PITTSFIELD -- The three candidates seeking election in the reconfigured 1st Congressional District will meet in their only Berkshire County debate at the WBEC radio studio on Thursday.
The one-hour debate among U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and challengers, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and writer-activist Bill Shein, will focus on regional and national economic and related issues, according to moderator Larry Kratka, news director at Berkshire News Network.
The debate airs at 6 p.m. on WBEC (AM 1420) in Pittsfield, WNAW (AM 1230) in North Adams, and WSBS (AM 860, FM 94.1) in Great Barrington. Pittsfield Community Television will record the event for rebroadcast to Time Warner Cable subscribers.
The single previous debate was on public TV station WGBY in Springfield on Aug. 20.
The Democratic primary on Thursday, Sept. 6, will determine the next congressman-elect, since there are no announced Republican candidates. All three Democratic candidates are competing in the redrawn 1st Congressional District. The current office-holder, John W. Olver, D-Amherst, isn't seeking another term. Parts of the 2nd Congressional District were merged into the 1st after Massachusetts' House seats went from 10 to nine in redistricting.
Neal agreed to two debates, though his challengers sought as many as six. The previous debate on public-TV station WGBY in Springfield included sparring over several issues.
Kratka said he intends to keep the emotional thermostat turned down and will insist on strict two-minute time limits for responses to a half-dozen questions on district and national issues posed by panelists from The Berkshire Eagle and iBerkshires. Can didates will be allowed one-minute rebuttals on request.
According to Kratka, he persuaded the three candidates to stage the debate at WBEC because the Vox Comm unications Group's stations reach the entire county.
"I told them we could originate it here at the flagship station and then it would air in Great Barrington and North Adams. They were all gung-ho, including the congressman," he said.
Neal, Nuciforo and Shein have all been interviewed separately by Kratka on WBEC-AM.
None of the candidates suggested any ground rules, said Kratka.
"They just wanted to know what the rules would be, including the two-minute answer, the one-minute rebuttal and one-minute closing statements," Kratka said. "Nuciforo and Shein were super-cooperative. They're happy to go on the air anywhere, anytime."
Kratka said he was surprised that Neal had agreed to only one Berkshire County debate.
Kratka asserted that the ground rules would be strictly enforced. He suggested that the WGBY debate moderator, Jim Madigan, "seemed to be having trouble keeping control of what was going on. Passions got out of hand, it's a very big risk."
Neal made a special point of requesting that "we keep to the issues, he complained that at WGBY, they didn't get to enough issues during that hour," said Kratka. At the Aug. 20 Springfield debate, Nuciforo and Shein accused Neal of catering to corporate interests while in office as well as in his fundraising efforts, and also of failing to provide meaningful leadership during the 2008 financial meltdown.
In turn, Neal faulted Nuciforo on his record as a state senator representing Berkshire County from 1997 to 2007. Shein complained about "letting these two longtime politicians bicker about who has taken more money from corporate interests." Shein has limited his fundraising to a $99 cap on donations solely from individuals.
Kratka acknowledged that with three candidates, it's challenging to cover a wide range of topics, but "we're coming up with federal and district issues, we're not going to be dealing with a lot of accusations. We're not going to go there. I'm going to try to keep them away from pointing fingers at each other."
If the discussion turns to topics such as a candidate's sources of campaign contributions, Kratka said, "I'm going to stop it. That's not what we're here to do."
"Obviously, an incumbent has an advantage," he added, "but the other two are both pretty adamant in their views."
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Listen or watch
What: The only Berkshire County debate among the three candidates for U.S. Congress from the redrawn 1st Congressional District.
Who: U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F.
Nuciforo Jr., and writer-activist Bill Shein, in a three-way race for the Thursday, Sept. 6, Democratic primary. The result will determine the winner of the Nov. 6 general election since there are no announced Republican candidates.
When: Live radio broadcast on Thursday at 6 p.m. on WBEC (AM 1420) in Pittsfield, WNAW (AM 1230) in North Adams, and WSBS (AM 860, FM 94.1) in Great Barrington. Repeat broadcasts: WUPE (FM 100.1, AM 1110) on Sunday at 7 a.m. and WBEC (FM 95.9) on Sunday at 8 a.m. Also repeated Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 11 a.m. on WBEC (AM 1420).
TV: Pittsfield Community Television will televise the debate three times for Time Warner cable subscribers in Pittsfield, Dalton and Richmond: Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 9 a.m., and Sunday at 5 p.m. It will also be scheduled by Community Television of Southern Berkshire (CTSB) and Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp. (NBCTC); check their websites for times.
Online: Beginning this Friday afternoon, the debate can be viewed online by visiting Pittsfieldtv.org and searching for the program.