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Contenders vie for Kulik’s seat

  • Nathaniel Waring, of Sunderland, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Andrew Baker, of Shelburne, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Casey Pease, of Worthington, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Natalie Blais, of Sunderland, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Christine Doktor of Cummington, pictured here with her partner Frank Philbrick, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Francia Wisnewski, of Montague, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Jonathan Edwards, of Whately, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Christine Doktor, of Cummington, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers

  • Kate Albright-Hanna, of Huntington, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers



For the Gazette
Thursday, April 19, 2018

SUNDERLAND — Democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin seat in the Statehouse are making it difficult for voters to choose in September.

The eight hopefuls vying for the 1st Franklin seat in November’s election spoke with interested voters during a “meet and greet” event Friday. The event, sponsored by the Sunderland Democratic Town Committee, gave voters a chance to hear the candidates together for the first time, and also ask questions of the candidates.

“We’re very fortunate to have such a wide range of choices,” Allen Richards, audience member at the event, said. “Such a wide range of choices, a wide range of backgrounds and strengths.”

The candidates met with fellow Democrats and prospective independent voters at First Congregational Church in Sunderland. Candidates were given two minutes to address the audience, followed by a question-and-answer session that all participated in.

Among the topics discussed by the candidates were single-payer health care, improved education, legislative and economic support for the region and the proliferation of broadband throughout the hilltowns.

Kate Albright-Hanna, an Emmy-award winning journalist from Huntington, is one of the candidates running for the seat. She spoke about working to provide debt-free college options and create “striving family farms” in the area.

“Cover the basics. Then, step by step, start to dream,” Albright-Hanna said.

She also said that she would use her experiences as a “muckraking journalist” to get attention to the area.

“I will amplify our voices and make them listen,” she said. “That’s the secret power of a muckraking journalist.”

Andrew Baker, Shelburne Select Board member and special projects coordinator for the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, said his experience is what makes him stand out as a candidate.

“I’m running to continue the work I’ve been doing over the past 25 years in the 1st Franklin District to strengthen our communities,” he said.

Baker said that in order to improve the communities, the region must look to taking care of the elderly, while also strengthening businesses and employment so that families are likelier to stay.

For Natalie Blais, the executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and a Sunderland resident, her efforts rest on gaining exposure to the issues that face this side of the state. These issues, according to Blais, include funding for schools and infrastructure, as well as lack of broadband in certain areas.

“I want to be the state representative that follows through on that promise to bring last-mile connections to every single town in Massachusetts,” she said. “Figure out together how we can succeed with broadband.”

Francia Wisnewski, candidate from Montague who has a background in education, social services and local government, said that she wants to create an economy that supports families, as well as education, economic development and affordable health care options.

“No one should have to choose between caring for families and loved ones and paychecks,” Wisnewski said. “Strong families build strong communities.”

Other focuses from Wisnewski included equal pay and affordable housing, so families don’t have to leave the communities they grew up in.

“We must ensure everyone gets a fair shake,” she said. “Owning a home should not break the bank.”

Nathaniel Waring, a self-professed “cable guy” from Sunderland, said that he is hoping to bring a progressive agenda to the position and to the nation.

Waring said that he believes the minimum wage should not be increased to $15 an hour, but instead to $25 an hour. He said that a two-bedroom apartment cannot be afforded on less.

Waring also stressed a workers’ platform, speaking of his experience as a contractor for a local cable company for several years.

“I have been fighting for the last five years for workers in the area,” he said.

Casey Pease, a Worthington resident and volunteer firefighter looking to become the youngest member of the Legislature, came with bold ideas to fix lingering issues in the commonwealth, and believes if elected, he can make them happen.

Pease proposed ideas including regionalized single-payer health care extending beyond just state lines, as well as making broadband a public utility so the internet option can be more affordable for customers. He also focused on fixing school and public transit funding in the state.

“We have a very unique opportunity to elect someone who is energetic and bold,” he said.

Whately Select Board member Jonathan Edwards talked about the relationships he has built in his 14 years on the Select Board in his town, during which time he also helped to create South County Emergency Medical Services, a unique regional paramedic-level service.

Edwards noted that the creation of the service highlighted his abilities.

“I know how to succeed in this region because it is working with everyone,” he said.

Edwards also said that he supports environmentally clean technology, and said combatting climate change has been his focus for several years.

“Climate change is generationally a disaster,” he said. “But also the greatest jobs creator we have in this region.”

Christine Doktor, a Cummington farmer and lawyer, talked about her experiences in the more rural areas of the district and how it influenced her to run.

“I’m running because I live the issues we’re facing here,” she said.

Doktor said that she saw the issues impacting the area, including opiate addiction in a neighbor and the use of genetically modified crops. However, she also saw positives, such as the general store in town “becoming a beloved cooperative” because of residents’ efforts.

According to Doktor, she wants to gain support for farmers, as well as work “to improve Main Streets and enhance our hilltowns” to improve business and attract young families to the area.

The eight candidates are vying for the 1st Franklin seat that is being vacated by state Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington. The seat serves residents in 19 towns, including Huntington, Chesterfield, Middlefield, Worthington, Cummington and Goshen, along with Deerfield, Leverett, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County.

Kulik announced in February that he would not seek re-election, ending a 25-year run as representative.