In their rematch from two years ago in the 4th Berkshire District, incumbent Democrat William "Smitty" Pignatelli and Green-Rainbow challenger Scott Laugenour provided the county its only race for state representative. We wish there had been more, as election campaigns bring issues to the foreground, which the competitors in the 4th district succeeded in doing.
Mr. Pignatelli’s experience and seniority have increased over the last two years, and as the Berkshires’ senior state representative, they benefit the county as a whole, not just the district. His seniority on legislative committees enables him to have an impact on financial, educational and cultural issues -- the latter one of particular importance in the tourist-oriented Berk shires. While the candidates agree in some areas, for example opposition to casinos, Mr. Pignatelli would be in a better position in the next two years to address the potential impact on the Colonial Theatre and the Mahaiwe of a Springfield casino.
Mr. Laugenour, who had a 25-year management career with Marriott, again brought passion and intelligence to the debate. We agree with the challenger that the Legislature should be subject to the open meeting law, and nonprofit reform should be on the table on Beacon Hill as he said during the campaign. It should be possible to remove tax breaks for "nonprofits" like Blue Cross that pay outrageous salaries to departing CEOs without hurting legitimate nonprofit organizations in the Berkshires like Tanglewood that need and deserve protection.
But while Mr. Laugenour’s idealism is refreshing, the cruel realities of Beacon Hill are unkind to idealists. He would plainly relish the challenge of functioning there as the first Green-Rainbow legislator but we would prefer that political experiment be conducted in another district. He and his party have admirable ideas and ideals, but the reality is that the Democrats have them as well -- along with the power the Berkshires need access to.
Mr. Pignatelli says he wants to be a voice in the room, not in opposition, and because he is in that room in Boston, his district and the Berkshires are in it as well. At the same time he is not a rubber-stamper and will stand up to leadership without burning bridges that he will need to cross later. Mr. Pignatelli has not been afraid to address a major Berkshire problem -- its parochialism -- and has been a force for the regional solutions that the county has begun to accept and must continue to explore in the years ahead.
Smitty Pignatelli has a deep knowledge of and affection for the Berkshires, and his contributions to the New Orleans rebuilding effort speak to his larger commitment to public service. The Eagle endorses Smitty Pignatelli for re-election.