Downing Nearly Joined 2012 Congress Race

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Sen. Benjamin Downing nearly threw his name into the ring for Congress.

The Pittsfield Democrat hired a political consulting group, Washington D.C.-based 4C Partners, to explore a congressional run in January 2011. Downing said recently that he knew U.S. Rep. John Olver was nearing retirement, which the Amherst Democratic announced in October 2011, and considered running for the seat but the "pieces didn't fall into place."

Redistricting in 2011 lumped part of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's 2nd Mass District into Olver's 1st  District. The Berkshires' Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. announced in 2008 and Bill Shein in January their candidacies for the Democrat nomination.

While Downing didn't specify why he decided not to run, he did say he would have been more likely to if the district hadn't been changed so dramatically. Then again, he also said that 12-termer Neal was not unbeatable.

Downing paid a total of $15,837 to 4C for consulting fees, $3,500 a month for six months, according to campaign finance disclosures.

His probe of a possible run came months after a 2010 letter from Democratic leaders urging Nuciforo, Downing's predecessor in the state Senate, not to run against Olver. The letter, from "Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County" and signed by Democratic leaders Sherwood Guernsey and Lee Harrison, asked Nuciforo to step out of the 2012 race over concerns it would "fracture" the party. It came at a time when Democrats had lost a majority in the House of Representatives.

The letter made no mention of Downing and encouraged Nuciforo to run if Olver, about to begin his 10th term, decided to retire. Olver had frequently reiterated his determination to run in 2012 but many believe he was pushed into retiring by fellow Democrats to avoid a battle between political veterans because of redistricting.

Just two days after Olver announced his retirement last fall, Shein, a political activist and writer, wrote a lengthy article in the Berkshire Record criticizing Downing's funding raising , which brought the 4C Partners expenditure to light.

Shein jumped into the race in January with a platform that includes banning contributions from lobbyists. Lobbyists were the topic of Shein's Oct. 28, 2011, article (posted on Red Crow News) in which he alleges Downing voted on anti-worker laws related to Cranwell Spa & Resort  because of campaign money he received from lobbyists.

Downing would arguably have been the best-known Berkshire candidate, considering his Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin Senate district overlaps much of the western section of the new 1st Mass District. Neal, who brings his home ground of the Springfield metro region and east to Charlton along the state's southern border, has at least five times as much money and the endorsement of Olver.

While Downing believes Neal is beatable, the race could be an uphill battle for the two "home team" candidates because of lack of funds and the likelihood of splitting votes.

For the most recent reporting period ending Dec. 31, Neal had $2.5 million in cash, more than a half-million from political action committees. Nuciforo reported $137,000 on hand, and raising the bulk of his funds, $98,000, from individuals. Shein had nothing to report.

No Republican candidate has yet emerged so the Sept. 6 Democratic primary could determine the district's next congressman.

As for Downing, he said if he had to support a term limit for state officials, it would be 10 years. This is Downing's sixth year in the Senate. When asked what's next, he said he wasn't sure yet but he doesn't expect to be a state senator for life.

Tags: Ben Downing,   election,   

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Barry Leads Pittsfield Americans to 12-Year-Old Sectional Title

By Stephen Sports

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Everyone contributed Saturday as the Pittsfield Little League American Division All-Stars secured a Section 1 Championship. 

But the game began and ended with Christian Barry. 
On the mound, Barry struck out the first three batters he faced and the last two batters to come to the plate for visiting Longmeadow. 
At the plate, Barry led off the bottom of the first with an inside-the-park home run to right and ended it with a bomb to left that was good enough for a double but only needed to be good enough to drive home Jack Bellafontaine to give the Americans an 11-1, five-inning win and a trip to next week’s state tournament in Gloucester. 
“One of our umps that I coached asked me early in the year why I bat [Barry] first,” Pittsfield manager Ty Perrault said. “Without even hesitating, I said, ‘To get him up as many times as we possibly can.’ He thought about it and said, ‘That makes sense.’ 
“When the bottom of the order does the job like they did today, he comes up with guys in scoring position, and it works out really well.”
After leading off the first with his 29th home run of the year — house league and all-stars — Barry had runners on base every time he came up, and he cashed in every time, going 4-for-4 with a homer, a double and five RBIs. 
On the hill, he struck out 10 and only allowed three hits — all in the top of the fifth, when Longmeadow scored its only run to make it 10-1 and force a fifth inning.
“My first inning, i pitched really well, and then I started to lose it a little where I just had to stay calm and work through it,” Barry said. 
He struck out the first four Longmeadow batters and had eight Ks through three innings. 
In the fourth, Longmeadow’s Alejandro Santiago hit a leadoff double and came home on a Chase Wagner single. But Barry was able to stop the bleeding. 
Longmeadow worked a one-out walk to start the top of the fifth. That batter stole second and moved up on a sac bunt to bring up the top of the order. But Barry picked up his fifth and sixth strikeouts against Longmeadow’s Nos. 1 and 2 hitters to get his team back on offense. 
Pittsfield’s offense produced three in the first, three in the second and four in the third to put Little League’s “mercy rule” in play. 
Cam Blake went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Kevin Konefal was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. 
Bellafontaine walked and scored in the second from the nine hole. He led off the fifth with a double to left ahead of Barry’s game-ending RBI. 
Perrault will take Pittsfield back to the state tourney, where it was victorious in 2018 to earn a trip to Bristol and the New England Regional, coming within one win of a trip to Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series. 
The manager said he knew this year’s edition of the Americans had the talent to get back to the state’s “final four,” but it had to also have the drive. 
“I think they always have the potential,” Perrault said. “It’s just whether they want to do it. Their attitudes in practice, showing up to hit at eight and nine in the morning and then coming back at night, with me, for defense, their attitudes have been great — every one of them. 
“When that’s the case, the sky’s the limit.”
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