PITTSFIELD -- In their final public debate before Tuesday's 3rd Berkshire District special election, two of the four candidates to fill former state Rep. Christopher Speranzo's seat in Boston traded sharply worded personal attacks on truthfulness in campaigning.
In her opening statement during a live, one-hour radio appearance on WBEC-AM Thursday morning, Democrat Tricia Farley-Bouvier asserted that she has "run a positive campaign and knocked on thousands of doors throughout the community."
She cited Pittsfield voters' worries over jobs and schools, arguing that, based on "hundreds of one-on-one conversations," they want "an end to negative campaigning that they see around them every day."
Independent candidate Pam Malumphy responded by declaring that "claiming to run a positive campaign does not mean it was a truthful one."
Referring to Malumphy's recent criticism over her decision to send two of her three children to Lenox public schools, Farley-Bouvier asserted that "I have not let the negative campaigning get to me. I've kept on my message and I'll continue to keep my campaign a positive one."
Later in the hour, Farley-Bouvier decried "an awful lot of negative attacks based on a family decision we made about our children based on their educational needs and nothing else. We feel that we have the right to do that, and that does not take away one bit from all the time I've spent working for education in this city.
Malumphy acknowledged that "Tricia is obviously talking about me as the candidate who is attacking her."
"Running a positive campaign doesn't mean you're running a truthful campaign," Malumphy went on. "Telling the truth shouldn't be seen as an attack or being negative." She described school-choice, resulting in an outflow of hundreds of students from Pittsfield, as a key issue.
Addressing Farley-Bouvier directly, Malumphy asserted that "no one is attacking your choice to have your children go to another district. I would defend you to the death to do what's best for your children. But you can't, at the same time, be running for public office as someone who is speaking as an advocate for Pittsfield's public schools and sending your kids to another district."
Malumphy also criticized Farley-Bouvier for "lack of communication" to the public during her five years as chair of the School Building Needs Commission, which was weighing the best solution for renovating or replacing the city's high schools.
"It's why I was removed by you and the mayor from that commission last year because I kept repeatedly saying the same thing -- why are we not involving the community in this conversation...it is the single biggest complaint from the voters I'm talking to," Malumphy said.
Ratcheting up the rhetoric, Malumphy argued: "If you can't make that connection, Tricia, between being this vocal advocate who is shoving a philosophy of education down our throats while sending your kids to another district, I can't understand why you can't get that disconnect because every voter in the city of Pittsfield does."
In her final statement, Malumphy returned to the theme, declaring that "convoluting and contorting is what's turning people off about elected officials."
Summing up her campaign, Farley-Bouvier depicted herself as "the best candidate with the leadership style that will do what Pittsfield needs. ... We have to leave the politics of ‘no' behind us and pull this community together by working as a team to solve the problems of Pittsfield."
She also described herself as a "proud Democrat because we share core values, better jobs for working families, the key to our future is education. Democrats believe we take care of each other."
Republican Mark Jester acknowledged that he's "not a professional politician" but felt "this is a great opportunity to get somebody down there who's not your usual politician, to get some refreshing ideas coming out of Pittsfield instead of the same-old, same-old."
Mark Miller, the Green-Rainbow candidate, called it "the party of the future rather than the party of the status quo and the past" and said his platform is based on "new jobs in a new economy, because the old economy is going away." He advocated "clean government including fair taxes, single-payer health insurance and a commitment to public education at all levels."
Voters in most of Pittsfield, except Wards 1-B and 5-B, will go to the polls next Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to choose among the four candidates.