The makeup of the Berkshire legislative delegation, largely static for years, will get a shake-up this November with the departure of state Senator Benjamin Downing.
The Pittsfield Democrat's announcement Monday that he will not seek a sixth two-year term dismayed colleagues who have come to respect him for his quiet leadership. He will be difficult to replace — and the process of replacing him is likely to lead to races in the House that may not have emerged otherwise.
State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli, who told The Eagle he tried to talk Mr. Downing out of his decision, said he will consider a run for the Senate. As dean of the Berkshire delegation, the Lenox Democrat would be a solid candidate. State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Pittsfield Democrat, will also consider a bid. Pittsfield City Councilor Chris Connell recently announced he will run for the Pittsfield House seat.
Senator Downing has made his mark in a number of areas, perhaps most notably in energy and the environment, which are particularly critical to his sprawling, 52-town district. He will surely continue the good fight to raise the net-metering cap hindering progress in the solar industry. He has also been a leader in bringing broadband access to his rural communities. His key role in state Democratic Party politics attests to his progressive credentials and the high regard of his colleagues.
Senator Downing is a political veteran, but at 34, still a young man. A run for US Congress against First District Democrat Richard Neal would be a challenge given Representative Neal's strong Springfield base but such a bid from Mr. Neal's left could have an intriguing Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton dynamic. Regardless, Benjamin Downing has a lot to offer in the public arena and we are confident he will be heard from again.