Neal Leads Congressional Race in Endorsements, Fundraising
|Clockwise from left: Richard Neal, Bill Shein and Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. face off on Thursday in a Democratic primary that will determine the winner of the newly drawn 1st Mass District. Neal, representative for the 2nd Mass District, has gained more endorsements and campaign money than the two Berkshires candidates.|
Neal has served the 2nd District in the House of Representatives since 1989, and is a senior member of the influential House Ways and Means Committee. Last year's redistricting announcement moved his native Springfield into the new 1st District, where Neal began introducing himself to new voters in Berkshire and Franklin counties at the beginning of 2012, following the anouncement in late 2011 that incumbent Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, would retire at the end of this term.
Neal officially entered the race in mid-May, filing triple the number of signatures needed to appear on the ballot at 7,340. Seventeen percent of signatures came from residents of Berkshire County, which trails a distant second behind Hampden County in district registered voters, at 18 percent compared to 63 percent in Hampden.
"The consolidation of Western Massachusetts is not a bad thing, it's a good thing," Neal told iBerkshires on one of his earliest visits. "I can assure people that I will vigorously represent the interests of the Berkshires with the same enthusiasm that I represent my district."
Nuciforo first declared his intention to run in this election in 2009 as a challenger to Olver, prior to the plan for the redistricting. Currently the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds, Nuciforo served as state senator from Pittsfield from 1997 to 2006, and chaired the Joint Committee on Banks and Banking, which became the Joint Committee on Financial Services. Nuciforo launched his full-scale 2012 campaign with a bus tour in early February, having already begun building support among some local Democrats with events in Pittsfield and elsewhere over the previous months. Nuciforo became the first to turn in papers to appear on the ballot on May 3, with 2,249 signatures.
"This is going to be a watershed moment in American politics," Nuciforo said at one Pittsfield appearance, "because people in this country have felt more and more detached from the people who are supposed to be representing them. That's what this election's going to be all about."
Alford writer, humorist and political activist Bill Shein announced his intention to run in mid-January. Other than a 2004 parody campaign for president, Shein has never run for public office but did work on Paul Simon's presidential campaign in 1988 and for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee after graduating from Tufts University in 1990. His op-ed column, "Reason Gone Mad," has won three National Press Club Award for Humor and appears in The Berkshire Eagle. Shein turned in 2,349 signatures to qualify on the ballot on June 4.
"In the Congress, I look forward to working with my new colleagues and reform activists from across the political spectrum to make vital changes in service of a democracy that works for all of us," said Shein in a recent statement.
Public endorsements for his opponents, in contrast, have been scarce. While Nuciforo's campaign has seen contributions from some local elected officials, including Pittsfield and North Adams city councilors, there have been no publicized endorsements. Shein was endorsed in June by L. Scott Laugenour of Lenox, Green-Rainbow Party candidate for 4th Berkshire District state representative.
The most significant disparity between the campaign of the Springfield congressman and his Berkshire-based opponents, however, is in fundraising and spending. Neal has spent just over $1.4 million in the race, according to his most recent FEC filings, with more than $2 million left remaining in his campaign fund. Nuciforo has raised a total of $242,209 in this election cycle, and spent $242,459, with a total of $100,620 left. Shein, whose campaign only accepts contributions of $99 or less, has raised only $20,035 and spent $14,710.
Funding has been a largely looming issue in the race, with Nuciforo and Shein repeatedly targeting Neal's large fundraising contributions from corporations and political action committees. Neal has maintained that donors do not influence his voting record in Congress.
On election day, Neal will vote at the Boys & Girls Club in Springfield, then host an election night results party at the Community Music School of Springfield at 8 p.m., to be followed by an expected "Thank You" breakfast in Pittsfield the following morning at Dottie's Coffeeshop.
Nuciforo will cast his vote at Capeless Elementary School, and will be gathering with supporters to watch results at Mazzeo's Ristorante, 1015 South St., Pittsfield starting at 7:30 p.m. Shein will vote at Alford Town Hall, with his election night meet-up at Gypsy Joint in Great Barrington beginning around 7 p.m.