GREAT BARRINGTON -- It turns out there will be a public debate between state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and Green-Rainbow Party candidate Lee Scott Laugenour at Monument Mountain Regional High School.
A previously scheduled civics class for students featuring the two 4th Berkshire District politicians, but which was closed to the public and the media, will be augmented by an evening debate at the school's auditorium that will be open to everyone. Pignatelli and Laugenour confirmed on Wednesday that they have accepted the invitation from Principal Marianne Young.
The 7 p.m. debate on Oct. 22, to be moderated by students with questions submitted by the audience, is one of three currently scheduled public discussions both candidates have agreed to attend.
"I'm committed to three events," said Pignatelli, "and I'm not ready to commit to another one without knowing the details."
While the five-term incumbent said he's not completely shutting the door to an additional debate or forum, his campaign is in full swing and his calendar is filling up.
"My strategy is not to provide him [Laugenour] with more avenues to get his message out there," said Pignatelli.
Pignatelli said that while he disagrees with his challenger on issues, he'll base his re-election campaign on "convincing people that I'm the better choice, based on my policies. I won't criticize his."
Laugenour, saying that he has been "looking for a solution to the debate dilemma at Monument since it first arose," added that "we're answering yes to all debate invitations as they're extended.
The first event, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, will be held from 6-9 p.m. at the Becket Town Hall on Route 8, organized by the town's Democratic Committee but open to the general public from any community.
Organizer Ann Davek, treasurer of the committee, decribed the long-planned discussion as a "Know Your Government" night designed as "a civics effort to enlighten people on how government works." She downplayed any campaign overtones during the event, to be attended by Pignatelli, Laugenour and the current 2nd Berkshire District representative, Paul Mark, D-Peru.
According to Davek, the two 4th Berkshire District candidates can introduce themselves and take questions from the public, "but no rancor."
Under redistricting, Becket is one of the communities that shifts from Mark's district to the 4th, now Pignatelli's, as of Jan. 2.
"So many people don't really follow politics or really know what's going on," Davek said. "We felt this would arouse local interest as a civics lesson. She added that committee members wished to remain politically neutral in order to present an educational event.
Pignatelli predicted that the Becket discussion will get into some political topics. "What people are looking for, and they're not going to get it, is a Brown-Warren knockdown debate," he stated.
The third and final joint Pignatelli-Laugenour campaign appearance will be a radio debate on Nov. 1 at 9 a.m. on WSBS (AM 860, FM 94.1) in Great Barrington. Election Day is Nov. 6.
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