n BECKET -- In their first joint appearance of the election season, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and challenger Scott Laugenour of the Green Rainbow Party outlined their campaign positions in genteel fashion, staking out some contrasting views but avoiding a debate format as instructed by the Becket Democratic Committee. Story Body:
n BECKET -- In their first joint appearance of the election season, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and challenger Scott Laugenour of the Green Rainbow Party outlined their campaign positions in genteel fashion, staking out some contrasting views but avoiding a debate format as instructed by the Becket Democratic Committee.
The three-hour event on Tuesday night at Town Hall organized by the committee was attended by about 40 people, mostly from Becket, which joins the 4th Berkshire District currently represented by Pignatelli on Jan. 2 as a result of redistricting. The town's current 2nd Berkshire District state representative, Paul Mark, D-Peru, joined the discussion after arriving from Boston.
At the outset, Pignatelli and Laugenour confirmed that they have agreed to attend a third debate hosted by the Lenox-based Berkshire Beacon weekly newspaper on Halloween night, Oct. 31, at the Lenox Library starting at 7:30 p.m. The other two are at Monument Mountain Regional High School on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. and on WSBS Radio at 9 a.m. on Nov. 1.
Pignatelli explained that the 4th Berkshire District, with 20 towns (including three in Hampden County) will be the largest in the Legislature, geographically, with about 40,000 residents. He singled out as key issues the loss of employment in South Berkshire, especially in Lee's paper mills, the aging of the population and the difficulty of attracting or retaining young residents.
"Scott and I have known each other several years," said Pignatelli, a five-term state representative and former 11-year Lenox selectman.
"I don't like the fact that he's trying to get me fired," he said, chuckling, "but that's the democratic process, that's the beauty of politics. I've always said nobody should run unopposed but me, but that's healthy. It's good to have some dialogue."
He also decried media emphasis on the personal lives of politicians -- "good quality people aren't running for public office because of the scrutiny they have to go through today. They don't want to expose themselves nor their families to that scrutiny and public criticism.
"So I applaud Scott, though I wish he were running for another seat, for stepping out. This race is going to be about our vision for this district."
Laugenour, calling for respectful disagreement, emphasized his belief in "multi-partisan debate it's good to have multiple opinions."
Having settled permanently in Lenox in 2003, Laugenour, 55, served as the town's representative on the BRTA board and on the Lenox Environment Committee. He ran for Selectman three years ago and challenged Pignatelli in 2010, garnering 17 percent of the vote.
"I am passionate, I think more voices are better for our democracy," Laugenour said.
Asked by moderator Ann Krawet to prioritize the key issues facing the state and the county, Pignatelli, 53, emphasized "good-quality, paying jobs." He cited the importance of travel and tourism, notably Tanglewood, to the Berkshire economy.
Pignatelli commended recent economic development in Pittsfield and praised downtown upgrades in Lee.
While Laugenour also prioritized jobs, he declared that "the amount of debt that our health care and education systems put people in is shocking. Debt cripples local economic development and local people from being enterprising."
As potential solutions to economic challenges, Pignatelli emphasized the need to bring broadband technology to unserved communities so that new residents who have moved to the Berkshires from urban centers can operate businesses from their homes.
Laugenour stressed the need for "Medicare for all, provided by tax revenue instead of private premiums, deductibles and co-pays."
"We can be enterprising ourselves if we deal with a public infrastructure that supports private enterprise far better than what we've done," he declared. "It's simple, it's not rocket science, it's not thinking outside the box. It's progressive, proven, popular solutions that work."
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