo and Mayor Daniel Bianchi in his bid for governor.
The three local endorsements build on strong support across the county from elected officials. Grossman announced the additional endorsements but also, as has been part of his campaign for more than a year, toured one of the city's businesses.
All of the county's House delegates have thrown their support behind the candidate — including Gailanne Cariddi, a high school classmate of front-runner and Berkshire native Martha Coakley.
Coakley, Grossman and Donald Berwick are vying for the Democratic nomination to be the party's candidate in the general election against presumed Republican candidate Charlie Baker, who is facing off in the primary against Mark Fisher.
"Every one of the elected officials who have chosen to support me, whether it is Gailanne or Paul Mark or Smitty or the mayor, the sheriff, the council president, they all have people who respect them. They are credible people," Grossman said after touring Apex Resource Technologies.
"To have support from Martha's hometown says 'there is a guy on the ballot, another person, who can get the job done for North Adams.' "
Cariddi said North Adams can't lose if it comes down to Grossman or Coakley. But, her first choice is Grossman because of his background in business and his work as chairman of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
"I have great respect for him as an individual. He comes from almost the same background that I do in that he grew up in a family business. He grew up into position of leadership. His family business was a lot bigger than Cariddi Sales and was better for their family," Cariddi said. "They were a really good employer, a progressive employer."
Cariddi says education is a key priority and her district has been the most active in the county when it comes to building or renovating schools. Cariddi has worked with Grossman on three local projects.
"I have seen him in action in those meetings. We've had several school issues in this district. We finished up the Adams-Cheshire school under his leadership. We are in the middle of Colegrove [Park] School under his leadership. And we are just beginning discussions with the School Building Authority with the Mount Greylock Regional High School," Cariddi said.
His chairmanship on the MSBA has also won over the vote of state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier. She credits Grossman with "keeping his word" and moving the Taconic High School project along in the process.
"He has kept his word and more than one time he has had to intervene and say 'we told Pittsfield they would get their school and we're not going to let this get stuck anymore.' I have a great appreciation for that," Farley-Bouvier said in a recent interview.
On Thursday, Grossman reiterated his support for Taconic High School. He remembers the debate over how many schools the city needs. He says he sees importance in the school because it could be a "gamechanger" for the region.
"One of the things that will characterize Berkshire County over the next one, three, five, 10 years is a potential explosion of advanced and precision manufacturing," Grossman said.
He later added, "one of the problems the Berkshires has is that there are more jobs available than there are people to fill the jobs. If that's the case, let's do everything we can to recruit, train and retain the next generation of tool makers and advanced manufacturers."
Having a focus in manufacturing is what brought him to Apex. Grossman says he wanted to see Apex because it is a model of the advanced manufacturing he hopes will define the area.
And that starts with a renovated high school. Grossman says every day a new high school isn't built, the more young people the area loses to the eastern part of the state. That's the value he saw as chairman and he says he helped keep the focus on it.
General Manager Tony Liporace showed Grossman around the Downing Industrial Park business.
"It was obvious to everybody that Taconic needed to be rebuilt or renovated. It was obvious that if we could do it more quickly, consistent with the local community and with the validation of the curriculum, this was good for the community. Every day that we don't have a new school is a day we lose somebody," Grossman said.
For Mark, Grossman stood out because of the educational focus — particularly a plan to freeze college tuition. Mark is part of the house's higher education committee and recently headed a subcommittee looking to curb student debt — identifying rising tuition and fees as a cause.
"Treasurer Grossman's proposal to freeze fees and tuition at our public colleges and universities for the next four years is an initiative I support wholeheartedly," said Mark in a statement released by the Grossman campaign. "Access to a college education is essential to leveling the playing field for young people across Massachusetts."
Bowler cited the candidate's focus on substance abuse and mental health as lead issues as why he support Grossman.
Both Mazzeo and Bianchi released statements backing Grossman, saying they feel he is the candidate that would work the best with them. Bianchi cited his "commitment" as treasurer to the county.
The representatives said they, too, feel like Grossman work best with the Legislature. For Grossman, that support is what is giving him confidence as the polls show the race tightening.
"If the mayor of Pittsfield says Steve Grossman is somebody who believes deeply in Pittsfield and is going to invest and be my partner. And the president of the City Council says she is going to be our partner. And the sheriff says he is working with me on the opioid crisis that we've got and I've got some idea for that. If your top leaders are all saying this is somebody who gets the Berkshires, who understands it, who spends an enormous amount of time here, he's spent all his life out here working with his dad. That's the kind of thing that sends the message to people who say, I'm going to give Steve Grossman a vote because he is a proven jobs creator," Grossman said.
While he may have won the most votes at the Democratic State Convention in June, he has been trailing Coakley since. But, he says it isn't until the final two weeks before the race that people make up their minds so he is confident he'll be the party's candidate.
"I think this is going to come down to the wire," Grossman said.
Grossman Talks Manufacturing, Minimum Wage
10-09-2013 - Grossman spoke at the Berkshire Brigades office on Wednesday after filming a television show with the Democratic group. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Manufacturing is in the state's DNA so...
Independent Candidate Falchuk Tours Pittsfield Business
Starbase founder Burton Francis, on the right, gives Evan Falchuk a tour of the Peck's Road building on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — One by one, Burton Francis introduced Evan Falchuk to his employees on Tuesday, telling them that Falchuk is challenging the establishment.
And one by one, the Starbase Technologies employees made sure they got their opinion heard — from welfare reform to gun control to business to putting their kids through college.
They've met plenty of politicians before but when Francis explained that Falchuk is an independent running for governor, many perked up a bit.
"The impasse in government is so bad that we really need to change out the Republicans and the Democrats and get some new, basic people running the show," Francis said.
Francis started Starbase more than 25 years ago, manufacturing molds for an array of products from pens to laundry detergent caps to airplane parts. His business has grown to employ about 50 people at his Peck's Road location.
But he says he is concerned with the costs associated with doing business, and he hasn't seen much help from those in leadership positions.
"It is nice to be able to know the person who can make sure laws don't get passed that could hurt my employees, hurt my tax rate. The cost of doing business in Massachusetts and keeping cost down will help not just me but every manufacturer in Massachusetts," Francis said.
Francis typically votes Republican but says that doesn't matter now because neither party listens to the common, everyday people. When a close family friend began working for Falchuk, Francis started hearing about the independent campaign and was intrigued.
"We need change going right to the top," Francis said.
Falchuk says guys like Francis and the Starbase employees represent exactly what his campaign is about. The Newton candidate formed the United Independent Party and wants to remodel how government operates.
"What you hear so often is people feeling the political process isn't representing their interest anymore," Falchuk said.
That's led to to only about a quarter of registered voters making it to the polls, he said, because the residents are "dispirited" about government.
"We have a system that is not taking people seriously. If you want to make people mad, don't take them seriously, ignore them and treat them as if they don't matter. That is what our government has done," Falchuk said.
Falchuk says he isn't "dispirited" though. He sees people's frustration as an opportunity to start something new.
"Voters don't have to be tied into the establishment. It doesn't have to be Democrat or Republican. We can build a new future that is not tied to those structures that have caused many of the problems we face," Falchuk said.
The issues brought up by the Starbase employees is what Falchuk says he hears across the state in his campaign. The campaign began last year and Falchuk is focused on meeting as many people as he can - whether that means walking down the street at Third Thursday in Pittsfield or at the Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams to visits to businesses like Tuesday.
He tells voters that lowering the cost of living will help not only individuals but also businesses.
Health care, for example, Falchuk says is causing a tremendous strain on everybody. The system is based on people getting sick and it shouldn't be, he said.
Nearly every employee shared their opinions with Falchuk as he toured the molding company.
Falchuk says the state needs to limit consolidation of hospitals and to implement payment fee schedules for health-care providers to show exactly how much they are getting in revenue day to day. He says if the state can curb health care costs 5 percent, that translates to billions of dollars back to residents.
"This is a problem that we need to get ahead of. It shouldn't happen that a city as important as North Adams doesn't have a hospital in it," Falchuk said. "The reality is that the high cost of health care is what is driving these problems and it affects business."
He also says housing costs are too high and it is because the state hasn't done enough to build more, driving the cost down. Falchuk's lieutenant governor candidate Angus Jennings, for example, worked on the zoning that allowed the Rice Silk Mill housing complex. That zoning calls for mixed use of housing and business to drive "vibrancy" in downtown areas, Falchuk said.
Another way to lower costs is to simply bring more people in. In the Berkshires, Falchuk says the creative economy is a major driver of not only bringing tourism dollars to the area but can also attract new residents.
As for future generations, Falchuk left Starbase after seeing another example of thriving manufacturing — a business type that so many people have cast in a negative light, he said.
"I think it is really important that this kind of manufacturing work is seen for young people as an opportunity, seen as a craft, a trade, as something to be proud of," Falchuk said. "That's honorable, good work. The state should be funding job training programs to support this."
The election for governor is starting to heat up following the Democrat and Republican conventions and should pick up more steam after the primary on Sept. 9. Once the Democrats pick a candidate — Donald Berwick, Martha Coakley or Steven Grossman — the election will gather even more attention. The Republicans have already chosen Charlie Baker as their candidate.
When that happens, Falchuk says he will be in the thick of it. He says in the last year he has raised enough to last through the election as well as the start of funds for other candidates in 2016 if United Independent becomes an official party.
"We will be outspent. We will be outspent from the party organizations. That is the big loophole nobody likes to talk about. Both the Democrats and Republicans, their state and federal parties are able to channel unlimited amounts of money to support their candidates. I think it is possible to run and win a really good statewide race for $3 million or $4 million. They're going to spend a heck of a lot more than that and we'll spend about that," Falchuk said.
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