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Democratic Senate candidates cite rural issues 



@cmlindahl
Friday, May 13, 2016

GOSHEN – Two Democratic candidates for the Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden state Senate seat say as western Massachusetts natives, they understand the unique issues faced by rural communities  in a largely urban state.

The candidates, Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds, spoke Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Hilltown Democratic Coalition at the Goshen Congregational Church. They are both running to replace incumbent Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who is not seeking reelection.

Harrington and Hinds will face off  in the Sept. 8 primary election. The winner will go on to the Nov. 8 general election. One Republican, Christine Canning of Lanesborough, also has circulated nomination papers for the seat.

Harrington is a lawyer with 13 years experience who describes herself as devoted to social and economic justice.

Before moving back to her hometown of Richmond, she worked in Florida seeking to overturn death penalty convictions. Today, she largely works in Berkshire courts representing indigent criminal defendants and handling family law matters.

Hinds, of Pittsfield, worked as campaign manager for John Olver during his 2000 bid for reelection before going on to work for the 2004 presidential run of John Kerry.

Hinds recently returned from a decade in the Middle East, where he worked for the United Nations. He aided in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution, helped negotiate a dispute over internal land boundaries in Iraq and worked on cease-fire agreements in Gaza and Syria.

A native of Buckland, Hinds is currently executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.

Both said that bringing broadband to undeserved and unserved communities is a priority.

Hinds said that the state should respect the votes taken by many Town Meetings supporting WiredWest . “It’s just unacceptable that it’s taken this long,” Hinds said. “It seems the state should focus on what the towns want first.”

Harrington derided what she called Gov. Charlie Baker’s lack of support for cooperative models of delivering Internet, such as WiredWest. Co-ops, she said, make more sense than looking toward private enterprise because communities can come together to take advantage of an economy of scale.

In rural communities losing population faster than other parts of the state, Harrington said broadband is vital for attracting and retaining residents who want to work from home.

“It is the equivalent of not having electricity,” she said. “Broadband is essential to economic development.”

Both said that the state’s education funding formula needs to be revised and that they would work toward that goal.

Asked if they were in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Hinds said that if it were to be approved by voters, it would be vital to push for efforts to protect youth from substance abuse.

Harrington said she is in favor of decriminalization, which was approved by voters in 2008. But as for full-blown legalization, she said there are issues that need to be worked out, such as developing an accurate way to test for driving while under the influence of marijuana.

“At this juncture I would be opposed to fully legalizing marijuana,” she said.

Both said they see attention to green energy as the way forward.

Harrington said she is interested in exploring a single-payer health care system in the state. “I think a single-payer system could take some of the burden off our schools,” she said.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at clindahl@gazettenet.com.