By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – A heated election season has become much hotter in Springfield.
The announcement that state Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera will resign at the end of March to become the assistant clerk of courts has opened up another race and potential candidates are assessing voter interest in order to consider running.
Rivera’s decision will leave the 10th Hampden District, which includes parts of Forest Park, Maple High Six Corners, the South End, downtown and the North End without representation in the House until a new candidate is sworn into office on January 2015.
The district includes such development projects as the potential MGM casino, the reconstruction of the viaduct of Interstate 91 and the Union Station rehabilitation. There will be a Democratic primary on Sept. 9 and the regular election will be Nov. 4.
To date there are four candidates at various stages of making a final decision to run: Carlos Gonzalez, Melvin Edwards, Thomas Walsh and Salvatore Circosta.
Gonzalez, president of the Massachusetts Latino Chamber of Commerce, has already filed his nomination papers with the city and has Rivera’s endorsement.
Gonzalez said, “I’m running. I’m still putting it all together but I’m running.”
He added that if he wins he would have to find a successor for his organization, which he said would be “a challenge but doable.”
He said his issues would be in jobs, education, public safety and economic development.
“There are a lot of issues, but a lot of great opportunities,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez praised House Speaker Robert DeLeo for not calling a special election as a savings to the taxpayer and believes the other members of the Springfield delegation will watch out for the district.
City Councilor Melvin Edwards said, “I am running without any doubt.” He has picked up his nomination papers and has been consulting with his friends and advisors. He said he called Gonzalez and told him “I had every intention of running.”
Edwards has not yet set a date for a formal announcement. Edwards successfully ran for re-election and had ran against James Welch for the state Senate and lost. He is the president of the Maple High Six Corners Neighborhood Council and head of the newly formed Springfield Armory Alliance.
Walsh is the former aide to Mayor Domenic Sarno for five years. During that time he was a neighborhood liaison and was the city’s representative to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority where he voted against fare increases. He also served in the first years of his career as an intern for Rivera.
Walsh said he has taken out nomination papers and is speaking to potential supporters before making his final decision. He said he has been “humbled” by the positive response he has received. He expressed concern about the district not having representation during a period of considerable economic development.
Walsh is employed as attorney with his own law office.
While those three candidates will be running as Democrats, Circosta will be an independent. He most recently ran against Edwards for City Council.
The former owner of Sal’s Bakery and Café and now the business manager at Industrial Roofing Company, Circosta said he would be making his formal announcement shortly.
He said his issues, as state representative would center on improving the quality of life in the district. With the number of large economic development projects in the district, he said, “This is our opportunity as a city and a state to re-invest in our city and our downtown neighborhoods.”
He said he doesn’t want this race to represent “politics as usual and added that Rivera’s endorsement of Gonzalez was “a slap in the face of democracy.”