PITTSFIELD >> In the first week of April, I sent my fellow candidates for state Senate an e-mail asking them to agree to voluntary spending limits. Many progressives I have spoken to feel it is an excellent idea. I herein resubmit an open proposal on the subjects of spending limits, debates and columns in local papers. This offer, previously submitted in early April, I offer for 10 days after publication of this column by The Eagle.
I have been told that state Senator Ben Downing spent $100,000 to get elected when he first ran for office in 2006. I also confirmed that former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo spent a similar amount.
Please ponder that colossal dollar figure — $100,000. It is this daunting amount of money that caused me to hesitate about throwing my hat into the ring.
There are several problems with raising such an astronomical sum to run for office.
First, potentially good candidates are not entering the race. Second, when we raise such vast amounts of money, we owe people favors. Politics becomes less about people and more about campaign donors, especially large campaign donors. We all want to represent the poor and the diminishing middle class — not just people that can make campaign donations.
I am campaigning as a "Bernie Sanders progressive." Bernie has talked at great length about the evils of money and politics. It is my hope that getting money out of politics is something that all of us as Democrats can agree is not only a laudable goal but is essential to the body politic. If our government is going to be what Lincoln described as being "of the people, by the people, for the people," we need to get money out of politics. This is especially true of a state Senate race that should be all about personal conversations, debates, and expression of views in local media.
Third, I want to spend from now until Thursday, Sept. 8, looking voters in the eye and having real conversations, not raising campaign donations. It represents too much of a theft of time. Politics should be about time with people, not raising money.
I propose a limit of around $20,000 but would entertain and even prefer lower amounts. I would entertain higher ones if my fellow candidates would not agree to a $20,000 campaign spending limit. But I want to know if you will agree to any campaign spending limits of any kind or nature. It is the first policy decision you will have to make.
Here would be the parameters:
* Democratic state Senate candidates Adam Hinds and Andrea Harrington, would have to agree for this proposal to apply to the Democratic primary.
* There would be a limit on campaign contributions, but there would also be a limit on "independent" expenditures. Good faith efforts would have to be made to discourage such expenditures. The purpose would be to remove hard money and soft money.
* We could agree to raise funds for the general campaign should the Republican challenger, Christine Canning, not agree to this agreement. If the Republican does not agree to these terms, it would enhance the Democrats' chance at victory, since we would not expend money fighting each other in our primary.
* If I can get all other candidates on board that could appear in the general election, this agreement of spending limits would apply to the general election as well.
I believe that we as Democrats can make history and return democracy (with the little "d") to the people. Please join me in what could be a historic moment for democracy and its return to the people.
I would like to have debates or forums once per week until the election. There are numerous local organizations that would like to sponsor such debates and forums, and I am sure the media would cover them. I ask the other candidates to agree to this offer.
We would agree to ask to have local newspapers carry columns by all of us.
While I believe that we have a good pair of Democratic candidates in Hinds and Harrington, this open letter is extended to the Republican challenger, Canning.
Please accept this challenge in the respectful and positive manner in which it is made. Let us change the face of democracy and give it back to the people.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III is a candidate for state Senate for the Western district comprising 52 towns.