Berkshire Democrats Farley-Bouvier, Mark heading to DNC in Philly

Editor's note: This article has been amended at 9:05 a.m. on July 24, 2016, to make a clarification that Rep. Paul Mark was the first elected official in all of Massachusetts to endorse Bernie Sanders for president, and he is co-chair of the state campaign to elect Sanders for president.

While they've supported different campaigns, two Berkshire-based state representatives heading to the Democratic National Convention, which starts Monday, say they are focused on building a sense of unity and progress across their party's lines.

As announced last Monday, State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, has been selected by the Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign to serve as floor whip for the Massachusetts delegation. As a whip, she will work in a communications capacity between the national campaign and voting delegates pledged to the nomination of Clinton, but will not vote as a delegate.

However, Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, will be voting as a delegate at large, as chosen by the Bernie Sanders campaign. He is the only voting delegate from Berkshire County, for any candidate in any political party at any national convention.

This will be the first time either representative will serve in an official role at a Democratic National Convention.

"It's very exciting. I'm kind of geeking out," Farley-Bouvier told The Eagle prior to her departure to the convention city of Philadelphia. She worked on Clinton's 2008 run for the presidency, and has supported the candidate in various capacities since.

Mark says he was the first politician in Massachusetts to endorse Sen. Sanders for president. He also served as co-chair with state Rep. Mary Keefe, D-Worcester, to support the statewide presidential candidacy campaign for Bernie Sanders.

While Mark said he's also excited to be taking part in the DNC, he, along with Sanders' 1,900-plus other delegates and superdelegates face a degree of uncertainty heading into Monday's convention start.

While Sanders has publicly lent his support to Hillary Clinton, he has not yet officially dropped out of the race nor released his share of Democratic delegates. According to The Associated Press, Sanders said on Thursday that he plans to meet with his delegation prior to the 3 p.m. start of the convention.

Still, Mark said he's ready and willing to uphold his candidate's platform, which will be voted on Monday, along with the party's convention rules.

He said this includes calling for a debate about whether to add language to the Democratic Party Platform taking a firm stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) open trade agreement.

The most current draft of the party's proposed platform (dated July 21) states: "While we believe that openness to the world economy is an important source of American leadership and dynamism, we will oppose trade agreements that do not support good American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. We believe any new trade agreements must include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards in their core text with streamlined and effective enforcement mechanisms. ... We should never enter into a trade agreement that prevents our government, or other governments, from putting in place rules that protect the environment, food safety, or the health of American citizens or others around the world. These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)." The TPP is only mentioned once by name in the entire 55-page document.

In terms of rules, Mark said that progressives within the party will likely move to modify the superdelegate system.

"I look forward to taking actions to promote these two items," he said.

In comparison to the past week's often volatile discussions, speeches and displays of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, both Farley-Bouvier and Mark expect to experience a much different tone at the DNC.

"I have to believe that the message of the DNC will be wholly different," Farley-Bouvier said, contrasting the opening RNC message of the GOP's plans to deliver and implement a "law and order" platform.

She said she listened to the RNC's opening speeches during a ride back from the State House in Boston to the Berkshires.

"What came across to me was hate and fear. Starting a convention off with [that] troubles me," she said.

Mark shares similar concerns with the Republican Party Platform.

"To me, the RNC has been building urgency on why the Democratic Party needs to get united," he said.

"It's going to be a major push to embrace the best aspects of our party and platform to do everything we can to beat Donald Trump," Mark said, adding, "Even someone who isn't the biggest fan of Hillary Clinton can see how big a difference there is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It would be atrocious for them to sit it out."

Both local legislators said of all the campaign coverage, the Democratic and Republican national conventions not only offer constituents information about official general election candidates, but can also offer critical information to voters who remain undecided on how to vote.

"People tend to get turned off to the conventions, saying it's all theater, but if these events are meant to be the carefully calculated message that these parties want to be put forward, then we need to look at those messages and what they are saying," Mark said.

Though her mind's made up, Lee resident Colleen Surprise Jones said she's intentionally staying informed with each campaign.

"You bet I'm watching," said Surprise Jones. "I'm voting for Hillary, yet I also watched the RNC to see what was up their sleeves."

Debbie Fassell of Hinsdale, also a Clinton supporter, said she'll also be watching DNC coverage. "I'm hoping it negates the circus I witnessed at the Republican Convention," she said.

Again, Farley-Bouvier said she believes the DNC will set a hopeful tone for voters, both enrolled and deciding.

"We are moving towards unity and trying to include more people on the same page during a time that's typically designated for a primary fight," Farley-Bouvier said.

She said her candidate is inclusive and supportive of a "stronger together" approach to the DNC. She said that includes talking "honestly and positively with Sanders supporters."

"We have so much more in common," Farley-Bouvier said.


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