Political spotlight shines on W. Mass
|By G. Michael Dobbs|
and Erin O' Connor
AGAWAM It's mid-August and for western Massachusetts political junkies it's the best time of the year: Sheriff Michael Ashe's clambake and picnic.
The annual political mixer gives the rank and file the chance to meet and greet candidates from both local and statewide races.
"It is our 29th clambake and it is an opportunity for political leaders and business people," Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr. said.
"Folks are invited to come, office holders... it is the gala of the political season," said Press Secretary for the Sheriff Richard J. McCarthy. "Today we expect at least all the Democrat and Republican candidates. It is a statewide election year and the Democratic primary is very close."
Between the lengthy raffle, the trips to the beer pavilion and time out to eat some clams or a steak, there's a lot of old-fashioned pressing the flesh.
Democrats Deval Patrick, Thomas Reilly and Christopher Gabrieli all attended the affair with Reilly and Gabrieli there at the same time during the late afternoon.
Republican lieutenant governor candidate Reed Hillman also attended the event, but gubernatorial candidate Kerry Healey did not.
A poll released Aug. 8 by Rasmussen Reports shows that the three Democratic candidates all can handily beat current Lt. Governor Kerry Healey but that Gabrieli can do it with the greatest 20 points margin.
When asked about the poll, Gabrieli said that he was "glad to see good things like that."
"There is tremendous support building [for his campaign,]" he added.
Everywhere Gabrieli went at the picnic well wishers surrounded him.
Reilly said that the polls indicating his third place standing were not the ones he was seeing.
Being in third place didn't seem to bother Reilly, who said that he always has been the underdog in political races.
"I'm used to being there," he said.
Reilly said that a major difference between him and the other two candidates, is that he was the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate who is in favor of reducing the state income tax.
"Clearly we have the money," he said. "It's time to give it back to the people."
The following are some of the candidates met at the picnic.
Brian Ashe for First Hampden and Hampshire State Senate
Ashe is one of the Democratic candidates for the seat vacated by State Senator Brian Lees. The son of Hampden County Registrar of Deeds Donald Ashe, he said that his campaign is "going great."
He said that as he campaigns, the issue that he hears the most about is public safety. He agrees with the voters and said that public safety in Springfield is essential so businesses will be attracted back into the city.
Springfield needs to get back to where it needs to be "back into balance," he said.
He added that some people he meets are unaware of the primary race on Sept. 19 where Ashe will face State Representative Gale Candaras.
"I'm just letting people know there is a race," he said.
Thomas Merrigan for Eighth District Governor's Council
The retired judge from Greenfield is running as a Democrat for one of the most arcane elected seats in the Commonwealth the Governor's Council and said he is getting good response on the campaign trail. Merrigan said that his experience on the bench qualifies him as someone who has the background to approve the governor's choices for judgeships.
Peter Vickery for Eighth District Governor's Council
Vickery, a Democrat from Amherst, is the incumbent Merrigan is trying to unseat in the Sept. 19 primary. He believes one doesn't have to be an attorney to be an effective member of the Council, although having some legal background might help.
He said the position is "simple and straight forward." Members say "yes" or "no" to the governor's nominees for judicial positions.
He said the 2004 campaign increased the voters' awareness of the race.
Megan Anzalotti for Ninth Hampden State Representative
A Springfield school teacher who is running as an independent against incumbent Democrat Sean Curran said she is "thrilled how things are going" in her campaign.
"People are impressed that an independent school teacher is running for office," she said.
Anzalotti described herself as a fiscal conservative and is in favor of the income tax rollback to five percent. She is also opposed to the extension of commuter rail to Springfield, something Curran supports.
"A planner's dream turns into a taxpayer's nightmare," she said.
Gale Candaras for First Hampden and Hampshire State Senate
The veteran state representative for the 12th Hampden District said the question she gets asked the most by voters is "Who is your opposition?"
Candaras said people are very concerned that the someone with experience follows in Lees's footsteps.
"This election is one in which it's the person over the party, " she said. "Especially in western Massachusetts there is the feeling we have to make the right decision on our public officials because so much turns on it."
Brian Corridan for First Hampden and Hampshire State Senate
Standing near Candaras was one of her challengers, Brian Corridan, a Republican who is also facing a primary battle against Ronald Cutler and Enrico "Jack" Villamaino.
Describing himself as a "fiscal conservative," he recognizes the people are "feeling a pinch" when it comes to property taxes. He added the biggest issue for him is long term economic development to alleviate taxes.
Martha Coakley for Attorney General
Middlesex District Attorney Martha M. Coakley is the only Democratic candidate running for state's attorney general. She explained there are six steps to her platform: public safety concerning itself with homeland security; public safety concerning itself with protection for the elderly; consumer protection; civil rights; environmental protection; and promoting a healthy economy.
"With the environment we need to look at protecting the wetlands, looking at brown fields and environmental issues around them," Coakley said. "The Attorney General's office is meant to do a lot for these issues."