Beacon Hill candidates stake out turf on health care, business and other issues at LGBTQ, seniors forum
Photo Gallery | State Rep. and Senate candidates meet with Rainbow Seniors
PITTSFIELD — The seven local candidates for contested public office in Berkshire County tried to carve out their own respective positions on the progressive platform in a candidates' forum at the Berkshire Athenaeum on Saturday afternoon.
A total of 52 people attended the event in the library's auditorium.
The event was co-sponsored by the Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County and the Age-Friendly Berkshire Task Force. The event was open to the public, although it was populated, for the most part, by older residents, most of whom were from Pittsfield.
Rainbow Seniors organizer Edward Sederbaum, who co-moderated the event with Age Friendly organizer Bobbi Orsi, explained that he and Orsi wanted to get some sense of where all the candidates stood on senior issues and issues concerning to the LGBTQ community.
All seven candidates attended the event. This included state Senate candidates Andrea Harrington, Adam Hinds and Rinaldo del Gallo, all Democrats, and Republican candidate Christine Canning.
In addition, the three candidates for the state representative race attended, including incumbent Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and fellow Democrat Michael Bloomberg and Independent candidate Chris Connell.
For Democrats Harrington, Hinds, Del Gallo, Farley-Bouvier and Bloomberg, the Democratic primary is Sept. 8. The winners there will meet Canning and Connell in the general election Nov. 8.
Not every candidate answered every question. But all seven candidates, in different ways, indicated their support for LGBTQ causes.
Canning, the lone candidate representing the GOP on the panel, described herself as a "progressive Republican" when it came to most issues, including those directly affecting the LGBTQ community, adding that she was "tired of labels" and that the needs of the LGBTQ community were as valid as any.
"The first thing you learn as a legislator is to listen," said Farley-Bouvier, who admitted that before she was elected, she did not know many members of the LGBTQ community. She suggested that medical professionals in particular needed training in dealing with that strata of individuals.
Hinds said he believed the LGBTQ community is statistically more vulnerable as it ages than other senior citizens, in part because they tend not to have children as caregivers.
Harrington said she would like to see more education about LGBTQ issues in school, particularly younger children.
Bloomberg suggested that improved health care for seniors and the LGBTQ community was a "basic right."
Regarding spiraling drug costs, all seven hopefuls were in favor of some way to cap costs. Connell suggested improved transparency in how drug companies set prices would be a way to keep the costs reasonable.
"It's very simple," said Del Gallo. "Single-payer health care system. That's it. Single-payer system."
It was a sentiment to which Bloomberg agreed.
Farley-Bouvier said she believes the way drug companies set costs "is a crime, and should be treated as a crime."
Harrington suggested that "taking Big Money out of politics" would solve this and many other issues.
In a more general discussion, six of the seven candidates were not wild about the new planned Super Walmart at the Stanley Business Park.
Connell, who is also a member of the Pittsfield City Council, said he had not made up his mind yet. A survey he took of the seven businesses that would potentially surround the Walmart saw six owners in favor of the store, he said.
"This is not what will bring people to Pittsfield," said Bloomberg.
Del Gallo took it a step further.
"I think it would be the end of the Stanley Business Park," he said.
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.
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