Stories that linger: A new legislative delegation takes charge

  • Clockwise from top left: Sen. Jo Comerford, Rep. Mindy Domb, Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, Sen. Eric Lesser, Rep. Natalie Blais and Rep. Dan Carey. GAZETTE FILE PHOTOS

Opinion Editor
Published: 12/30/2019 4:34:12 PM

An editorial in early 2018 cast a cloud over the future fortunes of Hampshire and Franklin counties at the State House: “Legislative delegation loses clout.”

There was little doubt about the headline’s accuracy, as in one election cycle the region was poised to lose five politicians — four of whom had served multiple terms over many years — who shaped discussions, budgets and policy decisions for Massachusetts, directed funding and grants to communities in the western part of the state and climbed to the top leadership positions in the Legislature.

By February of 2018, former state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg had resigned his post as Senate president amid an investigation of his husband, Bryon Hefner. Three months later, the Amherst Democrat who represented the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District for 31 years resigned his Senate position entirely.  

Couple his resignation with the death of the late state Rep. Peter V. Kocot, D-Northampton, also that February, after 16 years representing the First Hampshire District, and retirement announcements from two other longtime representatives with a combined 41 years of service, Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, of the 1st Franklin district, and John Scibak, D-South Hadley, of the 2nd Hampshire district — and all who follow state politics knew the region was in for significant change. A few months later, a fifth politician, Solomon Goldstein-Rose, D-Amherst, also announced intentions to not seek reelection for the 3rd Hampshire district after one term, though it had only been two years since he had replaced longtime representative Ellen Story, who held the job for 24 years. 

Turns out the headline didn’t take into account who would soon replace these longtime politicians, a group of energetic, invigorated lawmakers — four women and one man — who are making their mark in a number of areas, from climate change to social justice, LGBTQ+ rights, transportation and education funding reform.

The new legislative delegation, which represents a combined 325,000 people, includes Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who replaced Rosenberg; and Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, D-Northampton, who filled Kocot’s seat; Daniel Carey, D-Easthampton, who replaced Scibak; Natalie Blais, D-Sunderland, who took Kulik’s seat; and Mindy Domb, D-Amherst, who replaced Goldstein-Rose.

They have been important voices on prison reform, homelessness, granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, Medicare for All and single-payer health care, gun control, the ROE Act and carbon pricing, not to mention the numerous other bills specific to the communities they represent.

They have sponsored or signed on to bills in all of these areas and more, have advocated as members of numerous key committees on Beacon Hill and, though not as glamorous but equally important, they are listening to constituents by hosting numerous community forums, riding buses, showing up at city council meetings, and being guest stars at town halls sponsored by students who can’t even vote yet. They are also fielding thousands of emails and phone calls from people seeking help on issues that are huge on an individual level, but smaller in the grand scheme of representing thousands of people in a district. 

Obviously, it takes time to learn the legislative ropes and advance far-reaching legislative initiatives, but these new leaders in one year have gone a long way to quell worries about the region losing its clout and keep the interests of western Massachusetts alive in Boston. 

Yes, 2018 was a tumultuous year for the region’s legislative delegation. But in the wake of that rocky year came 2019, a watershed moment that ushered in a fresh young wave of leaders who in one year have proven they are up to the task. 


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