Lt. Gov. Candidate Kerrigan Building 'Grassroots' Campaign
|Kerrigan celebrated St. Patrick's Day in Pittsfield where iBerkshires was able to catch up with him and talk about the campaign.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lieutenant governor candidate Stephen Kerrigan is happy with his campaign's presence at caucuses across the state. But, he says, the hard work is far from over.
Kerrigan was in Pittsfield on Monday to support state Sen. Benjamin Downing, who held a kickoff event for his own campaign. Meanwhile, the Lancaster resident is one of four Democrats seeking nomination from the party for state's second-highest post.
"We did incredibly well in the caucus season. We had 80 percent of the caucuses covered across the state. We got thousands and thousands of signature. I believe we were the best organized campaign," Kerrigan said.
"It gave us an opportunity first and foremost to talk to really loyal, dedicated Democrats as possible. We went to 80 percent of these caucuses. Now it is about reaching back out to those elected delegates, making sure that they understand what we are focused on during this course of this campaign."
Heading into the Democratic State Convention in June, Kerrigan said he is building a "grassroots" campaign while still meeting with large groups to "reach as many people as possible."
"It's the hard work. It's the three yards and a cloud of dust that these type of campaigns are all about," Kerrigan said.
The former aide to U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy has held many "behind the scene" roles in government including being the CEO of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Now he is hoping to step out of the shadows and into a leadership role — starting with lieutenant governor.
"Folk want to make sure that we've got a government that is as affective as possible. Everyone is focused on job creation and the biggest tools for job creation is a well-educated workforce and strong infrastructure transportationwise," Kerrigan said. "You can't get those things if we don't build a strong budget for our state, if we don't start investing in the right things."
Kerrigan has already said his first priority if elected would be to do a "complete review" of the state's assets and budget. He said he would analyze tax incentives for effectiveness. After revamping the state's finances, Kerrigan said he would then start advocating for education and transportation funding.
"People want a government that is worthy of the sacrifice that they make each and every day with their tax dollars. I want to make sure that we run a more efficient and effective government, that we continue to make Massachusetts the best and brightest place in America," he said.
He says while investing in those areas are important and cited the expansion of broadband. He said there are a number of areas where the government can step aside and let economic competitiveness lead the way.
"We want to talk about competitiveness all across Massachusetts," he said.
Kerrigan is running for the Democratic nomination against James Arena-DeRosa, whose campaign was also at Downing's kickoff, Jonathan Edwards and Mike Lake.
Downing Kicks Off Senate Re-election Campaign
|State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing kicked off his re-election campaign Monday night at Spice Dragon with St. Patrick's Day flavor.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At age 24, Benjamin B. Downing stood on the steps of City Hall with a speech he rehearsed dozens of times to announce his candidacy for the open state Senate seat.
Eight years later, and seeing yet another term come to an end, he looked back on that speech and focused on a Bill Clinton quote he had altered: "It it our job not only to build a bridge to the 21st century but make sure that every one in every corner of the Berkshires and the commonwealth has the opportunity to cross that bridge."
He thought of the $90 million broadband expansion, the new center for science and innovation at MCLA, upgraded downtowns and reforms to government to say the bridge is being built.
But, he also looked at a rising poverty rate and homelessness.
"No. No we can't say that everyone has as good of an opportunity that they should to make use of their God-given talents," Downing said Monday night as he kicked of his campaign to keep the seat he's had for eight years.
Downing kicked off another campaign as he has begun gathering signatures to be on the ballot. Among a room full of municipal, state, business and cultural leaders, Downing said his job on Beacon Hill isn't done.
"I am running for re-election because this community, Pittsfield, the Berkshires, Western Massachusetts has given me everything, every opportunity anyone could ever ask for," he said. "But until every single kid in every corner of the commonwealth from Boston to the Berkshires, from Provincetown to Pittsfield, from North Adams to North Attleboro can say the same thing, then our work is not done."
He boasted of making "government smarter and more efficient" to ensure that the tax dollars are going to programs and "not bureaucracy."
But child poverty has increased from 12 percent to 15 percent — with the Berkshires 20 percent higher — and 135,000 people are dependent on food banks and more than 20,000 people statewide homeless, Downing said.
While still seeing those numbers after eight years in office could make someone "cynical," Downing says he is "more hopeful" than ever. His job takes him to meet volunteers passing out Thanksgiving meals to the needy, teachers inspiring classrooms, community activists fighting for the environment and "decent hard-working people" in all 52 of his Senate district's communities, he said.
"Today, more so than any day since I took to those steps at City Hall, I am more hopeful today than ever before," said the Democratic senator. "I am hopeful because of all of you. Because of the good decent hard-working people that make up the 52 communities."
Downing said government still needs "new energy and new ideas to make decisions with future generations in mind and not future elections in mind." And he believes he can provide that.
"I am running for re-election because if the last two years have taught me anything is that we can take absolutely nothing in this life for granted. We don't know if the sun is going to come up tomorrow. We don't know if we will get to see it. But we do know that if we do everything in our time, everything in our power that whenever that last sunset comes, whenever we see it. .... whether we are 27 or 72, whether we are 107 or 12, we will be able to say we made the most of every opportunity that was given to us," Downing said.
|Attorney Don Dubendorf and state Rep. Steve Kulik were among those in attendance.|
"If you continue to give me the opportunity in the Senate, I may not be able to say that I am always be right. I won't. I may not be able to say that we will always agree. We won't. But you will be able to say that your state senator worked harder than anyone else, drove farther than anyone else, listened more than anyone else and was more committed to making sure that we ... we will be able to say we have done everything we could to make sure that everyone can cross that bridge."
Downing is still collecting signatures for the ballot and doesn't know if he'll have a competitor. The senator has run unopposed since 2008. He said he plans on running the campaign as if he does have an opponent.
"Whether there is another candidate or not, it is a great opportunity to get out and talk to people and make sure you are in touch with the municipal leaders and the voters," Downing said after his kickoff speech.
Besides poverty, which Downing has placed high on his priority list, he also expects substance abuse and treatment to become hot topic issues.
Besides being an incumbent, Downing also received support on Monday night from many county leaders and elected officials. Those in attendance included Sheriff Thomas Bowler, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, state Rep. Paul Mark, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, state Rep. Steve Kulik, District Attorney David Capeless, Adams Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's representative Dan Johnson, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, City Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, and Register of Probate Court Francis Marinaro among an array of business and cultural leaders.
"He's done a fantastic job. We need to clone him. We need to get this guy tenured. Ben Downing's been a great friend to all of us and he's been a mentor to me," Pignatelli said.
Candidate Kayyem Talks Development With PEDA
|PEDA Executive Director Cory Thurston explained to Juliette Kayyem what has happened and what is in the plans for the William Stanley Business Park.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following what she believes was a good response at Democratic caucuses across the state, gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem is ramping up her campaign to show the party that she is the voice of a new generation and the best person to take on the Republican candidate in the general election.
"The true winner in the caucus was the undecided. That is a fabulous opportunity for a candidate like me," Kayyem said on Friday. "The core of my party did not feel ready to commit and that's an opportunity for me and an opportunity to provide and discuss with the Democratic base on where we go from here."
Kayyem carries an underdog mentality into the race for state's highest office, coming in as a virtually unknown.
She doesn't currently hold an office. But, she has a resume that spans from being a civil rights attorney to the assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She was the state's first undersecretary for homeland security and served on the National Commission on Terrorism.
"We need a new generation of leadership, a new approach to how we view politics," she said.
Kayyem is one of five Democrats seeking to replace Deval Patrick, who is not running for re-election. On Friday, she continued a tour of the state' gateway cities to get a better understanding of the challenges each face. Those trips are helping her craft what she'll emphasize in policies if she is elected.
"Here some of the solutions are coming out of this park — that you take a filthy place, that is an eyesore, that is making people feel like Pittsfield is not attractive to live and work and you turn it around," Kayyem said, after meeting with Pittsfield Economic Development Authority Executive Director Corydon Thurston. "You use a lot of agencies, a lot of cutting across the boundaries of state and federal government, of public and private sector to invest and lure businesses here."
And she believes she can be the one to help with economic development for the city through funding and supporting best practices. She is a supporter of the Brownfields Redevelopment Fund, which PEDA accessed to remediate the former General Electric property that is now the William Stanley Business Park.
But she heard from Thurston that there is more than just that fund in which she can help if elected.
PEDA has been trying to redevelop the land. So far MountainOne Financial has built a center there and Western Mass Electric Co. has installed one of the largest solar arrays in the state. But there are 52 acres remaining for redevelopment.
Thurston said PEDA is making pitches to companies looking to apply for the multimillion state contract to construct new rail cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and has a $6.5 million earmark to build a life sciences center.
The biggest thing for Thurston is to create continuity among visions and not drastic changes in leadership.
"Things change, society changes, trends change. I don't know how you do it but it is very important," he said. "I think education from a standpoint of planning and a conceptual approach."
The planning to market the property needs to coincide with government officials' policies and they need to stick to it, Thurston said. Changes to opinions about development throws things off.
|Juliette Kayyem is one of five Democrats seeking the office.|
There has been a recent push for science and math education and that Thurston said needs to continue to reach an end goal.
Right now it is difficult to get young students interested in manufacturing, he said, because of the bitter taste in parents and grandparent's mouths from GE.
The state and the region need to stick with that push because the city is primed to reap benefits from a life science industry. Thurston said the business base needs to grow so the students can see the future of manufacturing.
"STEM has to go somewhere. It has to have continuity. We can't get to the edge of a cliff and then all of a sudden have it drop," he said.
Changes in opinion has created a nearly impossible situation when it comes to the property and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. GE and the EPA agreed to a cleanup of the land and a permit for a storm-water system was in place for when the property was redeveloped.
The land has switched to PEDA's hand at the approval of the EPA, but now that the storm-water permit is expired, the EPA wants a better system that could end up being a $6 million treatment center. PEDA is still working with the EPA on that issue.
"We haven't added to it and there is no ongoing industrial use," Thurston said. "That's tantamount to every dollar plus that we have for redevelopment purposes."
Thurston said there is an array of important initiatives put forth by Gov. Deval Patrick that the organization is "banking on." The primary one is the effort to expand broadband across the state.
"I see that as a huge opportunity for us and what we are doing at the park to seed new businesses. With that, you can basically be anywhere. We need that and we need access to it," he said.
The focus on transportation — both rail and public transportation — and the push for life sciences must continue with a new administration, Thurston said.
Many of those topics Kayyem has already taken a stand to support. She wants to continue those while using her experience at preparedness from Homeland Security to set forth long-term, sustainable growth for the state.
Friday was Kayyem's third trip to the Berkshire since entering the race.
Statewide Candidates Queried on Mandates, Hospitals
|Candidates for lieutenant governor and governor attended Sunday's forum.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidates running for the Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor and governor fielded questions from the audience on Sunday as part of a forum hosted by the Berkshire Brigades.
The local Democratic organizing arm had invited the candidates to introduce themselves in the run up to the local caucuses and the state Democratic Party Convention in June. The primary election is in September.
The candidates were first allowed 5 to 10 minutes to talk about themselves and their platforms, after an address to the group by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, and later mingled with the crowd.
Read by Brigade member Lee Harrison, the lieutenant governor candidates were asked about their relationship with whoever is elected governor while the gubernatorial candidates were asked about access to physicians and unfunded mandates.
All of the gubernatorial candidates said any state mandates on municipalities should be coupled with dollars to fund them.
Joseph Avellone said mandates dig into unrestricted aid, which is aimed to help towns reduce their property tax burdens on residents.
"The state has a very important role in helping to fund local government because of our property tax set up. But it can't come with a lot of unfunded mandates," Avellone said of unrestricted, local aid.
Donald Berwick called the mandates "unfair" and said "the responsibility should lie with those who pass the mandates." He called for a "realistic revenue policy" that includes lowering health-care costs, closing tax loopholes and switching to a progressive tax.
"We've got to look at this as a whole," he said.
Martha Coakley simply said any mandate requiring funds must be supplemented by the state or not done at all.
"I don't like them. I think they should end. If the state is going to mandate something — and I'll add the caviad on that costs money, some mandates don't but most have a pricetag attached — the state either has to provide ways to supplement that or not do it," Coakley said.
Steven Grossman particularly said circuit breaker accounts for special education need to be fully funded. It isn't just mandates, he said, it is issues like road infrastructure that burden towns as well.
"That may not be an unfunded mandate but it is a requirement that we fix the roads and bridges. As governor, I would make sure we provided at least the $300 million the Legislature decided to do and all of the money would be released by April 1 so the cities can bid them out."
Juliette Kayyem said unfunded mandates signal a lack of transparency in government. She also called for towns to work cooperatively and invest in regional planning and investments.
"I think they are wrong generally unless they have a separate revenue source," she said of the mandates.
As for access to hospitals, Kayyem, a security expert, said she would "give a little tough love" as governor to increase safety. She also said she would invest in first responders and medical staff. Further, she called for changes to zoning bylaws to protect individuals from natural disasters, which was part of a two-part question of hospital safety.
Grossman said he'd implement a program to send new medical school graduates to so-called Gateway Cities and rural areas for a few years and, in turn, the state would forgive their loans.
|Berkshire Brigades President Sheila Murray introduces the candidates.|
Coakley expanded on access to health care, citing its particular importantance to Berkshire County, saying she wants to use case managers for people and families facing chronic health issues. That should brought into the schools as well, she said.
Berwick began his career in rural areas as a doctor and says he knows the issue well. The solution is to strengthen the overall system and "re-engineer" to one that is focused on patient outcomes instead of pay-for-service. The rural areas are in a better position to make that switch, he said.
Avellone agreed with medical loan forgiveness programs but also added that there needs to be more opportunities for residencies. He also said loan forgiveness would be extended to other practitioners and not just doctors.
As for the relationship with the governor, the lieutenant governor candidates all said they would form a team with the elected leader.
"What we've seen with the Patrick-Murray administration when the lieutenant governor was still serving was a partnership," Lake said, referring to former Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray who resigned nearly a year ago. "You need that level of partnership and commitment."
James Arena-DeRosa said the lieutenant governor role would be to bring together public and private sectors for long-term planning.
"Too often politics is about the next election," he said.
Jonathan Edwards said the role would be to help roll out and implement policies the governor crafts. Knowing the issues in all of the towns, the lieutenant governor can help to "sell" the plan.
"I'm nothing but a wingman. I'm a leader but also a wingman," Edwards said.
Steven Kerrigan, too, said he would be a partner with the governor in helping to make sure that the government is "efficient and effective." He says the role would also be building trust between the administration and the voters.
"We can work on job No. 1, which is building back a gap in trust between the voters and the government," Kerrigan said.
Republican Candidate For Governor Baker Stumps In Pittsfield
|Charlie Baker, on the right, meets with the Berkshire County Republicans on Tuesday night after taping a show on PCTV.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Charlie Baker says that in order to get the best results, you have to "have both teams on the field."
Baker met with the Berkshire County Republicans on Tuesday at Zucco's Family Restaurant.
He is one of two GOP candidates after Mark Fisher of Shrewsbury announced his intention to run in December.
Baker told the local committee that he wants to use his 25 years of experience in the public and private sectors to improve the state's economy and school systems.
"We haven't created a single net new job in 13 years. We have the same number of people working that we had in 2000. How can that be? How can a state that brings everything we bring to the table lag when it comes to growing and creating jobs and economic opportunity?" Baker said.
"The answer is pretty simple. We are wicked smart but we finished 48th or 49th in every single survey that has to do with the cost of almost everything."
Baker boasted of his tenure as CEO of Harvard Pilgrim — taking the job when the company was going into receivership. While nobody thought the company could make a financial turnaround, Baker said he "set the bar high" to turn it around. He said the company is thriving, and he left in 2009 to bring his ideas for success to state government.
In 2010, Baker ran for the governor's office but lost to Deval Patrick, who was running for a second term. But in that race, he learned a lot about the concerns of municipalities around the state. In this campaign, Baker says he won't be spending time just learning the issues but instead focusing his conversations on how to solve them.
What he is hearing is that voters "want is a hands-on governor who can get stuff done" and he cited his time working under former Govs. William Weld and Paul Cellucci as being able to work with a Democratic House and Senate to better the state.
"We saw problems. We got stuff done. We made government work and we put people back to work," Baker said, particularly pointing to education reform as leading to rising to SAT scores, to workers' compensation reform and to the jobless rate going from being the worst in the country to one of the best.
But since the 1990s, Baker said the state "lost its fastball." Economic development as his No. 1 priority, with closing the achievement gaps in schools and working with municipalities to create economic strategies being the focus.
His belief is that the state needs a Republican in office to help bring the best ideas to the table — not just one, Democratic viewpoint. And that theory dates back to his childhood dinner table when his Republican father and Democratic mother debated issues. His parents would debate the "means" while trying to achieve the same "ends."
|Baker gave a 15-minute speech before fielding questions from the audience.|
"What my parents showed me all that time when I was a kid was, in fact, true. You do get a better product when you have both teams on the field," Baker said. "You do get a better result when you have two teams competing. You get a better government and better process when you have more than one set of ideas engaged."
The solutions to the state's problems aren't complicated, he said, because the answers are there. It is just finding the best solutions and "replicating" them.
"I know how to set the bar high. I know how to build teams. I know how to hold people accountable and help them get over the bar," he said.
One thing he'd like to implement if elected is a massive regulatory review. He said government adds regulations to businesses but seldom cleans up prior ones, allowing them to pile up. Now there are cases where complying with one state agency can lead a business to be out of compliance with another.
"The state needs to speak with one voice on this," he said.
He is calling for legislators to do a full review of the regulations every couple of years and debate the need and effectiveness of them. He is also calling for standing committees that will work with those who will are being regulated because "some of the best ideas" will come from them.
Overall, Baker described his leadership as one that "dreams big" and "sets the bar high." He wants the state to work hard and for the taxpayers to get value out of the money they put into the system.
"I don't want Massachusetts to be great just here, here and here. I want Massachusetts to be great everywhere," Baker said.
After a 15-minute speech Baker fielded questions regarding issues of senior care, homelessness, business, veterans and transportation. Baker was also a guest on Berkshire GOP's television program "Out Front TV" on PCTV.
Baker is the most recent of the gubernatorial field to visit the Berkshires; Fisher is expected to visit the region in the coming weeks. On the Democratic side, Martha Coakley, Joseph Avellone, Donald Berwick, Steven Grossman and Juliette Kayyem have all held at least one campaign event (Coakley, Grossman and Berwick have held two) in the Berkshires. Independent Evan Falchuk was in the Berkshires twice.
While this was Baker's first trip since entering the race in September, he told the crowd that it won't be his last.
Correction: An earlier version failed to note that Republican Mark Fisher had entered the race for governor. iBerkshires regrets the error.