Wednesday May 16, 2012

The ballot is all but set and the three candidates for the new 1st Congressional District seat are gearing up for a fierce fight in the coming Democratic primary.

Incumbent Congressman Richard Neal and his two opponents, Berkshire- based Andrea Nuciforo and Bill Shein, have all submitted the requisite 2,000 signatures to appear on the ballot for the re- drawn district, which includes all of B e r k s h i r e County and runs along the southern half of the state into Springfield. The level of competitiveness voters can expect in the run- up to the Sept. 6 primary is already apparent, as the campaigns seek to stake out early victories wherever they can. The culmination of the signature- gathering process - a routine though necessary step to actually getting on the ballot - was no exception.

Nuciforo's campaign started things off with a notice to reporters across the district: His campaign had turned in all the necessary signatures and papers for certification a full five days before they were due on May 8.

After he handed in the papers at the Secretary of the State's Springfield office, he delivered a short speech detailing his accomplishment, according to a campaign statement.

"Being the first candidate to complete this monumental task is a clear sign of the strength of our organization and message," said Nuciforo, the current Middle Berkshire register of deeds and a former state senator from Pittsfield.

Neal, a 12-term incumbent from Springfield, followed with his own statement this week.

He'd merely met the deadline, but did so with gusto: The Congressman turned in 7,340 signatures, more than triple the 2,000 signature minimum.

" Neal's overwhelming total represents his broad based support throughout the five counties and 87 cities and towns that encompass the new 1st Congressional District," wrote the Neal campaign.

Through it all, Shein, an Alford- based progressive activist and writer, remained silent with regard to his own signature- gathering saga. In response to an inquiry from The Eagle, however, he confirmed that he had collected the requisite number of signatures and submitted them on time.

He added that he is undaunted by Nuciforo's speed and Neal's volume.

"This is a contest of ideas, not skill at gathering signatures," he said. "Our lessons from signature- gathering is only that, before you can change the world, you need to do a little paper work."

To reach Ned Oliver: noliver@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 496-6240.

On Twitter:@BE_NedOliver