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Five to vie for Knapik’s old State Senate seat

Three Democrats and two Republicans from Easthampton, Holyoke and Westfield will be competing to see who will run in the November special election to fill the state Senate seat vacated earlier this month by Michael R. Knapik.

The Democratic candidates who will face off in the Oct. 8 primary are Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik, Holyoke City Councilor David K. Bartley and Holyoke Fire Commission Chairman Christopher J. Hopewell.

Republicans competing in the GOP primary will be Westfield state Rep. Donald F. Humason Jr. and Holyoke Veterans Services Officer Michael Franco.

Each candidate turned in nomination papers with at least 300 signatures from registered voters in the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District to local registrars of voters for certification by Aug. 27. But only Tautznik is officially a candidate because he has submitted his nomination papers with the certified signatures to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s Springfield office.

The other four candidates have until Tuesday afternoon to collect their papers from local registrars of voters and deliver them to the Springfield office.

On to general

Winners of the Oct. 8 primaries will go on to compete for the seat in the special election Nov. 5, the same day as the general election.

Knapik, a Republican, left the Senate seat he held for 18 years on Aug. 9 to take a job as executive director of advancement at Westfield State University.

The 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District includes Easthampton, Southampton, Westfield, Holyoke, Agawam, Granville, Montgomery, Russell, Southwick and Tolland and part of Chicopee.

Shortly after turning in his papers Thursday afternoon, Tautznik said he was excited to be an official candidate. But he didn’t have much time to enjoy the moment.

“A special election is fast and furious,” he said. “There’s just a little over a month until the primary.”

He said he is running on his 35 years of government experience, first as a volunteer board member and the last 17 as Easthampton’s first mayor.

“I bring a skill set to the Senate that would be valuable to the institution,” he said. “I understand how governments relate to each other. It’s clear to me that cities and towns need a little stronger voice in the General Court.”

Hopewell, a Holyoke resident who works as EMS coordinator at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, said his diverse professional background would make him an asset in Boston. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army and has worked as a police officer, paramedic and forensic technician in the state medical examiner’s office. He is a licensed funeral home director and also works at Douglass Funeral Service in Amherst. “I can educate legislators in Boston about what the average citizen, what’s important to them and what they need,” he said Thursday. “I have been in public service all my life. I have a unique perspective of public policy and what works and doesn’t work.”

Franco, of Holyoke, said he would be a savvy senator if elected because, as a claims investigator for the Holyoke Veterans’ Services office for nearly a decade, he knows how to balance providing services for people while maintaining “good stewardship” of taxpayers’ dollars.

Franco has run unsuccessfully as a Republican candidate for state representative and the Governor’s Council. He said he would “work every day to shrink government and make it more efficient.”

“The state is predominantly Democratic and it could use more balance in the state Legislature,” he said. “It could use someone with the experience I have and the common sense to go with it.”

Bartley, a Holyoke lawyer who is a first-term Ward 3 city councilor for that city, said he has four priorities as a public servant: constituent services, increasing local aid, increasing access to education and improving infrastructure through road and bridge projects.

“The nexus of all those is job creation and economic development,” he said.

“I believe when you collect taxes, you have to hold them in such a sacred trust.” He would channel tax dollars to grow the western Massachusetts economy, which he said is “lagging” behind the eastern part of the state.

Humason, who served as Knapik’s aide before becoming a state representative in 2003, said in an earlier interview that he sees the Senate seat vacated by his former boss as a chance to represent even more locals in Boston.

“I’ll bring my brand of representation. It’s a hands-on, people-oriented style of representation,” he said.

He also said he is proud of his voting record. “I don’t miss votes and I always debate them if I feel strongly about it,” he said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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