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Senate candidates move forward with campaigns following ballot ruling

July 2, 2014 | G. Michael Dobbs

GREATER SPRINGFIELD – The Democratic Senate primary race for the First Hampden and Hampshire district has moved past the legal challenge posed by Springfield City Councilor Timothy Allen to Eric Lesser. Now that the Ballot Law Commission has ruled that Lesser is a legal resident and eligible to run, the candidates are moving forward with their campaigns.

Lesser told Reminder Publications he has been involved in his grassroots campaigning and most recently knocking on doors in Chicopee, East Longmeadow and Belchertown. He also opened a campaign office in East Longmeadow.

He said, “It’s unfortunate that so much time was spent on political fear,” referring to Allen’s challenge.

Kitty Dukakis, the wife of former Gov. Michael Dukakis, was scheduled to campaign with Lesser on June 28.

Allen released his economic development plan on June 26. The six steps would increase “funding to a level that will provide Universal prekindergarten for Massachusetts families; support expansion and funding of literacy programming, with particular emphasis on reducing waiting lists for adult learners; target precision manufacturing and healthcare workforce in the State’s workforce development and economic development strategy; support legislative initiatives providing resources in these areas; support and expand incumbent worker training to support local industry, retaining local companies and attracting new businesses that need a ready-made and trained workforce.

“Work with Hampden County Regional Employment Board to identify priorities; legislation to create a (Neighborhood Investment Zone) NIZ for the Commonwealth. We must encourage businesses to locate or stay in Western Massachusetts. Many states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan have developed this concept that encourages business development through incentives offered by a NIZ; and working with our legislative delegation and the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, I will convene an Economic Development Summit that will engage private industry, business organizations, educators, colleges and vocational schools, local Chambers of Commerce, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to identify economic development opportunities and priorities,” he continued.

Allen recently picked up the endorsement of a number of his fellow city councilors, including Michael Fenton, Thomas Ashe, Timothy Rooke, Bud Williams, Melvin Edwards, Kenneth Shea, E. Henry Twiggs and Zaida Luna

Lesser was endorsed by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1459. “Not only does Eric live in the First Hampden and Hampshire District, but he is a motivated resident committed to seeing his district succeed,” Dan Clifford, president of UFCW Local 1459, said.

Aaron Saunders recently called for the expansion of the state’s Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP).

Saunders, said, “The Accelerated Bridge Program has been a tremendous success so far, with the vast majority of projects coming in on time and on budget, but there is much more work to be done whether it is an unsafe bridge on a local road or a major interstate.”

He added, “In Western Massachusetts our top transportation priority must be our roads and bridges. The people who live and work in western Massachusetts cannot afford to have their elected leaders seek to spend billions of dollars on train service to Boston while our roads and bridges, including a major bridge on Interstate 91, crumble under us.”

James “Chip” Harrington released a detailed program on crime prevention. Harrington, who is a small business owner, has also worked as a police officer. He called that all police officers be trained in and carry Narcan to prevent deaths from opiate over-doses. If elected he would work toward a fully funded witness protection program for street crimes.

“Many times witnesses are simply scared for their life. This program should extend to ‘street crimes’ and not just be used for organized crimes,” he wrote. 

He would also advocate more funding to create additional summer youth jobs and additional financial support for programs such as ROCA that target high risk young adults to prevent them from going into a life of crime.

He would also like to see more crime prevention funds for Gateway Cities. “Having a safer Gateway City would only help to spur development and make the decision of a potential business to move and grow there easier. That is why I propose adding a fund to work hand in hand with the Gateway Cities plan for those cities to apply for monies for public safety reasons,” he wrote.

Harrington would like to see 50 additional police officers added in Springfield, some of whom would be assigned to the Gun Task Force and he would work on the “drugs for guns” exchange between gang members in Vermont and Massachusetts.

He added, “I pledge to work hand and hand with the new District Attorney to ensure that any person caught in possession of an illegal firearm is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All too often the charge of possession of an illegal firearm is dropped in a plea deal. This should only happen in rare circumstances. Criminals need to know that if they are caught with an illegal gun that they are going to go to prison.”

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