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Vacancy jumpstarts race for Senate seat

Aug. 9, 2013
<b>State Sen. Michael Knapik</b><br>Reminder Publications file photo

State Sen. Michael Knapik
Reminder Publications file photo

By Carley Dangona


BOSTON – Mayor Michael Tautznik of Easthampton has joined the race for state Sen. Michael Knapik’s (R-2nd Hampden and Hampshire) seat.

Starting Aug. 12, Knapik will no longer take his seat in the Senate, but instead will serve as the executive director of University Advancement for Westfield State University (WSU). He explained that his upcoming position is not a new one, but rather a “retooling” of the former WSU vice president’s job description. He will earn $110,000 annually.

Knapik said that a special election will be conducted to fill his seat. The date has yet to be determined for the vote.

Knapik has more than 20 years experience working in public service. He was in the midst of his 10th term as a state senator, representing the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District, which includes Agawam, Chicopee (Ward 7, Precincts 9A and 8A), Easthampton, Granville, Holyoke, Montgomery, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, Tolland and Westfield.

In an interview with Reminder Publications on Aug. 7 Tautznik addressed rumors of his intent to run for state Senate.

He said, “I hadn’t made any other consideration to run for office, but this is an opportunity that I can’t pass up.”

Tautznik is currently serving the last few months of his term. He has lived in Easthampton all his life and has served the city for 35 years and has been its mayor since 1996. He operated as an elected member of the legislative Town Meeting from 1977 until its dissolution in 1996. He was also a member and chairman of the Easthampton Board of Selectmen from 1989 to 1996.

“I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. If elected, I could lend a level of understanding and capacity [for government] more than any other candidate. I would like to emulate the kind of senator Knapik was,” Tautznik added.

He continued, “I’m looking forward to taking part in the process and meeting folks in the district.” Tautznik stated that he is familiar with those communities from his outreach as mayor, but looks forward to the chance to better know the citizens and to share ideas with them.

Tautznik noted state Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg has been his “neighboring senator” and that he looks forward to the opportunity to work closely with him. “I think we could get a lot of things done,” Tautznik said.

State Rep. Donald Humason Jr. (R-Westfield) also announced that he intends to enter the race for Knapik’s spot.

“Mike Knapik has been a friend and mentor for more than 20 years. I’m inspired by his work. It’s not often that a state Senate seat becomes available. I’ve decided to throw my hat in because this is a great opportunity,” Humason said.

He is serving his sixth term as state Representative for the 4th Hampden District. From 1991 to 1998 Humason worked as legislative aide and chief of staff for Knapik in the House of Representatives and Senate. He also served as the former director of Legislative Affairs at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services from 1998 to 2002.

Humason is a member of the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure and the ranking Republican on the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.

He is the chair of the Massachusetts Legislative Aviation Caucus, and a member of several others including the Library Caucus, Parks Caucus, Public Higher Education Caucus, Small Business Caucus, Sportsmen’s Caucus, and Boating Caucus.

Humason said, like Knapik, he intends to “reach across the aisle” to do what’s best for the people of the Commonwealth.

He also said, if elected, he would “continue tradition” and would seek to fill the footprint Knapik left behind “to the very best of [my] ability. I want to be accountable for the votes I take.”

Humason added, “I want people to feel comfortable to reach out to me. [In this field] you have to be approachable and accessible. In the Senate, I will get to do more of the same, [just on a grander scale].” He said he would continue hosting a district office, taping his monthly TV show and writing because all are means to inform constituents.

In light of the recent Enrico “Jack” Villamaino case, a former East Longmeadow Selectman accused of forgery, perjury and conspiracy to commit a voting violation, Humason addressed his own personal values, citing integrity and honesty as musts.

“I learned a long time ago not to make political promises. The only promise I’ll make is that I will never give them [voters] a reason to vote against me. I would be embarrassed if I ever brought dishonor to my district,” he said.

Humason also expressed sympathy for voters in regards to the recent number of special elections. He said that he understood that it can be tiresome, but it’s important to ensure residents have a voice.

“I’m excited [for] this opportunity. It’s a new endeavor. I’ve been well trained. The House of Representatives is a natural proving ground where you learn to negotiate and advocate,” Humason stated.

Knapik said, “It’s been a tremendous honor that the voters have given me – a privilege. “I’ve become synonymous with this region – I hope I got a few things done. It’s been an incredible ride.”

Since 2001, Knapik has served as the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on Ways & Means. In this position, Knapik was part of the prestigious House-Senate Conference Committee charged with reconciling the annual state budget and other spending plans. Having worked on 12 budgets, Knapik has served on more budget conference committees than any other current member of the Massachusetts Legislature.

Knapik also served on the Senate Committees on Ethics & Rules and Bonding, Capital Expenditures & State Assets. He was a member of six joint-legislative committees as well the Joint Committees on Revenue, Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure, Public Service, Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy and Veteran and Federal Affairs.

Knapik said it would be an “honor” to work more “broadly and directly” with Westfield, his hometown. He stated that Western Massachusetts is “blessed” to have institutions such as WSU, Springfield Technical Community College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“I know of no other public figure in Massachusetts more widely regarded for his bi-partisanship and resolute integrity than the senator,” WSU President Evan Dobelle said. “I was not involved in this selection process until the search committee presented him as a finalist and his interview with them and me was extraordinary. His passion for WSU and his personal reputation and leadership will bring the foundation, as we begin our 175th anniversary celebration, to never before seen success.”

Knapik added he will miss “watching people bring the passion from their districts” and that he “cannot thank his staff enough.”

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