Editorial: Vote — and urge others to vote

  • Holly Hargraves, left, and Wayne Williams Hargraves walk out of Ward 2 precincts A and B after voting at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School Thursday, July 7, 2016 in Northampton.

  • Voting stickers are displayed Sept. 8 at the Bangs Community Center in Amherst during the state primary election. SARAH CROSBY/Gazette Staff SARAH CROSBY

Published: 9/4/2018 9:36:12 AM

The polls close at 8 p.m. Have you voted yet?

It has been a primary season like no other here in “Wild West Mass,” to borrow a phrase from the radio hosts at WHMP. The past year in local politics has been marked by death, scandal, secrecy, rumors and write-in controversies, not to mention a clever campaign jingle.

In February, constituents mourned the loss of state Rep. Peter V. Kocot, who for 16 years served as the 1st Hampshire District’s representative. In May, former state senator Stanley Rosenberg resigned, following accusations of sexual misconduct against his much younger husband, Bryon Hefner.

Enter Chelsea Kline, of Northampton, an educator and women’s rights advocate, who got her name on the Sept. 4 Democratic primary ballot before Rosenberg stepped down.

This season is notable for its unusually high number of female candidates, reflecting a national uptick in the number of women running for office. As former Rep. Ellen Story, of Amherst, who served in the House for 24 years, told the Gazette earlier this year: “1992, they called that the ‘year of the woman.’ Well, 2018 is going to be the ‘new year of the woman.’ ”

It certainly seems like “the new year of the woman” to us. The Gazette has endorsed five candidates, all of whom happen to be female.

Over the course of several weeks this summer, the editorial board met with candidates from the different races — Massachusetts 1st Congressional District; Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester state Senate; and 1st Hampshire, 2nd Hampshire and 3rd Hampshire state representative districts — to drill down into their positions on specific issues as well as to get a better sense of their unique personalities and deeply held convictions. In a few of these meetings, we asked the candidates about a time when they reconsidered a deeply held conviction — and changed their minds.

Since then, we’ve published endorsements for all the races mentioned, except one. We couldn’t come to an agreement on 30-year incumbent Congressman Richard Neal versus newcomer and attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, both of Springfield. So we decided to give readers as much information as possible about both candidates and encourage careful consideration at the polls.

Here are our five endorsements:

Jo Comerford for Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester state senator. A longtime activist who most recently worked as campaign director for MoveOn, Comerford’s strengths as a coalition-builder and tenacity as a leader make her the candidate best prepared to have an immediate impact in Boston.

Diana Szynal for state representative in the 1st Hampshire District. With 20 years of experience working in county, local and state government, Szynal knows the district “like the back of my hand,” as she puts it, and also has deep familiarity with the legislative process, having devoted herself to constituent services as the district director for Kocot.

Marie McCourt for state representative in the 2nd Hampshire District. A compassionate educator, part-time security guard and lifelong resident of Granby, McCourt is not only a skilled advocate but an inspiring one — her experiences as a diabetic and as the mother of a 21-year-old son with special learning needs inform her efforts on behalf of some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Mindy Domb for state representative in the 3rd Hampshire District. With three decades of experience as a public health educator and activist, Domb, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center, also has a history of helping vulnerable people in our region and beyond; her compassion is matched by her capacity to get things done.

Natalie Blais for state representative in the 1st Franklin District. Blais, who once worked for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, when he was a congressman, has the professional background and relationship-building skills the district needs. As the executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, she has made it a priority to speak up on behalf of businesses and creative communities and to make sure that “rural people have a voice.”

So there you have it. In our own deliberation process, our voices varied. Sometimes, we agreed right away. Sometimes, we argued. Sometimes, we too changed our minds.

But we agree on one thing: When it comes to voting, complacency is not an option.

As an editorial board, one of our duties is to give you as much insight into each candidate as we can. Another is simply to urge you to vote — to take part in the democratic process — no matter who you vote for.

The act of voting is as important as who we vote for. It’s about exercising our rights, flexing our democratic muscle. It’s also about showing our children that every single election counts — and so does every single vote.

Voting shouldn’t feel like a rare privilege. It should be routine. Just like regular exercise supports a healthy lifestyle, regular voting supports a healthy democracy. It should be part of our muscle memory.

It’s no longer enough simply to cast your own vote. We must do better when it comes to urging others to vote.

So get to those polls if you haven’t already. And encourage everyone you know to do the same.

The clock is ticking.

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