U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield successfully fended off two Berkshire County challengers to win the Democratic primary Thursday in the state's redrawn 1st Congressional District.
Though the race was tight in the Berkshires, Neal easily won the district with 65 percent of the vote, compared to former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.'s 25 percent and writer and activist Bill Shein's 10 percent.
The veteran congressman said he wasn't surprised by his victory, but thanked Berkshire county voters in particular for their support.
"I'm going to focus on Berkshire County. I'm going to be up here all the time -- I mean, who wouldn't want to represent the Berkshires?" Neal said in a phone interview from his Springfield victory party.
Neal, though, just barely won a majority of votes in the county, where 40 percent of voters supported him. Nuciforo came in a close second with 39 percent of the vote while Shein took 21 percent.
Nuciforo won a majority of the votes in his hometown of Pittsfield, beating Neal 2,932 to 2,742.
Shein, meanwhile, made a strong showing in the southern Berkshires, where he won Egremont, Great Barrington, Monterey, Mount Washington, Sheffield, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge, as well as his hometown of Alford.
Shein said that he was proud of his effort even though he fell far short of a victory.
"Across the whole district we advanced the ideas that a variety of people across the commonwealth agree need to be a part of the conversation," Shein said in a phone interview. "That's going to continue -- there's very little disagreement that the issues I raised need to be addressed and we feel really good about that."
Shein's candidacy focused on the need to get big money out of politics and environmental issues. Nuciforo, who didn't return calls for comment Thursday night, had stressed similar issues, touching frequently on the need for Wall Street reform.
Neal, a former city councilor and mayor in Springfield, has represented the 2nd Congressional District since he was first elected in 1988. He's the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. Tax policy, economic development, higher education, energy costs and manufacturing were top issues for his campaign.
This election cycle he was thrust into a redrawn 1st District -- the result of last fall's redistricting process that consolidated the state's 10 congressional districts into nine to account for sluggish population growth in the state.
The new 1st District is the geographically largest in the state. It includes all of Berkshire and Hampden counties, stretching into western Worcester County along the southern border of the state. It also incorporates western and southern parts of Franklin and Hampshire counties.
The district is currently represented by Rep. John Olver, who opted not to run for re-election but issued a strong endorsement of Neal early in the election season.
Though Nuciforo had hoped the redrawn district would level the playing field in what became an uphill battle against an established incumbent, Neal easily overcame any challenges associated with introducing himself to unfamiliar voters in Berkshire County.
Neal had made upward of 100 campaign stops in the Berkshires during the months leading up to the election and won support from many established politicians and business figures in the county, many of whom, including Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi and state Sen. Benjamin B. Down ing, traveled to Spring field on Thursday for what became his victory party.
Leaving the polls Thursday, voters who supported Neal said they value his experience and perceive him as a strong Democrat who will stand up for party values.
"Part of it is he's established, but I also just like his attitude and the way he does things," said Pittsfield resident Herman Rotenber. "I like the things he said [in debates and interviews]."
Even voters who said they don't agree with Neal's stance on all the issues said his clout in Congress outweighs those concerns.
"I have a couple issues with his voting history, but in terms of his experience and the work that has to be done, this next session is going to be absolutely essential," said Julia Sullivan, also of Pittsfield.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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Election results ...
1st Congressional District*
Richard E. Neal -- 38,424
Andrea F. Nuciforo -- 14,605
Bill Shein -- 5,915
Middle Berkshire District register of deeds*
Patsy Harris -- 6,691
Jody L. Phillips -- 2,446
Scott M. Pignatelli -- 1,832