23-year-old Johnny Arena would fight to revitalize Second Franklin district


For the Gazette
Published: 3/28/2018 12:10:16 AM

GILL — A 23-year-old Amherst College senior and Northfield Mount Hermon School alumnus is running as a Democratic candidate for the 2nd Franklin House seat.

John W. “Johnny” Arena of Mount Hermon Road is challenging Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, for the district that includes part of Belchertown.

Arena, who has worked as a legislative intern on Beacon Hill as well as a volunteer for Congressman Jim McGovern, is now challenging Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol.

“Our representation at the state level has typically been a product of business as usual, and while it has not necessarily hurt the district, I feel it has been far from matching the fierce ethic that has come to define the people of Western Mass,” he said.

Arena expects to graduate this spring and therefore be committed full time to the Statehouse job if elected.

He said he is offering to voters “the option of shaking things up and electing a new type of representation in the Legislature. If elected, I would spend my time relentlessly seeking out and fighting for any and all opportunities that will benefit the district both today and in the years to come.”

Arena, who lived briefly in Greenfield and then Northfield before moving with his family to Gill, is a political science student at Amherst, concentrating in American politics and constitutional law. He worked in the summer of 2015 for Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Brockton, and then last summer in McGovern’s Northampton office. Between the two, he said, he got to work on legislative research, take notes from meetings and provide constituent services, so he “got to see the whole picture of what holding an office would be like.”

Whipps said that she definitely plans to seek a third two-year term. In addition to part of Belchertown, the district includes Erving, Gill, New Salem, Warwick and Wendell, Orange, Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston and Templeton. When she does, this will be her first election running as a independent.

She announced her withdrawal from the Republican party last August, winning a second term in 2016 running unopposed as a Republican candidate after Democrat Denise Andrews of Orange withdrew. Whipps had won her first term in a heavily contested race in 2014 after losing in 2012 to then-incumbent Andrews.

Arena, in his announcement, said the primary issues that need addressing include economic revitalization, improving broadband infrastructure, combating the opioid crisis, and “improving the efficiency and accessibility of education in the more rural areas.”

He added, “I am really looking forward to continuing to talk with people from around the district about ideas for moving forward as a region and restoring the vitality these beautiful towns used to know. I truly believe we are sitting on a goldmine out here!”


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