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Coakley Visits Berkshire Cities for Governor's Race Kickoff

Staff Reports
Martha Coakley

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Attorney General Martha Coakley will announce for governor on Monday at the beginning of a three-day swing through the state that will bring her to the Berkshires on Tuesday.

The North Adams native had been among the high-profile Democrats expected to declare — one way or the other — on their interest in the state's top office.

In a statement, Coakley said, “Massachusetts is poised to take off. We can either grab this moment and move forward together, or risk falling behind.  

"I believe we must continue to rebuild our economy in a way that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, and launch new education reforms so that every child and adult has the skills they need to compete in a global economy."

Coakley's Campaign Stops on Tuesday

2:30
Dottie's Coffee Lounge
444 North St., Pittsfield
 

4:30
Freight Yard Pub
Heritage State Park
North Adams

Coakley will officially announce her gubernatorial campaign by video at www.marthacoakley.com and start the day Monday greeting voters in Medford, Brockton, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford and Hyannis. On Tuesday and Wednesday she will campaign in Newton, Framingham, Worcester, Springfield, Pittsfield, North Adams, Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, Newburyport, Gloucester, and Salem among other stops.  

Democrats who have already lined up for governor include Treasurer Steven Grossman, who announced at the Democratic convention earlier this summer; Dr. Donald Berwick, former Medicare chief; Joseph Avellone of Wellesley, a biotech executive; and Juliette Kayyem, a former Homeland Security official. State Sen. Dan Wolf of Harwich has suspended his campaign pending appeal to the Ethic Commission to reconsider its ruling that his interest Cape Air impedes his ability to serve in public office.

Running as an independent is Evan Falchuk of Newton; Charlie Baker, who ran unsuccessfully in 2012, is so far the only Republican candidate.

The last time Coakley was in the region to meet with publicly with local leaders was as keynote speaker at a Berkshire Chamber breakfast last August. Coakley talked about her office's efforts to reduce the number of abandoned properties caused by the fallout of the global recession.

     

Newton Candidate Blurring Party Lines In Governor Race

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
Independent candidate Evan Falchuk meeting with voters earlier this year.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In 2012, Newton native Evan Falchuk grew tired of the bickering in politics. And instead of siding with the Democrats or the Republicans, he decided to side with the 53 percent of Massachusetts voters who are unenrolled.

Falchuk is a founding member of United Independent, a designation he hopes to turn into a recognized political party, and is running for governor. His platform is relatively simple — to take a practical, pragmatic approach at solving the state's problems.

"People want to be involved in the decision-making process," the 43-year-old said in an interview on Tuesday. "We're finding our appeal is across the political spectrum."

He uses the state's recent transportation bill as an example of how politics have not fixed a problem. Falchuk says the state's transportation infrastructure is absolutely a problem but prior to the governor pitching his plan earlier this year, residents had ranked it very low in their priorities. In just a short period of time, the governor and Legislature battled over a transportation bill, and passed one that is not enough to fix all the problems. Meanwhile, residents were, for the most part, left out of the process.

"I believe the state is not transparent enough with how we spend taxpayer money," he said. "We need to have to confidence and faith in our government ... voters feel they can only do so much."

So Falchuk's No. 1 priority is to implement fundamental change in how government works. Not just communicating with voters better — though that is an issue, he says — but leading the way so that from the governor's office down, decisions are made in a much more democratic way.

"We've got a political system that is broken," he said. "My No. 1 priority is to rebuild faith in our government."

By getting more people involved and blurring party lines, Falchuk believes he can begin solving some of the state's problems. Particularly he would like the change the tax system to become more progressive, lower the cost of living and doing business, address the economic inequalities among residents and identify barriers that slow small businesses. He calls for going through the budget line by line and analyzing if each department is spending the money correctly.

But Falchuk says to revamp the system, there needs to be a strong, innovative and smart leader at the helm. He believes he's the one for the job.

"I'll put my resume up against anybody else running for governor," he said, but added that isn't why he should "be hired" — it's the extra effort he's willing to put in that elevates him against the rest.

Falchuk was a Washington, D.C., attorney working on Securities and Exchange Commission cases before becoming an executive of Best Doctors Inc., a research company that ensures patients get the right diagnoses. Since he joined in 1999, the Best Doctors has grown from six employees to some 600 people.

But after becoming frustrated with politics, he's resigning his position to concentrate on his political campaign.

"You can either complain about it or you can get a shovel and dig. Nothing happens until people do something," Falchuk said.

Other candidates who have announced for the gubernatorial race in 2014 are Dan Wolf, Joseph Avellone and Don Berwick. Treasurer Steve Grossman is also expected to join the race.

     

Bio-Tech Industry Leader Running For Governor

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

Joe Avellone of Wellesly is running for governor.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Gubernatorial candidate Joe Avellone says he has exactly the right skills needed to lead the state into a "new economy."

"I am really running on the basis of my private sector background, which I think is really timely for the problems going forward — namely the new economy and health-care cost control," Avallone said on Wednesday when he spoke in Pittsfield as a guest of the Berkshire Brigades.
 
"Now, the time is right. My skills are what the state needs."

Avellone is the senior vice president of Parexel, an international biotech company that develops drugs in 52 countries.

 
He is building his campaign for the state's highest office on education and health-care cost containment, two tasks he feels will help the state compete for jobs.
 
"In running Parexel, we have a global work force and I see how this work force is educated all around the world. They are very well trained, speak English, ambitious and great employees. I see that Massachusetts needs to compete at that level moving forward for companies to come here," Avellone said. "I now see what the global economy is like because I am in it every day and this is what Massachusetts has to prepare for in order to be competitive."
 
Avellone came to Massachusetts in 1972 and attended Harvard Medical School. He stayed for his surgical residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital and later earned a master's degree in public administration from Harvard. After working as a surgeon, he started working with health maintenance organizations (HMO) and was hired to head Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
 
"When I was with Blue Cross in the '90s, that was an effort to form the Blue Cross HMO, which is Blue Cross Blue, to try to move toward some more organized care," Avellone said. "It is almost back to the future because some of these ideas were around back then."
 
He spent six years there and then started his company, Veritas Medicine, which used the Internet to identify patients for clinical trials. He was recruited seven years ago to head Parexel.

Avellone said he would be the first candidate in decades to run on higher education but says it is imperative because the state needs more of the "middle skills" workers. There are high-tech manufacturers and life science companies out there but those industries require skilled labor, he said.

 
"I'd like to be the education governor if you will, because that is what we need to build a new economy," Avellone said.
 
Avellone said the state can't "chase" after the old type of manufacturing. Instead, it needs to focus on workforce development so companies that need a higher skill set will come here.
 
He wants to focus resources on increasing science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] education in the community and state college environment. The colleges should align themselves closer with emerging industries and produce the right skills, he said.
 
"There is a lot of new manufacturing and I think manufacturing needs to be part of our future," Avallone said.
 
As for health care, Avellone has worked with all of the major players and boasts that he understands the complexities of that system. In the last decade, health-care costs have had double-digit increases and Avellone wants to curb that trend.
 
He supports moving away from "fee for service" and instead focus on preventive and early detection. Listing a multitude of models in other states, Avellone says it "is doable."
 
"We know how to do it. We have models. But this requires big change and that is going to require a lot of political leadership," he said.
 
While those two are his key issues, Avellone said he is also very concerned about the environment and the state's infrastructure, which he said has been unattended for 15 years because of the Big Dig. He hopes to create dedicated revenue streams such as a percentage of the gas tax to infrastructure work.
 
However, Avellone knows his plans would require additional revenue but says a tax increase isn't currently feasible. The economy is still lagging from the recession and Avallone said further recovery will build some space into these investments and curbing the health care costs would allow for more spending. 
 
"This was not the time to have a large tax increase," he said of Gov. Deval Patrick's proposed revenue plan. 
 
But he didn't completely rule out a tax hike. If the economy continues to improve, Avallone said he would call for a tax increase to help generate the additional revenue.
 
"We're not recovered. We're recovering but we still need help," Avellone said, pointing to the unemployment rate in Pittsfield and North Adams.
 
As for social issues, he said his "tends to be very progressive." He was a selectman in Wellesley and has particpated in multiple local, state and national campaigns but not as a candidate.
 
Avellone is one of three Democratic candidates so far contemplating a run in 2014. Donald Berwick and Steve Grossman have both expressed interest in running. Berkwick was a guest of the Brigades in April and Grossman earlier this year. 
     

Ex-Medicare Chief Mulling Run for Governor

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff

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 governor.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Dr. Donald Berwick grew up in a small rural town where if someone's car was stalled on the side of the road, you didn't drive by.

You stopped to help.

It was a general idea that he grew up with, that "we're all together and we help each other." And it is that general idea that has now led him to "strongly considering" a run for governor.

His father was doctor, making house house calls miles away helping everyone he could and Berwick followed those footsteps.

He went off to Harvard Medical School and then went on to become a pediatrician. Meanwhile, public policy was an interest of his and he received his master of public policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

While working in private practice, there were inefficiencies that hindered his ability to provide the best care — for example labs tests not being returned quickly.

"I got interested in quality. How do we do better?" Berwick said on Tuesday when he introduced himself to members of the Berkshire Brigades, the county's leading Democratic organization. "I became a student not just of health care but of improvement. I began studying on anything gets better."

He found the best organizations didn't "disrespect" the people working for it. But, like his younger days in Connecticut, worked together with motivated leaders in various disciplines using their own imagination and plans to work toward the common goal.

That management belief coupled with his drive to "make everything better" led him to start the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement, bringing health-care professionals from across the world together to optimize health-care delivery.

"I then started to grow a national and international organization to try to improve health and health-care worldwide. And that grew. It is now the largest and most significant of such an organization in the world," he said.

Meanwhile, he still saw patients but wanted to do more. While he could treat a virus and make the health systems better, he couldn't solve the root cause.

"What makes a kid sick is not just the germ ... it is poverty, something in the air that shouldn't be there, injustice, fear or just social circumstances," Berwick said, adding that health care extends far beyond medicine.

Berwick told a story of a child growing up in poverty who had to fight to get a bone marrow transplant. He finally received it to cure his leukemia only years later to be murdered because of his social circumstances.

He then got the taste of the public sector. In 2008, President Barack Obama selected him as a recess appointee as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He was called on to change the system after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

He oversaw seven of the 10 provisions put in place by the act while leading the $820 billion health insurance agency. He led that organization by forming close relationships with other agencies.

"The first rule is that we have to run CMS in the way you want health care to be," Berwick said.

But on the legislative side, the environment was often "toxic" and elected officials weren't making decisions based on what "they feel in the heart" but rather "what they saw on TV," he said, and both parties in Congress were not working together and it was hurting the government's ability to work for the greater good of the people.

"That was entry into high level government," Berwick said, adding that he was excited with the direction the administration was going in universal health care.

His term ended after 17 months when he resigned because it was clear a Republicans would oppose a Senate confirmation for full appointment. He returned full time to his home with his wife, Ann, who is the chairman of the state Department of Public Utilities.

Berwick addressing the Berkshire Brigades.

Now, a year after his term ended in Washington, he is ready to dive back into the public sector with a run for governor.

"I want to stay in the public sector. What governments can do is phenomenally important if it is done right. By right I mean, well run and responsive to the public and in good partnership," he said. "I want to make the best possible community."

If he formally enters the race, he is planning to run on a platform aimed at improving the state's health care system, particularly lowering the costs by focusing on keeping patients healthy rather than "filling beds"; educating children; ending poverty, and solving economic problems the state faces by improving the energy policy.

"I would like to be governor to bring that kind of thinking about proper management, commitment to the poor, total commitment to children and continue swinging the bat at health care. I think I can do that and I'd like a chance to try," he said.

Berwick and Treasurer Stephen Grossman are the only two candidates so far who have indicated they may enter the 2014 race. Berwick hasn't yet announced but is going on a "listening tour" across the state to hear from the people.

Once news leaked out that he was considering a run, the Brigades invited him to speak. Grossman recently spoke at the Brigades' annual dinner.

     

Brigades Hosting Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick

Dr. Donald Berwick

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Brigades are hosting a reception for Dr. Donald M. Berwick, Democratic candidate for governor, at the new office on the second floor of 55 North St.

Berwick, 66, is a pediatrician with a long career in health-care administration. President Obama made him administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in a recess appointment in 2010 but he left less than a year later in face of Republican opposition.

He is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a former president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement. A New York City native, he attended high school Connecticut and received his master of public policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He completed his residency at Children's Hospital, where he remains on the adjunct staff. He is a professor at both Harvard's Medical School and School of Public Health and has written extensively on health care policy, technology and quality.

The gubernatorial election is in 2014; Gov. Deval Patrick is not running for re-election and Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray has indicated he will not run for the post either. Treasurer Stephen Grossman, who appeared at the Brigades' annual dinner last month, is expected to announce his interest in the race later this year.

The Berkshire Brigades is the Democratic organizing group in Berkshire County.

     
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Where to vote in Berkshire County

State Election
Tuesday, Nov. 4

Voting is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Deadline to register or change party affiliation was Oct.15.


Candidates on the ballot in races for state office; all others on the ballot are unopposed. Links will take you to their campaign websites.

U.S. Senator
Edward J. Markey, Democrat
Brian J. Herr, Republican

Governor/Lieutenant Governor
Charlie Baker & Karyn Polito, Republican
Martha Coakley & Stephen Kerrigan, Democrat
Evan Falchuk & Angus Jennings, United Independent Party
Scott Lively & Shelly Saunders, Independent
Jeff McCormick & Tracy Post, Independent 

Attorney General
Maura Healey, Democratic
John B. Miller, Republican

Secretary of State
William Francis Galvin, Democratic
David D'Arcangelo, Republican
Daniel L. Factor, Green-Rainbow

Treasurer
Deborah B. Goldberg, Democratic
Michael James Heffernan, Republican
Ian T. Jackson, Green-Rainbow

Auditor
Suzanne M. Bump, Democratic
Patricia S. Saint Aubin, Republican
MK Merelice, Green-Rainbow

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.

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