Challengers present choices: Independent Connell takes on Farley-Bouvier; Republican Canning running against Hinds
PITTSFIELD — With the dust settling from the Democratic primary races for state House and Senate, independent 3rd District House candidate Christopher Connell and Republican Senate candidate Christine Canning are gearing up for the final push to the Nov. 8 election.
Connell, a Pittsfield city councilor, is challenging incumbent Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield in that race, and Canning, of Lanesborough, is facing Democratic primary winner Adam Hinds of Pittsfield for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Downing.
Canning has expressed frustration at feeling somewhat left out during the primary campaign season, when she was unopposed for the GOP nomination and Democratic races hogged the spotlight. But she kept busy meeting with small groups, public officials and individuals around the 52-community Senate district to explain her self-described "moderate views" and lack of a hardline philosophical bent on issues.
The Republican nominee acknowledged she faces a "David and Goliath" situation in running against the Democrat Hinds, who she said already is outspending her by more than 10 to 1. Her expenditures to date are around $3,400, she said.
"Personally, I think it's a machine," she said of the Democrats supporting Hinds. "I don't believe in machines."
Canning said she will instead count on the support she's found among voters from across the political spectrum, which she attributed to her practical approach to solving problems by searching for the best and most efficient solutions.
"My team has some socialists," she said. "Some are on the right; lots of them are Democrats and many are libertarians."
Ultimately, she said, "I'm very moderate; I'm not philosophical on party; I'm all about human beings."
Noting some of her positions on issues, Canning said she supports gay rights, is "pro children and education," would fight age discrimination and calls for more effort to combat domestic abuse." She also is pro-life on abortion and supports gun owner rights against the efforts by Attorney General Maura Healey to strictly enforce the state's ban on assault-style firearms.
She also favors some form of legalization of marijuana for adults, in part because that could boost the production of hemp, which Canning believes could be an important agricultural product in Western Massachusetts. And she favors more flexibility on inheritance requirements for the transfer to the next generation of farm properties that are under a conservation restriction barring development.
Canning said she also is someone who has pointed out mismanagement or regulatory lapses while working in public education positions in the region and is good at analyzing funding systems and other government programs with an eye toward improving them.
"I go after fraud," she said, "and I don't back down."
Among areas where Canning said the state is wasting or misspending tax revenue are in the MassHealth, or state Medicaid program, where she said it is not difficult enough for out-of-state residents who sign up for benefits in Massachusetts, and where unnecessary trips to the emergency room, rather than a less expensive care facility, remain a costly problem.
The candidate also opposes the current public student testing system, which she said could be replaced with a portfolio-based system at less cost, and allow more funding for teacher salaries; and she calls for budgeting changes at the state government level to allow bonuses for department heads who find ways to hold down spending in specific line items, while not necessarily reducing their budgets for the next fiscal year.
Communities, especially cities like North Adams and Pittsfield within the Senate district are "near bankruptcy," Canning said, and in dire need of economic development and a state aid formula that provides more assistance and also operates more efficiently.
Canning said she is finishing a 15-point economic development plan that will be posted on her website, canning4senate.com, which is expected to launch over the coming week.
She added that she has spoken with Hinds and both agreed to keep the campaign's tone at a high level and not slip into a "he said, she said" debate.
Canning is CEO of New England Global Network LLC, an education consulting firm, and develops curriculum and educational training manuals, books and other materials, often under state or federal contracts, including for the State Department involving foreign nations.
"I have been going door-to-door every weekend since April," Connell said Friday, "and I will now switch to every night as well."
Connell acknowledges he is likely to be far outspent by a regular party candidate for the House seat, who also is an incumbent. But he does plan a few campaign events and at least one mailing, and he is focusing on meeting voters on an individual basis and in small groups.
His work on the council also has given him visibility in the district, Connell said. That is particularly the case, he said, in residents being aware he has consistently pushed for efficiencies in government and to reduce unnecessary spending.
The issue of creating a more efficient government that can meet the demand for city services is especially important, he said, in light of the city's fiscal concerns as annual budgets approach the Proposition 2 1/2 levy ceiling — possibly necessitating override votes in the near future to raise taxes.
"A lot of people have said they like what I've been doing," Connell said.
Getting a bigger share of state aid for education and other needs also is a key for the city, he said, and Connell believes he could do that more effectively than Farley-Bouvier. "We need someone who is aggressive," he said.
Connell said he would like to debate the incumbent at least two or three times before Nov. 8. One debate is now scheduled, he said, and will be held at Berkshire Community College.
Connell also praised Michael Bloomberg for his effort in challenging Farley-Bouvier in the primary. The 26-year-old first time candidate was defeated by the incumbent in the Democratic Primary by a margin of 2,687 to 2,305, with Bloomberg taking just under 47 percent of the total vote.
"Mike ran a very good campaign," Connell said. "He brought a lot to the table and did a fantastic job. He reminded me a lot of myself at that age. I probably would have supported him if I wasn't running."
When announcing his run for the seat as an independent earlier this year, Connell cited his accomplishments on the council as working with former Assistant City Solicitor Darren Lee to help prompt the city's first-ever tax lien sale, which recouped more than $2 million in back taxes owed, along with his efforts to spur a study of city water and sewer operations and of the municipal airport operations, both with the goal of finding efficiencies to reduce costs.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.
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