Difference in the details for Szynal, Sabadosa

  • Lindsay Sabadosa, a Democratic candidate for state representative of the 1st Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House, speaks Aug. 19, 2018 during the Massachusetts Progressive Democrats of America's annual potluck picnic at Groff Park in Amherst.

  • Diana Szynal, second from right, talks with Arthur Cohen, from left, Sara Lennox, Linda Fortune and Diane Porcella during a picnic held by Northampton Neighbors, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 at Look Park. Lennox is on the group's board of directors; Porcella is an administrator. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Diana Szynal, candidates for the 1st Hampshire District state representative seat, listen to a question during a forum focused on climate and energy issues on June 5 at JFK Middle School in Northampton. GAZETTE File photo

  • Lindsay Sabadosa, left, and Diana Szynal, both candidates for the 1st Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House, answer questions June 13, 2018 during a student-organized candidates forum at Northampton High School.

Staff Writer
Published: 8/21/2018 10:56:17 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For two women with largely the same policy positions, Diana Szynal and Lindsay Sabadosa couldn’t come across more differently in their race for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Hampshire District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Szynal, 51, of Hatfield, is the current district director for the 1st Hampshire District, a position in which she has served for 16 years. She was hired by the late state Rep. Peter V. Kocot, D-Northampton, whose death in February left the seat vacant. Her campaign is emphasizing her experience with constituent services, as well as her connection to Kocot.

“She is uniquely qualified,” said Valle Dwight, of Northampton, who serves as director of development and communications at Pathlight, which provides services for the intellectually disabled and their families. “She has been working on constituent issues for so long.”

Her opponent, Lindsay Sabadosa, 37, of Northampton, is a self-employed translator and women’s rights advocate who helped found the Pioneer Valley Women’s March, of which she is director. In her campaign, she has noted her history as an activist, community organizer and advocate for progressive policies. Sabadosa also has emphasized her willingness to push hard for progressive policies like single-payer health care.

“People who are actively engaged in progressive politics are leaning toward Lindsay is my impression,” said Northampton City Councilor Alisa Klein.

The 1st Hampshire District covers Northampton, Westhampton, Southampton and Hatfield in Hampshire County and Montgomery in Hampden County. The primary election is Sept. 4.

Prior to Peter Kocot, the 1st Hampshire District seat was held by William Nagle Jr., whom Kocot served as an aide. The district had been represented by one of those men since 1975.

Szynal has said on the campaign trail that there is not a significant policy difference between her and Sabadosa. The two candidates are on record as supporting many of the same policies, including single-payer health care, greater funding for public schools and the expansion of public transportation.

However, the candidates have detailed different approaches. While Szynal has said she wants to see substantial study to craft an appropriate single-payer health care plan for the state, Sabadosa has said she wants to push forward with current efforts in the Legislature.

On lowering the voting age in municipal elections, an initiative receiving support in Northampton, Szynal has told the story of how she at first was opposed to the idea, before coming around to support it. Sabadosa, meanwhile, maintains that she has supported the policy since it was presented to her.

The issue of taxes is where there is perhaps the greatest separation between the two candidates. Both Szynal and Sabadosa support the so-called Fair Share Amendment, the proposed constitutional amendment that would have imposed an additional tax on income in Massachusetts over $1 million. It was removed from the state ballot this year by the Supreme Judicial Court.

However, Szynal has expressed caution at raising taxes outside of the Fair Share Amendment, saying that such a move could hurt working families. By contrast, Sabadosa supports raising taxes in a progressive manner, raising taxes on higher incomes. She emphasizes the need for new revenue as well as what she describes as the regressive nature of current state taxes like the gas tax.

Neither candidate has lacked endorsements, with Szynal picking up support from local politicians including Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, Northampton City Councilor Marianne LaBarge, 2nd Hampshire District state Rep. John Scibak and former Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins. She has also received the backing of Kocot’s wife, Shauneen Kocot, and his son, Jake Kocot.

“She is the person that has the experience. She is the person that has the contacts,” Shauneen Kocot said.

She also noted Szynal’s knowledge of people throughout the district.

“She’s familiar with the residents of each one of these towns,” she said.

Sabadosa has received the backing of Klein and Northampton City Councilor Dennis Bidwell. She also has received wide support from progressive statewide groups, including the Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Sierra Club. In addition, she has been endorsed by the labor unions SEIU Local 509, 1199SEIU and Carpenters Local 336, as well as the Working Families Party.

“She has the strongest position on the issues,” Corinne Wingard, of Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, said of Sabadosa.

Wingard said that, as a volunteer organization, Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts limits the number of endorsements it gives, and that Sabadosa was one of only two candidates it endorsed in western Massachusetts.

“We all would like to build a stronger progressive coalition in the Legislature,” Wingard said. “She absolutely stood out.”

Lively campaigns

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said he’s observed a “very active campaign.”

He said he is supporting Szynal because of her experience in state and local government, and her ability to translate the needs of the district into action and policy.

“She is actually continuing to do the work of the 1st Hampshire District,” Narkewicz said.

“I’ve seen Diana have a very wide base of support,” said Dwight, noting Szynal’s support among both farmers and those involved with the disabled community.

Others observing the race say they have seen both candidates making their case while running strong campaigns.

Klein said she has been impressed by Sabadosa’s door-knocking prowess, for example.

“I know that she has knocked on over 6,000 doors,” she said.

Bidwell said he supports Sabadosa because he saw her ability to build relationships and form coalitions. He also praised Sabadosa for her command of the issues, and said that she is not a “knee-jerk progressive.”

“She understands that these issues are not easy,” he said. “She is a true policy wonk.”

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

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