By Chris Maza and G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – The exit of current Hampden County Register of Probate Thomas Moriarty at the end of his term has started a game of political musical chairs with candidates for that position, state Senate and the House now lining up.
State Sen. Gale Candaras made her long-anticipated announcement that she will seek election for the probate position at a press conference at the Old First Church on Jan. 21.
Assembling a show of support behind her, Candaras said, “It is time for me to write a new chapter in my life in public service. I have always served where I thought I was needed most. The opportunity to serve inside the building as Registrar of Probate during a time of change would be a great opportunity and the perfect segue for me and will put me in the best positions to continue my very personal fight for the courts, a fight I began 18 years ago as a rookie House member arguing for more equitable funding for the Hampden County courts, especially probate and the juvenile courts, where I spent countless hours.”
Candaras has served in the Legislature for 18 years, first in the House and then for the last eight in the Senate.
Elected officials standing with Candaras included state Sen. James Welch, Congressman Richard Neal, Sheriff Michael Ashe, state Rep. Michael Finn, state Rep. Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, Longmeadow Select Board Chair Marie Angelides, Springfield City Council President Michael Fenton, among others.
Laura Gentile, clerk magistrate of Hampden Superior Court, said Candaras “is far and away the most qualified person for the position.”
In-coming Senate president Stanley Rosenberg spoke of her abilities and added, “The Senate’s loss is Hampden County Court’s gain. We will miss Gale tremendously.”
She emphasized that she is not like career politicians by saying she never bought the vanity plates for her car or signed up for the health insurance offered by the state government. Speaking of the registrar’s position, she said, “This job is not a perk for a job well done by me or anyone else.”
Candaras stressed that she will fulfill her duties as a member of the Senate while campaigning and said of her early announcement, “I must announce today for the folks who are running for the Senate and state [Representative]. They need a year to run.”
She joked, “If I’m not elected I’m going to have to stay home and fight with [my husband] Art Wolfe.”
Candaras may be facing former Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette in a primary fight. Although he has not formally announced, Bissonnette has been touring the county meeting with potential supporters. On Jan. 18, he wrote on his Facebook page, “Reviewing over 20 years of cases from my law practice, I have had the opportunity to represent children, single parents, spouses, abused seniors, disabled persons and many others in need of service from the Probate and Family Court. This work has led me to appear in every court in the Hall of Justice, every courthouse in Hampden County and every courtroom in Probate Court. This is the practical legal background I would bring to the position of Register of Probate.”
State Rep. Angelo Puppolo Jr. told Reminder Publications
after the Candaras announcement that he will run for her state Senate position. Although Puppolo was reluctant to take any of the spotlight away from Candaras, he did say he would make a formal announcement “shortly” and that he was “definitely a candidate.”
“Experience matters in these still turbulent time[s],” Puppolo said.
Debra Boronski, East Longmeadow selectman as well as founder and president of the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, also announced she would run on the Republican ticket for Candaras’ state Senate seat on Jan. 21.
“I thought about running for the position four years ago, but decided my focus needed to be on my business, which was still developing at the time,” she said. “Obviously now there is a great opportunity with Sen. Candaras announcing she will run for a different office.”
Boronski was elected to the East Longmeadow Board of Selectmen in December 2012, filling the remainder of the term vacated by former Selectman Enrico “Jack” Villamaino. That term expires in April. She is also an elected member of the East Longmeadow Housing Authority.
Prior to forming the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce in 2008, she was senior vice president of the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts for nine years and was a member of the Chicopee Municipal Retirement Board for 18 years. She also served as president of the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce.
“I think my experience working with businesses in Massachusetts is most valuable,” she said. “I have run my own business, developed a budget and had to operate within that budget, and I have gone to Boston to speak with lawmakers about the impact of their decisions on our citizens and business.”
There were published rumors that Wilbraham Selectman Robert Russell would attempt a run at Puppolo’s seat as state Representative of the 12th Hampden District.
Russell acknowledged the rumors, but wouldn’t say anything further about them and he would have an announcement regarding his intentions for his future in public service on a day yet to be determined next week.