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.