Sunday November 4, 2012

Berkshire Eagle Staff

LENOX -- In a rematch of the 2010 race, incumbent William "Smitty" Pignatelli and challenger Scott Laugenour will take center stage in Tuesday's election for the 4th Berkshire District seat in the state's House of Representatives. It is the only state-level legislative contest in the Berkshires.

In their 2010 contest, Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, won his fifth term by taking 83 percent of the vote versus Laugenour, a Lenox Green-Rain bow Party candidate.

For this election, the 4th Berkshire District covers some new ground -- literally. As a result of redistricting, the 4th Berkshire will span 20 towns, including three in Hampden County, representing about 40,000 people after the first of the year. That will make it the largest district in the Legislature.

In recent debates, Laugenour, 55, and Pignatelli, 53, differentiated themselves on a range of issues.

Pignatelli has em phasized his track record and experience, while Laugenour has underscored that he is the "choice for real progressive change."

Both candidates have prioritized their intents to back efforts that bring jobs to the district. They oppose the proposed wind-siting reform legislation, which did not come up for a final vote this year on Beacon Hill. And they agree that when it comes to wind turbines, local cities and towns should have local control over where, and if, they would go.

Laugenour has put a focus on "the amount of debt that our health care and education systems put people in," which he calls "shocking.


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" He calls debt the hindrance to local economic development that keeps "local people from being enterprising."

When it came up for debate last week, the two differed on ballot Question 3, which would legalize medical marijuana for certain medical patients.

Pignatelli opposes the measure, saying the law as presented is "very poorly written," ambiguous and contains loopholes. He considers marijuana a "gateway drug" and has said the legalization of medicinal marijuana "sends the wrong message."

In favor of Question 3, Laugenour said the measure would not mean "full legalization" of pot. He said he agrees with patients consulting with their doctors about the use of medical marijuana.

Pignatelli has highlighted his record when it comes to infrastructure, saying there's been some good investments made to Berkshire County roads and bridges, and said he'll back more transportation investment in 2013.

Pignatelli's re-election has been endorsed by Gov. Deval Patrick and the Service Employees International Union Local 509, among others.

Laugenour has been endorsed by the United Auto Workers Union, among others, based on his positions on health care, education, fair wages and workers' rights.

Laugenour has been campaigning in favor of a non-binding ballot question supporting the protection of Social Security, Medicare and other safety-net programs. Laugenour stresses the need for "Medicare for all, provided by tax revenue instead of private premiums, deductibles and co-pays."

Pignatelli is a five-term state representative and served 11 years on the Lenox Board of Selectmen.

Since settling permanently in Lenox in 2003, Laugenour has served as the town's representative on the BRTA board and on the Lenox Environment Committee.