PITTSFIELD -- Gun control, the environment and the economy were among the issues that U.S. Rep. Ed Markey said would be priorities should he win the upcoming special election for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by John Kerry.
The Berkshire Brigades sponsored the public introduction to Markey, who spoke to more than 100 people in the ITAM Lodge in Pittsfield about issues he thinks will affect both the Berkshires and the state at large.
"I know that this an area that cares passionately about the environment, cares passionately about broadband being distributed in a way that is universal," Markey said after his speech. "But I also know they have real issues of economic development, and I want to work with the mayors and selectmen out here to ensure we maximize the capacity for those communities."
Markey will face U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch in a special primary April 30 to see who will represent the Democratic Party in the June 25 special election to replace Kerry, who has been appointed secretary of state. Five GOP hopefuls so far have declared their intent seek the GOP nomination.
Markey's appearance came a day after his opponent, U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, also visited the city. Berkshire Brigade Chairwoman Sheila Murray said Lynch has not responded to an invitation to address the group.
"They're very, very different people," she said, "and so it gives conservatives and progressives an opportunity to choose between the Democrats.
Tuesday was Markey's first campaign stop in the Berkshires, and he laid out his platform and shook hands with locals, some of whom said they were not familiar with the congressman.
Markey began his platform by talking about gun control, referencing the recent shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
"I want guns off the streets," Markey said, "and I want children to know that when they go to their school, the only technology that will be there is not a gun, but a computer so that the child can maximize their God-given ability.
Markey also said, if elected, he would fight for equality for women and gay rights, "so that all the protections of the 14th Amendment are extended to everyone who is in our society."
Speaking of the environmental issues at a national level, Markey told the crowd that a law needs to be created that would reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent in the United States, because "the planet is running a fever."
Markey took a couple of questions that people had shouted out to him after his speech, and again focused on gun control in a slew of topics one female audience member listed off to him that she thought was important.
Since Markey was late to his event, he vowed to shake hands with every single one of the attendees afterward to thank them for waiting on him.
Markey is the state's longest-serving congressman, but here in Western Massachusetts, "he's not all that familiar," according to Berkshire resident Joyce Wrend.
"I hope he pays attention to us out in Western Massachusetts," she said. "Oftentimes, we feel like we're orphans. We're not as highly populated as the eastern part."
Some dignitaries, including Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi; state Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield; and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, were among the larger-than-expected crowd.
Farley-Bouvier said she was pleased that Markey generated such a large audience, and to also learn more about a congressman that she wasn't "terrifically familiar with" either, she said.
"I was really glad to learn what he prioritizes," she said. "He seems to get it, that to be a senator means to be a senator of the entire state."
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