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Candidates for 2nd Hampshire District chat about environment, health care

  • Dan Carey of Easthampton, who is a candidate for the 2nd Hampshire District house seat, answers questions June 21, 2018 during a forum at the South Hadley Public Library. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Marie McCourt of Granby, who is a candidate for the 2nd Hampshire District house seat, answers questions June 21, 2018 during a forum at the South Hadley Public Library. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • John Hine of South Hadley, who is a candidate for the 2nd Hampshire District house seat, answers questions June 21, 2018 during a forum at the South Hadley Public Library. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • The South Hadley Public Library. Gazette file photo



@BeraDunau
Friday, June 22, 2018

SOUTH HADLEY — The three Democratic candidates to replace longtime state Rep. John Scibak squared off at a public forum Thursday, mostly agreeing on topics ranging from the environment to single-payer health care and the opioid crisis.

Competing for the 2nd Hampshire District seat are Easthampton City Councilor Dan Carey, former South Hadley Selectman John Hine and former Granby School Committee Member Marie McCourt.

The two-hour forum, held at the South Hadley Public Library and sponsored by Climate Action Now, drew about 100 people. After opening statements and questions from moderator Stephen Linsky, the candidates were then asked written questions from the crowd before they gave their closing statements.

The candidates all backed not expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure in the state, investing more money in public transportation and giving more money to environmental agencies.

One of the more dramatic moments in the forum came when the candidates were all asked whether they would defend abortion that was affordable, safe and free from harassment. All three candidates, starting with Hine, gave one word answers: Yes.

Though they agreed on many topics, the candidates did offer some different approaches. For example, McCourt and Carey expressed support for single-payer health care, while Hine said that he supports looking at the policy.

“It’s not going to be an easy transition,” said Hine, who works in the health care field.

He also touted affordable care organizations as something that could be pursued right away while single-payer health care is explored.

McCourt, meanwhile, noted how her insurance company recently chose to pull the coverage of her insulin that she uses to treat her diabetes, which she has had since she was 7. She spent a day fighting the company.

“If I dont’ have insulin, I’m dead,” she said. “We really need to figure out how to do single-payer.”

All three candidates expressed support for a $15 an hour minimum wage. However, Hine also said that things like a lower training wage, a wage for teenagers, and exceptions for companies with less than 20 employees should also be looked at.

The opioid crisis produced some significant passions from the candidates.

“Addiction should not be a crime,” McCourt said.

Hine said that opioid addiction should be a public health matter. He also took aim at pharmaceutical companies and distributors.

“Let’s hold the people who made this happen accountable,” he said.

Carey, the former director of the Drug Diversion and Treatment Program for the Northwestern district attorney’s office, also mentioned the opioid crisis in his opening remarks. He said employees who work in recovery centers need more support.

“It’s hard work,” he said.

On the subject of whether everyone in prison for marijuana possession in Massachusetts should be released, McCourt said that they should if that was their only crime, while Hine said that it was hard to make a definitive statement about such a broad question, although he said that there were people in prison for offenses that they shouldn’t be imprisoned for. Carey, however, said that the more relevant issue for the district was expunging marijuana possession convictions from people’s criminal record.

“They didn’t commit a crime. It’s not a crime,” he said.

Carey, an assistant district attorney, also said that if someone is in jail and marijuana is part of what they are there for “there’s a lot more going on there.”

On whether biomass should continue to qualify for renewable energy credits, all three candidates said that they would have to study the issue, although McCourt said that she didn’t think it should be eligible.

“Everything that I’ve read about biomass talks about how much pollution it’s putting in our air,” she said.

Scibak, who filmed the forum, gave his stamp of approval to all three candidates.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the three people who’ve chosen to run for my seat,” said Scibak, who noted that he knows all three candidates and has chosen not to make an endorsement.

The 2nd Hampshire District consists of Easthampton, South Hadley, Hadley and part of Granby. The Democratic primary will take place on Sept. 4.

Thursday’s event was the fifth forum sponsored by Climate Action Now, which held forums for the candidates in the 1st Hampshire District, 3rd Hampshire District, 1st Franklin District, and the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester state Senate District at earlier dates.

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