Independent Lt. Gov. Candidate Jennings Calls For Strong Local Partnerships
Angus Jennings is helping to build a new political party in the United Independent Party.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Angus Jennings says even if he is elected to lieutenant governor, that won't stop him from being at local public hearings or sitting in with planning boards.
In fact, he says that is what is one of the things is missing from the state administration — a focus on the local governments.
"I think on a fundamental level, what we can bring to the voters is that some of the most important decisions are made in city and town hall. We have a recognition and a respect for the home-rule traditions that are not only embedded in our cultural but also embedded in our constitution," Jennings said.
"In my view, the current administration has viewed home rule as a stumbling block to economic development."
Jennings has partnered with Evan Falchuk
in forming a new independent political party — United Independent Party — and the two are hoping to lead the next administration. Falchuk is seeking the governor's seat while Jennings is on the ticket to be his lieutenant.
"We noticed an immediate uptick in press interest now that we can say definitively, Falchuk/Jennings is on the ticket," Jennings said of submitting the signatures needed to be on the ballot. "That's given us eight or nine weeks of lead time."
The party is seeking a new framework to operate. The two candidates say they want to increase the focus on local politics and bring more people into the fold.
"I've never been a party line kind of guy. I've always been an independent thinker. I don't fit clearly into either of the two boxes and I think a lot of people feel that way," Jennings said. "More than half of the voters in Massachusetts are unenrolled right now but 100 percent of the legislators are either Democrat or Republican."
Jennings' background is in municipal planning, and he spends quite a few of evenings in various town halls. As a consultant, his work even took him to Pittsfield City Hall to work on the zoning needed for the Rice Silk Mill renovation.
As lieutenant governor, his role would be partly to continue doing that — to continue helping towns plan out projects and implement them.
"I've always been focused on implementation," he said.
Fully implementing any project plan includes private capital, he said, and their administration would implement changes to help that. For example, he would push to revamp the way federal transportation dollars are allocated.
Currently regions have a Transportation Improvement Plan, which a regional board approves. Jennings said the process could be more "nimble" to help give private investors more confidence that a certain project will or will not move forward. The process, he says, would be more clear for the public to see as well.
"Those kinds of public investments, to maximize the value of these public dollars, you want a return in the form of private investment," he said.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization oversees those funds; the local MPO operates through the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Regional planning agencies are another area Jennings said he wants to "re-envision" and to give more responsibility.
Jennings also said his party is proposing to double the historic tax credits from $50 million to $100 million. This, too, will help developers have more confidence in the credits and wrap that into their funding packages. Jennings said this will help repurpose old buildings.
"There is no transparency in how those funds are allocated so the applicants who don't get the funding don't know why they didn't get it," he said.
Jennings said and Independent administration would also bring back the Office for Commonwealth Development, which oversaw housing, energy and environmental affairs, conservation and recreation and coordinated with the Department of Transportation.
"This administration got rid of it and there were a lot of people in my field that felt that didn't make any sense because that was a step in the right direction in breaking down the silos," Jennings said.
He is also calling for a "top to bottom" review of municipal mandates.
"If something is so important that it needs to be mandated, then there has to be resources to pay for it," Jennings said.
The party has been campaigning for more than a year as the two leaders try to build if from the ground up. Jennings said getting enough votes this year in the election will open the door for a independent candidates throughout the state at various levels of government.
However, not being attached to a party makes the two work even harder. While Democrats and Republicans have already built networks of people to help get their name out there, the independents don't have that.
"Our campaign staff has to work very hard and our volunteers have to be fully engaged," Jennings said.
Republican Herr To Challenge Markey for Senate
Brian Herr says he'll represent the people of Massachusetts, not the party that put him on the ballot. His campaign site is here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In 2010, Brian Herr said what he was supposed to say. He did what he was told to do.
But, he still lost the race for U.S. Senate.
This time, Herr isn't going to let the political insiders and strategists run his campaign.
"When you declare and you are reasonably viable and credible as a candidate for U.S. Congress, a lot of people put their fingers into your campaign, in you. They try to control you and mold you and they try to steer you," Herr said.
"I let some of that go on in 2010 and I shouldn't have."
The Hopkinton Republican says he learned a valuable lesson as he again vies for a seat in Congress.
Herr is challenging Democrat Edward Markey, who won the U.S. Senate seat in a special election last year to replace now Secretary of State John Kerry.
"I learned what to do. I learned what not to do and we're applying those lessons to this race," Herr told the Berkshire County Republicans on Tuesday.
Herr says he'll be speaking from his own experience and beliefs as he builds a campaign. He says there is a new way to govern and he is the leader to do it.
"A lot of people in politics today will just tell you what is wrong with the other side. They'll complain and they'll always be looking in the rearview mirror," Herr said.
As a selectman in Hopkinton, Herr said his board implemented new rules when the town faced financial troubles. A hiring freeze put in place and a new procedure forcing department heads to justify their funding was put in place. That focus on not taxing the citizens turned into excess levy capacity, leading to an underride this past spring when voters reduced Hopkinton's levy capacity by $1.25 million.
As the economy turned around, Herr said there was a need for more firefighters, an increase in service voters were more willing to provide.
"I believe in government but only when it is managed well," Herr said.
It is that type of "running government like a business" that Herr says he'll bring to Washington, D.C. He has spent nearly 30 years in the private sector focused mostly on commercial construction. Most recently, he is an account executive at WESCO Distribution, a company supplying industrial electronics.
"I get the real world we are all in. I get what it is like to pay people. I know what it is like to hire," Herr said. "Jobs come from understanding the private sector."
The University of Pittsburgh graduate moved the Massachusetts after college to work at Westinghouse. He has a wife and five kids and is serving his second term as a Hopkinton selectman.
"We have partisan elections by law. So the three times I've been elected, it said Brian Herr and Republican next to my name. I've always run as a Republican in a small town here in Massachusetts and I've won. I've won by building a coalition of voters in the community," Herr said.
"You have to build a coalition to win. I've had success doing that and that's what I am doing in this campaign for U.S. Senate."
That strategy has given him optimism in this campaign. However, he has so far flown under the radar in the political sphere. Some reports say he lacks the signatures to get on the ballot. Herr says that is exactly how he wants it.
"We are the raging underdog. I get it, but I am not crazy. We can win it. We are building a foundation, an organization, a brand that post-Labor Day, we will catch fire," Herr said. "Don't worry about the fact that you've never heard my name. Don't panic. Don't think there is no chance because there is."
When the campaign does "catch fire" Herr told his fellow Republicans that even they won't like what he has to say all of the time. That is because he isn't following the party lines like he did before.
"When you hear my name and see reports in the media, you will scratch your head a couple of times and think 'why would he say that, that's not what I think. That is not necessarily how I feel.' It is what I believe as a person and not because there is someone telling me what to say," Herr said.
Herr met with local Republicans at Zucco's Restaurant in Pittsfield on Tuesday.
And that is also how Herr says he'll represent the people of Massachusetts.
"I don't believe in harsh partisan squabbles. I don't believe in behaving like a 2-year old. I don't blame the other side," Herr said. "I don't play the blame game.
"I will go to represent the people of Massachusetts, not the Republican party."
Particularly, he is looking at Washington as being full of "dysfunction" and wants to be elected to solve problems. One of the key issues Herr sees is repealing the federal Affordable Care Act in favor of states' making their own decisions.
"In Massachusetts, we had a process and a plan that we were working on and it got derailed," Herr said.
"We made the decision. You may not agree with it but we, collectively, made the decision a few years back for universal health care in Massachusetts. I support that. It is a Massachusetts issue, not a national one."
Immigration, too, is taking a heated role in the debates in Washington and Herr, whose parents emigrated to the States, says there needs to be a "reasonable" reform of the program. He said the "crisis of the moment" shouldn't dictate policy but reform should happen to give a path to citizenship while keeping illegal immigrants out.
"Today, the process manages the officials. It should be the exact opposite. In any organization — whether it be a media outlet, a business or General Dynamics — the management has to manage the process. The leaders have to manage the process. But right now, the situation with immigration in America, the situation is dictating what happens," Herr said.
Herr also says a balanced budget amendment and term limits would dramatically change the political landscape.
"I believe term limits will create a far different mindset for elected officials. If you know that you are going home in a few years to live in the world you are creating. If you know you are going home to operate a business that has to operate under the rules and regulations you are creating, you will probably think a little more about what you are doing," Herr said.
Herr is the only Republican in the race so far. He has partnered with Mass Victory, a Republican organization representing all of GOP campaigns, to lay down his campaign fundraising and organizing strategies.
Lake Focused on Collaboration in Lieutenant Governor Campaign
Mike Lake was back in the Berkshires on Tuesday, meeting with residents at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Economic development doesn't adhere to borders.
If elected lieutenant governor, Mike Lake says he'll bring all communities together to work toward the common, regional goal.
Lake is the founder and CEO of Leading Cities, a nonprofit organization doing just that — bringing leaders from all over the globe together to solve problems.
Through summits and meeting, the organization identifies problems and shares solutions, focuses on spurring economic development such as trade agreements among municipalities and pushing for further intergovernmental cooperation.
"We partner with municipal governments, with institutions, private sector, and academia and non-profits, to get everybody in and tackle the problems of the 21st century. It is this experience that I see the real value in the lieutenant governor's office, to be a partner with our cities and towns," Lake said in an interview Tuesday morning at Dottie's Coffee Lounge.
"The challenges of the 21st century do not know man-made borders. They do not understand city limits and town lines. Our challenges transgress all of that and we need somebody who is working with our municipal leaders to tackle them."
After six years of growing that organization, Lake is hoping to do that on the statewide level. While all three lieutenant governor candidates are talking about experience, Lake say he has the "right experience" for "right now."
"I am running because everybody should have access to opportunities. I was the son of a single mother and had the opportunity of a public education, became the first of my family to go to college and then I was appointed to the White House," Lake said.
"Every opportunity I was given was because the community believed in me and gave me a chance. In part, it is about giving back and in part because I believe a kid in the Berkshires should have the same opportunities as Boston; that every corner of Massachusetts has jobs and is putting people back to work, has a safe community, has an education system to be proud of, and that we are supporting small businesses."
The Melrose native's interest in public service started in when he was elected to shadow the mayor in high school. Then he fielded a call from a women who needed a dentist appoint. He arranged the appointment. That's when he saw how the community had helped him and how he could help the community.
"A public servant is somebody in the community that anybody can come to at any time for any reason," Lake said.
Political science became one of five majors that Lake took at Northeastern University — finance, communications, entrepreneurship and information management rounded out his resume.
"My claim to fame is that I am the first person in Massachusetts history to complete five majors simultaneously, which is just a demonstration of how cheap I really am. I wanted to get every penny's worth and certainly did that," Lake said with a laugh.
At Northeastern, he met former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who became a mentor and who has now endorsed the campaign.
"He governed for all of Massachusetts. It wasn't just about investing in Boston," Lake said of Dukakis. "First and foremost, he is a role model. He's been a mentor and now I'd call him a political adviser. He has more experience and history than anybody else in the state at this point."
The biggest lesson he took was working collaboratively, Lake said. Dukakis pulled all the stakeholders together to find solutions to problem, he didn't just put policies in place, Lake said.
After graduation Lake was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as special assistant to White House operations, running the president's office.
"It gave me the opportunity to work with everybody and see how everything was working together. To have that type of insight at that age is something I'll never forget and it shaped me," he said.
After Clinton's term ended, Lake then was deputy finance director in the Midwest for John Kerry's presidential campaign. Then he was director of development for the United Way, where he focused on homelessness, before starting Leading Cities.
Leading Cities, he says, is "pioneering" the way governments work together. Together cities are sharing information with how to combat issues and developing agreements to help each other's economy — such as one he crafted with Catalonia, Spain, and Massachusetts.
"We need to think in a regional perspective. That is why the equity of all regions of the commonwealth is so important to me," Lake said. "Frankly, it is exactly the type of leadership we need in the 21st century."
If elected, Lake says he wants his first task to be heading a committee to review regulations. He pointed to laws on the books that prevent permits for hair salons to be ineffective for 30 days if sold or a recently reversed regulation on fishermen requiring them to count their catch twice as regulations that are out of date.
"We have the opportunity to make business a little easier for that small business owner. I would like the next governor to create and appoint me chair of a regulation review committee so we can work with the secretary of economic development and housing to identify regulations that need to be revisited," Lake said.
But it isn't just about making business easier; it is supporting the businesses as well.
"Three sawmills in Massachusetts shut down last year. For some communities, that is your economy, whether it is the mill itself or all of the businesses indirectly related. The fact of the matter is that of all the wood products we use in Massachusetts, only 2 percent of the wood is sourced in Massachusetts," Lake said. "We have a tremendous multiplier effect when we support local business."
He said doing procurement for the White House, he always focused on finding the local vendor and Massachusetts and those who contract with the state need to do the same thing.
Lake says he doesn't want to just create jobs, but rather jobs that pay a living wage. He supports the state raising the minimum wage to $11 an hour.
"As the minimum wage stood, it would take you almost four full-time minimum wage jobs to afford to live in Massachusetts. Nobody can work 160 out of 180 hours in a week," Lake said. "Twenty-nine percent of the 4,000 plus homeless families that we have in Massachusetts have a working adult. Your family should not be moving from shelter to shelter or living in a motel if you have a working parent."
He also supports a constitutional amendment to implement a progressive tax system.
Some of his other priorities include boosting the state's investment in education including implementing a universal preschool program. He wants to work with cities and towns on security issues and he believes the state needs to continue digging into what he calls a "backlog" of delayed infrastructure projects.
Lake says high speed rail in the Northeast is something he'd be advocating for and he would be able to work with the governor's of other states to sort it out.
"It is very difficult to get all of the Northeast governors on board because they have to manage the day-to-day operations of their state. So this is where the No. 2s can step in. We can work collaboratively on a proposal we can take to our governors to approve and then the federal government to make high speed rail a reality," he said.
Lake entered the campaign for lieutenant governor 18 months ago. He is seeking the seat left by Timothy Murray against Steve Kerrigan and Leland Cheung for the Democratic nomination. Lake is on the ballot after reeling in 35 percent of delegate votes at the Democratic Convention, which was just two percent shy of the leader Kerrigan.
"At this point, we got through the convention. We were outspent 4:1 and we emerged basically in a virtual tie. It was a huge victory for not just our campaign but or grassroots organizing," Lake said of the campaign.
Whichever candidate wins the primary will be partnered with the winning gubernatorial candidate on the Democratic ticket. Steve Grossman, Martha Coakley and Donald Berwick are the three candidates still in contention or that office on the Democratic side.
Evan Falchuk is running an independent campaign and named Angus Jennings as his running mate. Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito will be the Republican ticket.
The state primary is Tuesday, Sept. 9.
Gubernatorial Candidate Berwick Says He'll Be On Ballot
The crowd at the law office to hear Berwick spilled out into the hallways. The candidate has seemed to gain support from the more progressive in the Democratic party.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With the Democratic Convention just two weeks away, gubernatorial candidate Donald Berwick believes he will have the votes to get on the ballot.
Berwick needs 15 percent of delegates to vote his way to be placed on the primary ballot. And with the momentum his campaign has gained recently, he believes he will get it
"I'm sure we are going to be on the ballot. The momentum is stunning. We've had the best fundraising month in our history in May, the number of volunteers has swelled fivefold in two months," Berwick said.
"The response to progressive messaging, for specific bold issues, I can feel it, the momentum is there."
The former administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he oversaw implementation of many aspect of the Affordable Care Act, has been gaining support throughout the state from the more progressive Democrats.
Of five potential Democratic candidates, he is the one advocating for a single-payer health care system. Berwick's campaign centers on improving the health care system to pave the way for other progressive issues.
On Sunday, Berwick visited the law office of Sherwood Guernsey, where he met with dozens of progressive Democrats and received support for his vision. Berwick told the crowd that the progressive message is to "show up" to help others of need.
Whether it is helping the homeless, addressing criminal justice reform, to providing more mental health and substance abuse programs, Berwick told those in attendance that he'll talk about and focus on the issues that others have back away from.
"We have a fight on our hands and, with a progressive agenda, we have to assert our values," Berwick said.
Berwick may have hit a niche — especially in the Berkshires where he has campaigned more than most of the Democratic field — with a progressive agenda to get him on the ballot. The next goal would be to win the Democratic primary to be the candidate to take on Republican Charlie Baker.
"Everyone on the Democratic side is very concerned. We have got to keep the corner office in Democratic column. I think I have the best chance at beating Charlie Baker and our momentum is extraordinary," Berwick said.
The campaign, he says, has been built to not only gather delegate support but also is gaining mass attention from the community. The volunteer base has grown to be ready to fully expand the campaign after the election, he said.
Two Democratic candidates entered the race as highly touted elected officials. Treasurer Steven Grossman and Attorney General Martha Coakley are both seeking to replace Gov. Deval Patrick. With most name recognition, they have been the leading candidates in polls.
They could also narrow the number of convention delegates for candidates like Berwick, Juliette Kayyem and Joseph Avellone, to gain their 15 percent.
Even with the two top names expected to be on the ballot, the state Democratic Party has not aligned itself behind a single candidate yet.
In a recent interview, Kayyem, who perhaps has campaigned as much in the Berkshires as Berwick, said the longer it takes for the party as a whole to come to a decision, the better it is for candidates like her.
Kayyem, a former National Security secretary, has been gaining an appeal with the independent voters, so she stands to fare better in a primary than she will at the convention.
She, too, believes she will receive the 15 percent of delegates to be on the primary ballot. Kayyem and Berwick have been running close to each other in polls behind the two leaders.
Avellone, however, has been falling behind and the question leading into the convention is how many Democrats will appear on the ballot.
Independent Candidate For U.S. Senate Walks Into Pittsfield
The systems dynamics engineer is running for Congress in an effort to start pushing money out of politics.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Bruce Skarin specializes in understanding the dynamics of mechanical systems over time.
After the terrorist attacks of 2001, he adapted that model to understand the dynamics of political systems — revealing that the attacks were in the making for a long time and could have been prevented and predicted if the "big picture" had been carefully analyzed.
"It was that day when a lot of things were turned upside down for me. I wanted to see what I could do with these new skills I had in trying to take on big problems. I did a model on terrorism and I was able to simulate the 10 years leading up to September 11," Skarin said last week as he walked through downtown meeting with residents and collecting signatures for a run for the U.S. Senate.
"I was able to simulate how things were building up and how different pieces of the problem were trying to prevent terrorism from happening and how other pieces were reinforcing the likelihood."
Now, in 2014, he says the government system is setting the wrong course. Instead of complaining about the influence of money in politics, the lack of environmental protections and a poor education system, Skarin has already announced his intention to challenge U.S. Sen. Edward Markey.
"Two years ago, when my second son was born, I was getting increasingly concerned with the future we're creating right now," he said. "As a simulation scientist, I understand how much inertia problems like national debt, climate change, a stagnant economy have. They have huge amounts of inertia that when the problems are starting to brew, it might not seem so bad. But by the time the really bad stuff starts happening, it is really hard to change."
Basically, Skarin believes Congress isn't moving fast enough the address coming issues. And, the main reason behind that is because of the influence large companies have over the elected officials.
"I'm independent because I believe both parties are blowing it. Neither one of them understand what the daily challenges are for most people," Skarin said. "I think the Washington elites are very much disconnected to the people they are supposed to represent."
For example, when it comes to global warming, he says Congress depends so much on the campaign donations from energy companies that it prevents any energy policy that will curb the issue.
Another example Skarin used is that in the future, vehicles and transportation will move to automatic systems — cutting down on car accidents. However, the insurance and health care industries benefit greatly from them. Instead of seeing he issue before it arises and starting to plan a future around those changes, Congress is swayed by the businesses that donate.
"I'd say that is the first issue. Until we can effectively deal with that, which is why I am running a citizen funded campaign and why I want to spend more of my time and energy connecting with people as opposed to raising money," he said.
In the current trajectory, money is growing in influence over public policy, he said. He wants to work toward removing that influence and said that then that economic markets can compete fairly, boosting the economy.
"It has gotten more and more expensive to run elections because people have gotten less and less interested in what's going on. They don't buy it anymore," he said. "It is reinforcing because the more money they raise, the more disgusted people get. The more disgusted people get, the more they tune out. The more they tune out, the more they have to spend to hit those prime time slots."
Skarin is walking eight to 20 miles a day through Massachusetts towns. He's meeting people, talking politics and having face-to-face conversations.
"I feel this is the right way to do it. I won't raise as much money as Markey. But he can't get out here and do this," Skarin said. "It isn't supposed to be about the money or running attack ads."
The 37-year-old Milbury man characterizes his political believes as taking the "best parts" of Republican Democratic platforms. While he sides with Republicans when it comes to fiscal conservative and individual responsibility principals, he sides with the Democrats when it comes to social justice issues.
"They're heart is in the right place but they don't really understand how to create sustainable solutions," he said of Democrats, taking the minimum wage debate as an example of a temporary fix and then the U.S. debt as unsustainable.
He also is placing a high priority on revamping the national education system to prepare for the advancement of technology.
"We can have a very forward thinking strategy," he said.
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