SHELBURNE FALLS >> Thomas Simmons, a longtime professor of business and economics at Greenfield Community College, is running for Congress; his name will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot as a Libertarian Party candidate challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield.
Simmons, 56, of Shelburne Falls, filed more than the required number of valid signatures from voters in 80 cities and towns with the Secretary of State's office to appear on the ballot. The U.S. House district covers all of Berkshire and Hampden counties and parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester counties.
"From my discussions with voters at farmers markets, sportsmen's clubs, supermarkets and community events, one theme has universally emerged, and that is the lack of attention to issues pressing to Western Massachusetts by the current incumbent," Simmons said in a statement. "From a lack of leadership on the [Kinder Morgan] pipeline issue, to the contamination of the Hoosic watershed, to responding to town requests, Western Massachusetts needs fresh perspective and energy."
Simmons said he initially entered the race because of a strong opposition to Common Core, a federal educational initiative which he says has "tied the hands of teachers and dumbed-down the education of our students."
Schools and teachers, he said, are "spending more resources each year creating meaningless reports and data, and less and less time helping students at critical thinking."
The result, he said, "is that politicians claim they are addressing education issues, when in reality 60 percent of students enter the community college system at lower than college-ready aptitude in basic English and math skills."
Simmons is also a critic of the nearly $20 trillion federal debt, saying the nation "currently spends five times more on the interest on the national debt than it does on bridges and roads." He pointed to the voting record of 27-year incumbent Neal "as a primary example of this problem."
On his website, simmons4congress.com, Simmons has proposed that companies be given a $1.15 direct income tax credit for every dollar they give to employees in the form of profit-sharing. He claims that not only will this save companies tens of millions of dollars each year for reinvestment, but it would also raise worker salaries by $7,000 to $9,000 annually.
Simmons was an initial member of the Springfield-based Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative's Faculty Advisory Committee, a past member of the Shelburne Conservation Commission and currently serves in the Holyoke Flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
He is the author of the commonwealth's homeowner septic system upgrade revolving loan program process.
The candidate's website is located at Simmons4Congress.com. His official Facebook campaign page is at Simmons4Congress.