Tuesday September 25, 2012
LENOX -- A vigorous campaign is shaping up between five-term state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Green-Rainbow Party challenger Lee Scott Laugenour for the House seat that includes 17 South Berkshire communities and three more adjoining towns.
It's the only major contested Berkshire race on the Nov. 6 ballot since the rest of the county's delegation to Beacon Hill has no opposition.
Laugenour, 55, argues that his campaign is tapping into discontent with incumbents and the political establishment.
"When we ask voters if we're on the right path, people who are raising children are not feeling as optimistic about what we're doing to pave the way for a better future for the next generation," he said.
Pignatelli, 53, a state legislator since 2002, won the 2010 race against Laugenour, 83 percent to 17 percent.
"I'm very proud of that number because it was the highest margin of any legislative seat in the state," Pignatelli said Monday.
"Absolutely, we think we can do better," Laugenour said. "This was never about one election cycle. I would much rather accept electoral defeat knowing that support for the kind of policies that we represent is growing than celebrate an electoral victory knowing that support for what I stand for is waning."
According to Laugenour, "It is pleasing when voters realize that they have power that can be marshaled for change by voting differently."
But Laugenour hastened to add that "we are in it to win."
Pignatelli conceded that his opponent "has raised a little bit more money than two years ago; he's been a little more aggressive, there's a sentiment because of the economy that maybe it's time for some changes. But I would be running just as hard as an unopposed candidate."
The lawmaker said he plans "to just run the table from now to Nov. 6. I have an opponent who's working hard, the people of this district deserve it, but I will not be outworked and I'll put my record up against him any day of the week. My experience, I think, is going to win the day at the end."
Asked about his top accomplishment during his current two-year term, Pignatelli listed "the next major step in health-care reform" through a bill he filed to provide a financial cushion for Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington and two other small hospitals, in Athol and Martha's Vineyard.
The "critical access" facilities, serving a remote, rural population with up to 25 beds, will be reimbursed for their actual cost of providing care, Pignatelli said.
Under 4th District redistricting, as of Election Day the winner would represent 20 towns -- 17 south of Pittsfield, as well as the adjoining Hampden County towns of Blandford, Russell and Tolland.
A projected debate between Pignatelli and Laugenour at Monument Mountain Region al High School is under discussion for Oct. 22.
"I have no problems debating and discussing issues with anyone," Pignatelli said. "I'm ready; let's go. Let's do it."
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In their own words: Pignatelli, Laugenour
On House Speaker Robert A.
Lee Scott Laugenour, Green-Rainbow Party candidate for the 4th District: "My top priority is to cast a vote against reconfirming Robert DeLeo. He has blocked so much progressive legislation. ... There's a long list of bills he does not let out of committee. He accepts up to $500,000 in lobbyist contributions. ... that money is wise investments [that] certain interest groups make to block legislation.
My opponent has repeatedly and routinely voted to confirm and reconfirm Speaker DeLeo. He even invited the Speaker to headline his campaign fundraiser opening; he got top billing."
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox: "He's a very honorable man who helped steer the state through an economic recovery. ... We're taking on some of the tough issues during tough economic times to get us back on the right path.
To be part of that starts at the top, and I give Speaker DeLeo credit for charting the course. I don't always have to agree with him. He's led us through a very dark time a few years ago with our former Speaker, got us on the right path back to recovery, and I'm very proud to be serving under him, and he's done a good job. He has treated the Berkshires very well, especially my district."
On top priorities, if elected:
Pignatelli: "I'm on the Ways and Means Committee, very important, the Higher Education Committee, critically important, I'm going to have a seat at the table. Health care, infrastructure -- hundreds of dams and bridges in my district are in desperate need of help. That's our jobs bill of tomorrow, a serious transportation bond bill. Rebuilding Massachusetts is going to be one of my top priorities."
Laugenour: "To begin making changes in our tax and budget system. They are out of whack, too much influenced by those interests that contribute all those hundreds of thousands of dollars to Speaker DeLeo. My first voice on Beacon Hill is to begin a new debate on tax and budget fairness that has been sorely lacking. There has been lip service, and my election will take that debate further."