Rep.-elect Farley-Bouvier faces divided constituency
PITTSFIELD -- In her first official act as Pittsfield’s state-representative-elect, a beaming Tricia Farley-Bouvier spoke at the opening of the Education Center at Conte on Wednesday.
But as much as Farley-Bouvier was thrilled to win the seat during the 3rd Berkshire District special election on Tuesday, she acknowledged it will be a challenge to bring together the needs and desires of a divided constituency that elected her by only 192 votes.
All told, Farley-Bouvier was elected with 33 percent of the vote. A voter turnout of 24 percent means just 8 percent of registered voters in Pittsfield elected to send her to Beacon Hill.
Farley-Bouvier pledged to work with her former opponents, and to draw on their knowledge of the various issues they championed.
"It’s my job to be there representative for the whole district; the people who voted for me, the people who didn’t vote for me and even the people who didn’t vote," Farley-Bouvier told an Eagle reporter after the opening of the educational collaborative at the Conte Federal Building in Pittsfield. "That’s my job and I certainly intend to do it."
Farley-Bouvier edged out Green-Rainbow candidate Mark Miller with 1,940 votes to Miller’s 1,748. Meanwhile, independent candidate Pam Malumphy received 1,325 votes. Republican Mark Jester won 899 votes.
Farley-Bouvier stopped short of saying she’d adopt some of her former opponents’ positions, but she said that, for example, she plans to work with Miller on environmental issues and health care.
"It’s about learning from them the things that they’ve become particularly immersed in, and working with them to help communicate with people and represent different ideas," said Farley-Bouvier.
Miller said he’s still considering a run during the next regularly scheduled election in November 2012. But he said he was open to working with his former -- and possibly future -- opponent.
"I think it makes a lot of sense to do that, to reach out," he said. "I think it’s fairly standard and don’t think it’s just rhetoric, either."
Members of the all-Democrat Berkshire delegation welcomed Farley-Bouvier’s election.
Her victory means the Berkshire delegation is back to full strength, which will be crucial come the first of the year, according to state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli.
Pignatelli, the dean of the delegation, which also includes state representatives Gailanne M. Cariddi and Paul W. Mark and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, cites two crucial issues lawmakers will deal with when the new legislative session begins in January.
"Pension reform and health care cost reform are two matters the Berkshires needs a full voting membership," Pignatelli said. "Our voices must be heard on these two important issues."
In order for Farley-Bouvier to have an immediate impact on Beacon Hill, Pignatelli urged her to find a mentor and pace herself.
"I leaned on [former state representatives] Dan Bosley and Peter Larkin when I first got in nine years ago," he said. "And remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint."
Nevertheless, Cariddi has found having a constant presence in the Statehouse has been key to her first year in office. Last fall, Cariddi, along with Mark, were elected to their initial two-year term.
"Attend as many [legislative] hearings as you can, especially on items important to your constituents," she said. "I’ve already done that dozens of times."
Cariddi believes Farley-Bouvier will have one advantage she didn’t in order to get acclimated to being a state lawmaker: The newest state lawmakers represents one community compared to the 11 in Cariddi’s 1st Berkshire District.
"That will allow Tricia to delve into constituent issues more deeply," Cariddi said.
Farley-Bouvier said that in coming weeks she’ll be officially sworn in to her new role, but didn’t have an exact date.