Women's Caucus endorses 4 in Pittsfield City Council race

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PITTSFIELD — Four women running for City Council have received the endorsement of the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus.

Each of the candidates was vetted by the newly minted Berkshire County chapter of the caucus, which made its recommendations to the statewide organization.

Council incumbents Melissa Mazzeo and Donna Todd Rivers, as well as newcomers Dina Guiel and Helen Haerhan Moon received endorsements, which will result in campaign support for the candidates from the caucus.

But the nascent nature of the local chapter of the caucus, established this winter, has uncovered a challenge. Some female candidates seeking office weren't considered because of a deadline for endorsements set by the statewide chapter.

"This is a huge change for the state organization," said Andrea Harrington, a co-founder of the Berkshire County chapter. "We are very much in the process of talking about how we will handle these additional races."

The nonpartisan caucus, which met with five would-be city councilors, four in Pittsfield and one in Springfield prior to the deadline, works to get women elected to public office and appointed to public policy positions.

Harrington said members of the local chapter are working with the statewide organization to determine if it will hold a second round of endorsements for this region.

Women in Pittsfield and North Adams entered the races for city council, city clerk and mayor after the deadline for the local chapter to submit its findings to the statewide organization.

Endorsements for statewide races, such as the special election being held for State Representative in North Adams, will likely be made by the state chapter, Harrington said.

Moon said she was pleased that the statewide chapter is helping draw attention to female candidates, who are historically fewer in number than men.

"If we want to see change happen we have to start from the ground up," she said. "No one is just going to run for Senate. It is exciting they are taking this on and that there is a network across the state supporting me."

Guiel, too, is looking forward to that support.

She said she is encouraged by the mentorship she's receiving from members of the local chapter, and the ability to learn from past candidates in the group is invaluable.

"They are not just picking women in general, they are picking women who are engaged and informed," she said. "And to be considered among that group is honoring and humbling."

The four endorsements are among 19 made by the group for women seeking election in municipal races across the state earlier this week. At least another 15 endorsements are in its pipeline and if finalized will be the most endorsements it has made in recent years, according to a statement from the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus.

"We are pleased to endorse such terrific women candidates who know that municipal government is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to advocating for the issues women and their families care deeply about," said Linnea Walsh, state caucus co-chair. The "endorsed candidates are highly accomplished in their own right and believe in the goals of political parity."

The state chapter made its local endorsements based on input from the Berkshire County chapter.

Harrington and Amy Diamond, another local caucus co-founder, met with the candidates to determine whether they would endorse them. Prior to that, each candidate was asked to submit a questionnaire that inquired about a range of issues including their thoughts on early childhood education, equal pay for equal work, and economic development.

"All of the candidates are exactly the kind of leadership that we want to see advance here on the local level," Harrington said. "They are bright, they are all hardworking and they are all people who really care about this community."

The caucus will help the women with "boots on the ground," door-to-door campaigning and other outreach. It may also provide some financial support, Harrington said.

Mazzeo, seeking a fifth at large term on the council, said the help is welcome.

It was a now defunct political group called WHEN — Women Helping Empower Neighborhoods — that inspired Mazzeo to get into politics.

"This is reminiscent of that, but it has more political clout," she said. And she said she hopes other women will join.

The Berkshire County chapter of the caucus is scheduled to meet Aug. 2 in North Adams.

For information about the Berkshire County Women's Political Caucus, visit mwpc.org/berkshire-chapter

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo


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