Area Democrats Ramping Up For November Statewide Election
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
State Sen. Benjamin Downing is the chairman of the party's coordinated campaign aimed to rally voters to the polls in November.
RICHMOND, Mass. — County Democrats haven't forgotten the night Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate.
And they don't want anything similar to happen again.
"Scott Brown did nothing fancy in that campaign. He got 100 percent of the people who voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin to come out. One hundred percent of their vote showed up. Sixty percent of our vote came out and we lost," state Sen. Benjamin Downing told area Democrats on Sunday afternoon.
"We know that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach where we lost an election and we know we could have done better."
It's a point Downing's been making as he traverses the state as chairman of the party's "coordinated campaign."
Downing says his role is twofold: communication and organization. The state Democratic Party learned its lesson from the Brown election and is starting early to rally Democratic voters to support whoever comes out of Sept. 9th's primary, he said. While the Democratic candidates are concentrating on primary turnout, the coordinated campaign is working on the next cycle.
"When we get our vote out here in Massachusetts, Democrats win. We've been able to get to 30,000 of those drop-off Democratic voters that generally only come out for a presidential election," Downing said.
On Sunday, Downing was at another Democratic rally, this one closer to home. The barbecue at Camp Russell was organized by the Berkshire state delegation, Register of Deeds Patsy Harris and the Pittsfield Democratic City Committee.
"The goal is to bring energy and awareness to the Democratic party. It is what the coordinated campaign has been doing all summer, Senator Downing has been the chair of that. It is part of the state party's effort to ensure that the grassroots and the Democratic ideals are energized in this big election coming up," said Pittsfield Democratic City Committee Chairman Kevin Sherman.
The gathering drew some 50 or so people for food and drinks, including the elected officials Downing, state Rep. Paul Mark, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and Sheriff Thomas Bowler. Representatives from Congressman Richard Neal's office were also in attendance.
Lieutenant governor candidates Leland Cheung and Steve Kerrigan and attorney general candidate Warren Tolman spoke to party members as they enter the final stretch before the primary.
"To me, the goal is to ensure Massachusetts Democrats don't take for granted what we have. We understand what we want. We understand our ideals. We understand what leaders we want in office. If we want that to continue, we can't take it for granted," Sherman said, calling the Brown election an "eye opener."
"If we don't organize. It we don't stay true to our virtues. If we don't campaign. If we don't work together, we lose the type of leaders we want or get leaders we don't want," Sherman said.
Some of the party's active volunteers, including Sheila Murray of the Berkshire Brigades at left, attended Sunday's event that was both a fundraiser for the party but also a rally for organizers to get out the vote.
Mitt Romney was a governor the party didn't want and Downing says if another Republican is elected to the office, the Democrats will be playing "defense" on every issue.
"We're going to make sure that voters across the commonwealth remember that we've had Republican governors before. We had them for 16 years and we know the result of having Republican governors.
"It leaves us 47th in the nation in job creation. We end up with a Big Dig financing scheme that gives us a billion deficit very single year in transportation investments.
"Beyond that deficit — because it would be one thing if we spent that money wisely but it ties it up in the Big Dig financing scheme that doesn't even help Boston out as much as it should. It certainly doesn't help outlying areas like this or the Cape that needs those investments to grow our economy," Downing said.
In Downing's role as chairman of the coordinated campaign, he says he is "reminding" voters about Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker's party affiliation and his previous stances on issues.
"He's running away from it. He's trying to hide from it. He doesn't want everything that comes with that label. He could run as an independent, nothing is stopping him. He's running as a Republican and he is going own that, every last bit of it," Downing said.
Meanwhile, Downing is organizing canvasses to reach out the voters and emphasizing the state's progress under Gov. Deval Patrick.
"Massachusetts is back in the leadership business again. We're first in the nation in energy efficiency. We're first in the nation in student achievement," Downing said. "We're first in the nation in health care coverage. We are first in the nation in veteran services at a time when we know our federal delegation — Congressman Neal and others — are trying to make sure the [Veterans Affairs] lives up to its promise. We are showing the way."
Coakley Asks Support In Final Campaign Push
By Joe Durwin Pittsfield Correspondent
Berkshires native Martha Coakely was in Pittsfield on Thursday, making a swing into the county in the days leading to the primary.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley asked for votes and urged financial support as she visited 3rd Thursday and met with a smattering of the local cultural crowd at the Whitney Center for the Arts last week.
"It's always a privilege to come back to Berkshire County, said Coakley, a former North Adams resident and alum of Williams College.
Coakley, who as attorney general has had jurisdiction over utility rate regulation, said Massachusetts needs to build on current efforts toward greater energy efficiency.
"In the last eight years, we've seen some very interesting challenges and changes," said Coakley, touting her allegiance with Gov. Deval Patrick's administration.
Coakley also reiterated to local voters a revised position statement made earlier in the week in opposition to the proposed Northeast Energy Direct proposal to install a new fracked gas natural pipeline
"We need rich fuels, but I do not support the pipeline plan as proposed by Kinder Morgan," said Coakley. "We have to work to do, we have to get people to the table to meet our energy needs, but that doesn't seem to be the proposal to do it."
Regarding education, Coakley spoke of the importance of science and technology curriculum that also included arts and creativity, and of institutions like Berkshire Community College and the local vocational and technical high schools in economic development for the region.
"Developing that work force," is crucial, said Coakley, "and aligning what our future may look like with the curriculum we have, so that kids who are graduating have those skills."
Coakley also said she would like to increase the state's budgetary allocation for cultural funding.
"It's a tough economy, but we know that it's a good investment for so many reasons," she said. "It's a place where those dollars can be leveraged in so many ways."
"I'm also happy to have input from you all about other ways that a governor can be a good partner, so that we can structure our government and our cabinet accordingly."
Coakley promised aggressive reform on mental health and substance abuse issues, speaking candidly of the suicide of her younger brother, which she attributed to the stigma surrounding treatment for mental ailments.
"Eighteen years ago this afternoon, he took his own life," Coakley told supporters. "In 2015, we should be dealing with mental and behavioral problems the way we do with cardiac disease and diabetes. We can do that here in Massachusetts."
According to campaign staffers, Coakley will have a large push of television advertising beginning next week up to the Sept. 9 Democratic primary, and fundraising efforts throughout the state are critical. She will face off against Steven Grossman, the state treasurer, and Don Berwick, former federal Medicare administrator.
"We've had a fairly low-key campaign, but successful campaign because of the grass roots we've done," according to Coakley. "People are starting to really pay attention [to the election] now, and every dollar we raise now goes into voter contact."
Farley-Bouvier Supports Grossman, Healey, Conroy
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
Steven Grossman during an early campaign stop with Berkshire County Democrats.
"Steve Grossman has the administrative experience running the treasury and running his own business to be able to be a good executive, Farley-Bouvier said of the current state treasurer. "He has excellent working relationships with the Legislature and that's what is lacking with the current administration."
Particularly of importance to Farley-Bouvier, Grossman, as chairman of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, has helped moved the city's application for reimbursement to build a new Taconic High School through the process.
"It was stuck in the muck for years and we did as much as we could to keep it moving and work with the MSBA. When I got to the Legislature, one of the first people I talked to was Steve Grossman and he promised me then he would move this," she said. "And 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."
"She is the person I feel has the most experience to do the job. She reflects a lot of my values when it comes to where priorities are in consumer protection," Farley-Bouvier said. "Her job is to be the people's lawyer and I feel she has the experience, passion and energy to do that."
In the treasurer's race to replace Grossman, Farley-Bouvier is supporting Tom Conroy.
"He is a colleague of mine in the house and he is really the architect of the minimum wage bill. He puts great value on working families. He has the financial experience that nobody else has working with both small businesses and big financial companies. I think he is going to be a great treasurer," Farley-Bouvier said.
Attorney General Candidate Healey Boasts Experience
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
Maura Healey spent Friday meeting voters in Pittsfield.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Maura Healey has always been the underdog.
She was the underdog as "5-foot-4 scrappy point guard" in her former professional basketball career and she was the underdog when she sued, and won, the federal government.
"I was the one crazy enough to propose that we sue the federal government many years ago over DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act]. At the time, people told me 'don't do it. It is too much and you are going to lose.' But we did it," Healey said on Friday during a meet and greet at Mad Jack's Barbecue.
"We did it for 20,000 married couples in this state who are gay and were told by the federal government that your not really married."
Now she is the underdog in a race for the democratic nomination for attorney general against a well-known former lawmaker, political pundit and former gubernatorial candidate, Warren Tolman.
Healey is boasting of her experience not only as being the underdog but being in the attorney general's office. After being a prosecutor in a Boston-based law firm, Healey joined the attorney general's office in 2007 and most recently oversaw about half of the office before running for office.
There, she brought the nation's first civil rights lawsuit against a predatory lender and helped write the buffer zone law for women to access abortion clinics, as well her work on the DOMA lawsuit. Now, with Attorney General Martha Coakley running for the governor's office, Healey wants to run the entire attorney general's office.
"Nine months ago, I've never run for office. I never asked for a vote. I never raised a dime. I had no idea what a campaign actually entails. But, here we are," Healey said of the campaign.
She first needs to win the Democratic nomination against Warren Tolman, who boasts a long career in the public eye as a former Legislator. After months of getting her name and story to the Democratic delegates, Healey came "within a hair of winning" the convention.
"We managed to come within a hair of winning that convention. That is really remarkable. We've also been up in all of the polling, internal, external and elsewhere, which is amazing when you think about us as an unknown nine months ago," she said.
"I feel terrific about where we are at and where we've come from. We are where we are because this is a grassroots campaign. This has been able being out and having a chance to connect with people at places like this or in people's living room."
One of the people who hadn't known Healey prior to the campaign was state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, who organized the meeting and greet.
"She impressed me so much. And one of the things that made a big impression on me, and I'm sure you all understand why this will resonate with me, is that she is not afraid to take on the establishment," Farley-Bouvier said.
"Clearly, nine months ago the establishment didn't look twice at her. Then they started to get to know her more and as more people started to learn her story and heard from her herself, and how she is able to learn issues quickly, to respond with grace and intelligence and with solutions to problems, she's shaking the ground a little bit. People are getting a little bit nervous."
Now, Farley-Bouvier is "wholeheartedly" supporting Healey. As attorney general, Healey says she will be focused on consumer protection by going after "new forms" of predatory lending and predatory for-profit schools, increase affordable house, illegal gun and drug trafficking, protecting women's reproductive rights, and "be a leader" in criminal justice reform.
"I want to take on environmental issues. Months ago I started hearing about the pipeline issue. As attorney general, I will be really focused on this. I spoke out about this and I spoke about this for a reason - there has been a lack of transparency and information. It is simply not right to march onto people's property and tell them they are going to survey that land and ultimately take it over for something we know little about," she said.
"We haven't studied the need or what else is available. As attorney general, I want to fight for transparency and accountability in that process. And that may mean taking on the federal government. And I've done that before."
With such a docket of issues she wants the state to tackle from the attorney general's office, she said "you need somebody with experience and you need somebody with energy."
"I have the experience and I'll be ready to go on day 1," Healey said.
Independent Candidate Falchuk Tours Pittsfield Business
By Andy McKeever iBerkshires Staff
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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