A race for Scibak’s seat 

  • Dan Carey running for second Hampshire District State Rep Tuesday, July 17, 2018

  • John Hine running for second Hampshire District State Rep Tuesday, July 17, 2018

  • Marie McCourt running for second Hampshire District State Rep Tuesday, July 17, 2018

  • The Massachusetts State House in Boston

Staff Writer
Published: 8/28/2018 11:34:01 PM

The race for the 2nd Hampshire District has gone uncontested for the past 16 years.

On Tuesday, voters will head to the polls to determine the Democratic nominee that will most likely end up joining a wave of freshman legislators heading to Beacon Hill from the region. The general election is Nov. 6.

For voters in Easthampton, Hadley, South Hadley, and in Granby’s Precint 2, the choice for Democrats are among Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Daniel Carey of Easthampton, Baystate Health senior business analyst John Hine of South Hadley, and assistant program direction for the Collaborative for Educational Services Marie McCourt of Granby.

Longtime state Rep. John Scibak, 65, D-South Hadley, described all of the candidates as “qualified” and “competent” at a public forum last Wednesday, and since June has maintained that he will not be endorsing any of the candidates vying for the seat he won in 2002. At the time, he was the first person in 70 years from South Hadley to fill the seat. Scibak announced he would not seek re-election in February.

All three candidate, he said, “could easily do the job of replacing me and I feel even stronger about that position.”

Not only do the candidates share many similarities in their policies, they have all served as elected officials for their respective towns on boards and committees.

Each candidate has stated their support for single-payer insurance and a transition to Medicare for All; comprehensive reform of the state’s foundation budget for public education; increased public transportation for residents to be able to get to work and medical appointments; and to foster greater economic development in the area as well treating the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis for addicts.

‘A new wave of leadership’ from Easthampton

Carey, 33, is an Easthampton City Councilor serving on the finance and public safety subcommittees. He is also a former School Committee member, and the former director of the Drug Diversion & Treatment Program out of the Northwestern District Attorney’s office.

“I see him as part of a new wave of leadership we need,” Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said about Carey, the candidate he has endorsed. “He’s got such a track record working on education, as a School Committee member, and with the City Council, being a primary force for the new school in Easthampton. He’s worked hard and taken a leadership role to make sure that kids in the next generation get a great opportunity and a great school.”

Carey has stated that fixing the funding formula for public education would be his No. 1 priority. He said it is “outdated” and costs associated with special education have not been updated in the formula.

Carey said the Fair Share Amendment, which would have increased taxes for those with incomes over $1 million, could have generated additional revenues until the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court blocked the ballot initiative. He said he would like to see a legislative approach to increasing the tax on high-income earners rather than through a vote by ballot.

Charter schools and public schools are “playing by different” rules, Carey said, an example being that charter school principals do not need an administrative license for their position while public school principals do.

Since tax dollars leave a school district when a student goes to a charter school or another district through school choice, it’s pitting schools against each other to fight over students and tax dollars, said Carey who wants to “level the playing field.”

Joyce Chunglo, chairwoman of the Hadley Select Board, said, “I am looking for young people to come out and start helping with legislation and taking care of people in our country. I appreciate his (Carey’s) work out of the DA’s office and the work he’s put into opiates addiction, that’s really important for me right now.”

‘Smart,’ ‘not a reactionary’ from South Hadley

Hine, 65, has served South Hadley as Town Meeting Member, on the Personnel Board, on the School Committee, on the Planning Board, as member and chairman of the Select Board, and is currently on the town’s Municipal Light Board.

“He is very smart, very competent, listens well and is not a reactionary person,” South Hadley Select Board Chairman Ira Brezinsky said. “He thinks things through, and makes solid decisions. His competency, experience, and demeanor are great qualities to have when you are dealing with the types of issues I am certain that the next state rep. will have to deal with.”

Hine has stated he would want to join the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to address rising health care costs if elected. He said he supports pursuing single-payer and Medicare for All, but with health care accounting for a sixth of the state’s budget, his priority is reducing the costs of health insurance and health care.

“Rather than having all our eggs in one basket, as it could take years to work out single-payer or Medicare for All, in the mean time we can do the small things that might reduce costs,” Hine said. “We should analyze best practices and be encouraging health care organizations to look at what works best, what are the protocols that generate the best outcomes.”

He referenced Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which are groups of doctors, hospitals, and health care providers that voluntarily give coordinated care to their Medicare patients. He said using ACOs as models would encourage keeping patients well rather than treating them when sick, and it could mean health care dollars spent more wisely.

“I come in with a foundation understanding of where the challenges are and the things happening that are trying to address the issues,” Hine said. “I wouldn’t need an intro course. Not only would I understand, but I would be able to contribute right away on most discussions.”

Former Easthampton mayor Michael Tautznik, who served between 1996 and 2014, said, “I respect John for his work ethic and initiative and I do think he is the best of the candidates.”

‘Most ready to hit ground running’ from Granby

McCourt, 45, serves on the executive board for Neighbords Helping Neighbors, has served two terms on the Granby School Committee, and has chaired the Democratic Town Committee in addition to her work as program director for grant-funded after-school programs.

“She knows that life can be hard and that you can figure out how to cope with that,” said former state Rep. Ellen Story, and Amherst Democrat who served 24 years in the Legislature in the 3rd Hampshire District House seat. “In addition to all the things she does, she is very good at effective time management, doing more things than most people are able to do, and she does it with good humor and on an even keel. She would be a wonderful addition to the great and general court of the Massachusetts Legislature.”

McCourt has identified transportation in the district as her top issue. The lack of public transportation options – there are none for residents in Granby and South Hadley Falls – are contributing to “huge” inequities in the area.

“Transportation intersects so many things including education, work life, medical appointments, and so much in general,” McCourt said.

At the present moment, municipalities cannot use their own funding, whether from property tax or free cash, to use for localized transportation, McCourt said. She said she wants to change the law to allow for towns and cities to accommodate for the needs of the residents in each municipality in the district.

“Even if it’s a van service that took them to the biggest bus stop, I’m sure it would be different for every town,” she said. “If it could take folks to the train station it would be such a great help.”

Nancy Stenberg, a member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, said, “Out of the three candidates, she (McCourt) is the one who would be most ready to hit the ground running. She is a progressive and we need more progressive leaders in the Statehouse.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com

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