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Candidates offer choices in state Senate race

Oct. 4, 2013

By G. Michael Dobbs


Four candidates offering diverse experiences in both the public and private sectors will be asking for your vote on Oct. 8 in their efforts to be the successor for Michael Knapik representing the Second Hampden-Hampshire senate district.

Knapik resigned from the position earlier this year to accept a job at Westfield State University. The candidates looking to replace him are (in alphabetical order) Holyoke City Councilor and attorney David Bartley, Air Force veteran and political activist Michael Franco, state Rep. Donald Humason Jr. and longtime Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik.

Bartley are Tautznik will be in the Democratic primary, while Humason and Franco will be in the Republican primary.

Reminder Publications interviewed each of the candidates about their backgrounds and views.

David Bartley

Politics runs deep in the Bartley family, as the father of the candidate is a former speaker of the Massachusetts House and the former president of Holyoke Community College.

Bartley, though, is certainly running on his own accomplishments. Before starting his own legal practice, he was a government auditor for 16 years. He is now in his first term as a Holyoke City Councilor.

His motivation for running is simple. “I want to serve the public,” he said. “I want to bring the voices I’ve heard down to Boston.”

He said the district is “fairly unique” in its politics, economic status and ethnicity.

“We want someone in Boston who really represents us and wants our cities and towns supported,” Bartley noted.

One of his primary goals is to increase state aid to communities.

“Let the local governments do what they do best,” he said.

As an auditor he said he has seen waste and abuse in government and would fight against it.

Increased aid could help local governments, who Bartley maintained, have been “handcuffed” by the state, forcing the increase in property taxes.

“Taxpayers say enough is enough,” he said.

He believes the Massachusetts residents and businesses are “over-taxed” and used the recently repealed Tech Tax as an example.

Bartley explained, “There are some things government can do, some things government can not do.”

His priorities include using the gasoline tax to fund infrastructure repairs, which would in turn help businesses. He believes that Boston has received “more than its fair share” of infrastructure funds with the Big Dig and improvements to Boston harbor.

Bartley would also support educational efforts to “meet the demands of the market place.”

Bartley added, “If something helps the economy I can get behind that.”

He acknowledged, “I’m a different kind of Democrat.”

Michael Franco

Franco is a Holyoke resident and is employed by the city as a veterans’ services officer. He is a vet himself, having reached the rank of major in the Air Force.

His run for senate is not his first effort for public office. He has run for state representative and governor’s councilor in the past. He said he has a deep interest in public policy matters and enjoys advocating on behalf of issues.

He said the differences between him and Humason are both personal and professional.

“I’m a risk-taker. I’ve done a lot of different things,” Franco said. He has served in the military and worked in the private sector, he noted. He has returned to school to better himself and prepare for the changing workplace.

He said that Humason represents the Republican establishment in the state while he is a “grassroots” candidate. He has distanced himself from seeking endorsements

He described himself as a “conservative Libertarian Republican” who believes that government is too big, too costly and too intrusive. He added he believes there are issues, such as property rights, that appeal to both conservative and progressive voters.

“I’m happy to listen to everyone, but I might not agree,” Franco added.

Fiscal responsibility and independence are key parts of his political philosophy. “We have to look at who is going to pay for stuff in the years to come,” Franco said. He added that while government funding is “very appealing,” it always has strings attached.

If elected he would work to reduce the state budget by 10 percent over a five-year period.

“I might be standing alone on that. I’m not afraid to lose those battles. At least I can talk about them,” he said.

He said he has encountered frustration from both Democratic and Republican voters concerning the status quo and believes that people should stop how they have traditionally voted.

Donald Humason Jr.

Humason, who has been representing Westfield in the House of Representatives since 2003, came to the position with considerable experience in government having served four years as the legislative director in the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and as Knapik’s chief of staff.

Humason’s priority for the district if elected can be summed up in one word: jobs. He wants to continue advocating for the senate district what he has been doing for Westfield.

As a member of the minority party in the House, Humason noted his role has been to offer alternative ideas to those of the Democrats. He cited the recent repeal of the Technology Tax as an example. He and other Republicans opposed it and after the state’s business community protested it, the Legislature and the governor repealed it.

“We had our finger on the pulse,” Humason said. “We knew it was a bad idea. This is a victory that is good for everybody.”

He said, “The economic stuff is the biggest thing that I’ve come across as I’ve campaigned.”

With poll numbers reflecting dissatisfaction with Congressional Republicans and the partial shutdown of the federal government, Humason drew a line between that kind of politics and what he has done in the General Court. For him constituent service and working for “efficient government responsible to the taxpayers” have been the hallmarks of his tenure.

“By and large, my constituents are pleased with the job I’m doing,” he said.

He also sees his role as a Republican as a person providing “balance.”

“It’s helpful to have alternative views that, in its wisdom, the majority party didn’t consider,” Humason said.

He said the Commonwealth is in “better fiscal health than Washington, D.C.” and that he has “no interest in the type of politics they practice in D.C.”

Noting the stalled Willimansett bridge project in Holyoke and the pending discussion on repairing the Interstate 91 aqueduct in Springfield, Humason said that infrastructure repair should be a priority.

Michael Tautznik

Tautznik has served as mayor of Easthampton since 1996 and is the town’s first and so far only chief executive. Prior to his election he was a member of the Board of Selectmen and a Town meeting member. He has also served on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Local Government and has been involved in the Pioneer Valley Plan for Progress.

Prior to coming to public office, he spent 25 years working in industry.

As a mayor he said he understands the state budget policies and their impact in local governments and as a senator he would work to improve the results of the actions of the Senate on municipalities.

In the past, the people who won this senate seat have been from either Westfield or Holyoke and Tautznik readily acknowledged the diversity of the district. He noted that Easthampton is “an old industrial community similar to Holyoke.”

He explained that one difference between Easthampton and Westfield is the amount of land that could be developed. Westfield “has a lot of land and Easthampton has the least amount of the land” of the three cities, he said.

Tautznik’s strategy in Easthampton for industrial development is the re-use of the present industrial buildings rather than using green space.

Westfield, he said, has been working on its redevelopment of downtown and he said he has “a lot of experience with downtown revitalization.”

He sees the role of a legislator as “a partner” with municipalities.

“I understand how towns operate and have a unique understanding how towns and cities differ,” Tautznik said.

Acknowledging the Senate seat has been won by a Republican for years, Tautznik said, “I am very responsible on the fiscal side, but on the social side I am clearly a Democrat.”

He added that fiscally, “I am more aligned with the Republicans or lean toward them.”

While campaigning he has encountered “quite a diverse group of opinions, specific to the voter and the community.”

He said that if he had to pick a single theme it has been “How do we afford what we want to do?”

He sees the roles of municipal government make sure it’s not a “hindrance” in redevelopment efforts and the state’s future economic development in the growth of small business.

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