James Harrington mounts second bid for state rep

  • James “Chip” Harrington CONTRIBUTED

For the Gazette 
Published: 8/15/2022 2:07:20 PM
Modified: 8/15/2022 2:03:52 PM

LUDLOW — Two years ago, Republican James “Chip” Harrington fell just short in a hotly contested race for state representative in the 7th Hampden District, losing to Democrat Jake Oliveira by 134 votes out of 22,122 votes cast.

The district was reconfigured in the wake of the 2020 U.S. Census and Harrington, 54, is hoping the change will do him good. The 7th Hampden district includes the towns of Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury, Ludlow, New Salem, Petersham, and Wendell. Oliveira is running for the state Senate being vacated by Sen. Eric Lesser, and Harrington’s Democratic opponent in the race is Aaron Saunders of Belchertown. The state election is Nov. 8. 

Harrington was born and raised in Ludlow. Upon graduating Ludlow High School in 1986, he continued his education at Holyoke Community College before eventually transferring to Westfield State College (now University), where he earned a bachelor’s in communications.

“At the time, the sheriff’s department in Hampden County was in the process of building a new jail and it was to be located in my hometown of Ludlow. So, after graduating, I needed a job and I applied and started working as a corrections officer, after going to the academy,” he said. “Now, 30 years later, I’m still in corrections.”

Harrington left the corrections department for a time to work as an aide to state Rep. Tom Petrolati, whom he tried to succeed in 2020. During his time with Petrolati, he married and began raising a family and decided he should return to the corrections field.

“I opened up some community corrections centers in Hampshire County and Berkshire County,” Harrington said. “I was the program services coordinator for them for a number of years.”

Currently, he works for the Department of Corrections as a program manager in the program division, writing curricula for offenders preparing for release and reentry into the community. His job, he says, gives him the opportunity to reduce recidivism. He is also a part-time officer for the Ludlow Police Department and is working on his master’s degree in criminal justice.

In the mid-1990s, Harrington served on Ludlow’s Select Board and for the past 18 years has been a member of the town’s School Committee, serving 10 of those years as chairman.

Asked about his motivation for running for state representative, Harrington said, “I’m a very strong believer in public service and serving your community as best you can. Public service is kind of how I was raised. Growing up back in the day you had your family dinners and there was always a discussion about the community and things happening around the town and around the state and country. I just have that love of public service in my blood. Some people are born to be worker bees and I’m one of them, I guess.”

Regarding the issues at the top of his priority list, Harrington said, “One of things I talk a lot about on the campaign trail is education. One of the things I think we’re not doing well enough in Massachusetts is incentivizing younger people to really consider the trades, vocational school. We do a great job of talking about two- and four-year schools post high school — as we should — but we should be doing an equally good job of talking about the benefits of vocational schools.

“Some of the smartest people I know are my mechanic and people who work with their hands. I think we should be exposing younger people — say, in middle school — to the trades, and we’re not doing any of that right now.”

Harrington said a “sense of balance” is sorely needed in Bay State politics.

“I’m running as a Republican,” he explained, “and I’m running as a moderate. I, quite frankly, don’t subscribe to this whole two-party system. I like to vote for people, not the party. When I campaign, some people say, ‘I can’t vote for a Republican.’ So, I say, ‘Let me tell you about me.’

“In Massachusetts, I think that we — the Legislature, anyway — has gotten just too party focused. The party is dictating to our state government where we’re going to go.”

As an example, Harrington points to the police reform act enacted in 2021 requiring all officers, including part-timers, to obtain a full-time certificate. This, he said, puts an undue burden on part-time officers who work other full-time jobs and creates added expense for small towns with police departments that depend almost solely on part-time officers. It also increases the dependence of small towns on the State Police.

Harrington also said he wants to be a voice for moderation in the Legislature, which, he says, has consistently placed undue burdens on small business and Massachusetts taxpayers.

Harrington and his wife, Noel, reside in Ludlow and have two grown children — a son, 27, and a daughter, 24. They have one grandchild.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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