|By G. Michael Dobbs
City Councilor David Bartley (left), State Rep. Donald Humason Jr.
Reminder Publications photos by G. Michael Dobbs
HOLYOKE – There were moments when Holyoke City Councilor David Bartley and state Rep. Donald Humason Jr. disagreed during their debate for state Senate, but largely both men emphasized their shared commitment to funding local government.
Bartley, a Democrat, and Humason, a Republican, met before an audience of about 50 people in the Forum at Holyoke Community College on Oct. 21.
Although it was clear that both men took their campaigning for the Senate seat seriously, made vacant by the resignation of Michael Knapik, the hour and a half debate was punctuated with moments of humor from each.
It was only in the section of the debate in which the two candidates could directly ask questions of one another that there were some sparks.
During that segment, Bartley recounted his private sector job experience and then asked Humason to do the same. Humason, who graduated from Westfield State University and then worked as in the trial courts before beginning as a legislative aide to Knapik, defended his career in public service and expressed pride in it.
“As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I am the son of a firefighter and a nurse and public service has run in my blood as much as it has in yours,” Humason said, referring to the candidate’s father David Bartley who was served as speaker of the Massachusetts House.
Humason asked Bartley about how much time will it take for him to “come up to speed” as a state senator since Bartley lacks in experience in the General Court that Humason already has. Humason sees the difference in the candidate’s experience in office as a “great separator” between them.
Bartley replied, “The short answer is that my father was in politics for 14 years and in that 14 years he became majority leader and then speaker of the House. I’ll tell you what when I go down to Boston to be sworn in as state senator I’m going to take a ride with my dad down the Massachusetts Pike. I’m going to learn more in that 90-minute ride down the Massachusetts Pike about state government than the 200 members [of the House] would even know about.”
He then criticized Humason for writing a letter to state transportation officials about a proposed plan to close more offices of the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
“The gentleman with six terms of experience, that’s the experience he’s relying upon for your votes, six terms working with our honorable friend Mike Knapik, he wrote a letter,” Bartley said.
A panel of local journalists – Chris Pisano of ABC40, John Baibak of WHYN, Jim Kinney of The Republican and Jim McKeever of The Westfield Evening News – asked the two candidates the majority of the questions.
During the debate Bartley, a former government auditor and now an attorney, stressed that being a Democrat would better serve the district since he believes that state Sen. Stan Rosenberg of Amherst would be elected as president of the Senate. Humason rejected the ide that being a Democrat was a necessity by stating he had been talking with Rosenberg throughout the campaign, even though he was not Humason’s choice for Senate president.
Humason said having Republicans elected to the Legislature provided “balance” and cited what has been in happening in Congress as an example when one party dominates a branch of government.
When asked about gun control Humason said he is a gun owner and is a support of the Second Amendment. He does believe though that “not everyone should have a hand gun.”
Noting the Legislature is now considering whether or not to consider any new addition to the current state gun laws, Humason said that for him “the bigger issues is violence in general.”
Bartley said he would seek to enforce the state’s present laws and criticized Humason for receiving an “A-plus” rating as a legislator from The Gun Owners Action League.
When Baibak asked each candidate what would be the one piece of legislation that they would author that would have “an amazing effect” on people, Humason responded, “You want that in two minutes?”
Humason said that he would “stand up against bad bills” as a senator such as his stance against restating tolls on the western end of the Massachusetts Turnpike and his work to repeal the controversial Tech Tax.
Bartley replied to the same question by noting the current state budget is $34 billion which is “spent on gosh knows what.” He would work to reverse the trend of diminishing state aide to cities and towns in order to reduce property taxes.
When asked by McKeever about the public’s perception of how government can impede progress, Humason said, “My role will be a loud common sense independent voice for Western Massachusetts.”
Bartley said, “Government is best when it listens to people and small business owners.”
When asked by Baibak for “one good new idea,” Humason said, “Stop hitting the punch drunk boxer.”
He explained the “the punch drunk boxer” is the state economy and it’s his opinion the state government always hits the economy with a mew tax when it’s “wobbly” and trying to recover. He noted that increase of the sales tax from 5 percent to 6.25 percent and the recently repealed Tech Tax as two examples.
Humason added that he wants to work for reform but not to tax.
Bartley answered by saying, “Hearing a Republican cutting taxes is par for the course. How about a philosophical change? Government doesn’t create jobs, government is best when it supports job creators.”
Bartley called for the support of education and infrastructure improvements to encourage business growth.
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