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1st Hampshire District candidates tout experience, activism

  • Diana Szynal, one of two candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, answers a question during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A panel consisting of, from left, Jean Cherdack, Stanley Moulton, Bill Newman and Ingrid Flory, pose questions to candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, Lindsay Sabadosa, second from right, and Diana Szynal, during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Diana Szynal, listen to a question from the panel during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Diana Szynal, answer questions from the audience during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Diana Szynal, answer questions from the audience during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Diana Szynal, answer questions from the audience during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Panelist Ingrid Flory, left, and candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, Lindsay Sabadosa, center, and Diana Szynal, enjoy a light moment during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lindsay Sabadosa, one of two candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, answers a question during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Lindsay Sabadosa, one of two candidates for the 1st Hampshire District, listens to a question during a forum at JFK Middle School in Northampton on Monday, July 30, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@BeraDunau
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Continuing the legacy of the late Rep. Peter Kocot or advocating for a progressive groundswell in state government — those were the choices that the two candidates for the 1st Hampshire District presented to the voters in a debate at JFK Middle School on Monday night.

The candidates in question are Diana Szynal of Hatfield, Kocot’s longtime district director, and Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton, a women’s rights advocate and translator. Both are running in the Democratic primary, which will take place on Sept. 4. The 1st Hampshire District consists of Northampton, Westhampton, Southampton and Hatfield, and Montgomery in Hampden County.

In both her opening and closing remarks, Szynal emphasized her experience working for Kocot.

“The constituent work I have done over the years is extensive,” she said.

She also cited her experience as a Select Board member in Hatfield and work in county government. She said she was the only person Kocot had ever hired as staff.

“Peter never asked for staff in addition to me,” she said.

Sabadosa, meanwhile, declared her desire to build coalitions to advance progressive priorities like single-payer health care, citing the connections she has made at the Statehouse as an activist. She noted that bills like those advancing Medicare for all and the Safe Communities Act have languished in committee in the House.

“It’s time to change that,” Sabadosa said. “I am that agent of change”

She also emphasized the importance of bringing people into the political process through “bottom-up government.”

“Not all Democrats are the same,” she said. “In this race, I’m the fighter.

When asked what policies differentiate the candidates, Szynal said she couldn’t find policy differences.

“There really hasn’t been anything policy-wise that’s been significantly different,” she asserted, saying that she’s tried to focus on the government side of the job.

Instead, she said, the difference was the knowledge of how to navigate the system.

“I have experience with it,” she said.

Sabadosa, meanwhile, disagreed that there wasn’t any difference between them on policy, although she did not give a specific divergence. Instead, she emphasized the desire to change the way business is done at the State house.

“It’s time to change the way government functions in the state of Massachusetts,” Sabadosa said. “We have a system that is not transparent.”

Policy questions

On specific policy questions, the candidates did share many of the same positions. Both expressed support for education and transportation funding, backed same-day voter registration, expressed support for the Fair Share Amendment and single-payer health care and advocated treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction. Yet there were also differences in both approach and policy between the two candidates.

While Szynal did express her support for the Fair Share Amendment, which would have imposed an additional tax on incomes over $1 million in Massachusetts, she did express a worry about raising taxes too much.

“I honestly worry about raising taxes too much on working families,” said Szynal, saying she comes from a working-class town.

Sabadosa, meanwhile, emphasized that she wanted to raise taxes on the wealthier in Massachusetts, through progressive taxation. She also said there are a number of regressive taxes in Massachusetts, such as the sales and gasoline tax, where people pay the same amount regardless of income.

“Our system is already unfair to the poor and middle class,” she said.

On criminal justice, both Sabadosa and Szynal expressed opposition to mandatory minimum sentences. However, Szynal appeared to exclude domestic abusers and violent criminals from this, citing the protection of women.

On single-payer health care, Szynal expressed support for the policy, but said a substantive study was needed first, also suggesting that Massachusetts work with neighboring states in crafting a plan.

“I don’t want to see a system that doesn’t work for you,” Szynal said.

Sabadosa cited efforts in the Legislature to advance single-payer, which she referred to as Medicare for all. She also said that action should be swift.

“We need to be smart but we need to be expeditious,” she said.

Indeed, at different parts of the debate she also brought up Medicare for all as being beneficial for businesses and for schools, noting the impact that the cost of health care has in both areas.

On the issue of lowering the voting age to 16 in municipal elections, both candidates expressed their support. However, while Sabadosa said she’d always backed the idea, Szynal said that she had at first been opposed, before coming around to it.

Szynal also said she had to learn more about giving noncitizens the ability to vote in municipal elections, while Sabadosa expressed her support at the debate.

On experience, Szynal emphasized her ability to do the job.

“You deserve a state representative who is ready to serve on day one,” Szynal said.

Sabadosa, in addition to emphasizing the connections she has with progressive organizations and the legislators associated with them, also noted how legislators without a lot of seniority have pushed legislation at the Statehouse.

“You don’t need seniority to be a champion,” she said.

The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, WHMP and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.