By G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – Edward Collins Jr. has been both a political and labor activist for years, but he said the time is right for him to run for office for the first time.
The lifetime Springfield resident and Naval veteran is running for the Ninth Hampden District seat in the state House of Representatives currently filled by Sean Curran. Curran is not running for re-election.
Collins is entering a busy field that has already seen the announcement of Libertarian Robert Underwood and fellow democrat Springfield School Committee member Peter Murphy. Former Springfield City Council president Jose Tosado is anticipated to make his intentions public
An international representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for the second district, Collin said that he started working on political campaign when he was 10 or 11 years old. His brother Timothy is present of the Springfield Education Association, while another brother Christopher is a former educator and a member of the Springfield School Committee.
He said that financially and career-wise he was at a place at his life he could afford to run for office. Another consideration is that “open seats don’t come down every day,” he added.
“I’ve had both a public and personal interest in public policy for a long time,” Collins said.
In terms of the issues for which he has advocated he called this election cycle “an almost perfect storm in the positive sense.” He has long advocated against economic inequality, which he said “seems to have the public’s attention.”
He is also very concerned about how higher education is financed in the Commonwealth. He is a former trustee of Westfield State University and is currently a trustee for the University of Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts has never been great in its support of higher education compared to other states,” he said.
The state used to have a formula of “50-50,” he said – underwriting state colleges and universities by funding them half by state allocations and half by tuition and fees. Collins said he and others have been working to get the state back to the 50-50 formula.
Currently he said the state funding is “clawing its way back to mediocrity.”
The problem is that lawmakers view cuts in education funding can be offset by the increase in tuition and fees, Collins said. What he would do, if elected, is to work toward “a sustainable model” so education funding would not be affected by the “crisis du jour.”
Although most of the district is in Springfield, Collins said he would “pay a lot of attention to Chicopee. The district includes one precinct of Chicopee. He added the two Gateway Cities share many issues.
Collins said reforms on how state aid is allocated must be reformed and that although people in Western Massachusetts believe Beacon Hill sees the region as “the ugly step-child” there are other parts of the Commonwealth that have similar problems such as southeastern Massachusetts and the Lowell area.
He said the problem is the dominance in the Legislature of the greater Boston area.
“They can’t pretend the rest of the state doesn’t exist,” Collins said.