Rep. Neal visits Berkshires for first time since primary win

Wednesday September 19, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal on Tuesday made his first public appearance in the Berkshires since last week's Democratic Party primary, doing a radio interview in Pittsfield and making three stops in North County.

He appeared on WBRK-AM (1340) at noon, visited the Wild Oats Co-Op Market in Williamstown, presented a check to the North Adams Democratic State Committee, and attended a fundraiser for North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright.

Neal said he also made stops in Adams and at the Ralph Froio Senior Center in Pittsfield, but they were not listed on his official itinerary.

The Springfield Democrat, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District for 24 years, defeated Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield and activist Bill Shein of Alford in last week's Demo cratic Primary for the seat in the state's newly redrawn 1st Congressional District. The state's congressional districts have been realigned based on results from the 2010 federal census.

No declared Republican Party candidate will face Neal in the general election on Nov. 6.

At WBRK, Neal appeared with Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi on a special extended hour of the live talk show, "Berkshire Viewpoint." Host Donna Todd Rivers fielded questions via callers and online submissions, and Neal gave some insight into a congressman's schedule.

He said his work week begins and ends on the same note -- meeting with constituents.

"Thursday is the breakaway day, and Friday and Monday are used to visit with constituents," Neal said during the show. "And, every Saturday and Sunday is occupied."

To make constituent-representative relations easier, Neal will keep his offices open in Pittsfield and Springfield, but plans to close the one in Milford.

"What seems crazy to you is not crazy to them," Neal said of the issues he hears from those that he meets.

Though Neal won the recently redrawn district with 65 percent of the vote, the race was tighter in Berkshire County. Neal received 40 percent of the vote in the Berkshires, while Nuciforo, a former state senator, received 39 percent. Nuciforo also defeated Neal by 192 votes in Pittsfield.

A former mayor of Spring field, Neal sat next to Pitts field Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi during "Berkshire View point," sharing his enthusiasm on the "fully integrated" components of the city's economy and its growing arts district.

"To focus on just any one part would be a a mistake," Neal said.

Although Rivers said she received "hundreds" of questions to ask Neal via social media, she couldn't get to most of them. Instead, she presented queries from a handful of callers.

Calls ranged from a wrong number taken live on the air -- Neal, Bianchi and Rivers were clearly amused by that -- to more serious matters like veterans assistance and Neal's long-term opposition to term limits.

Neal said experience is the best way to solve problems.

"I don't think if you're in the emergency room, that you want the doctor that's just beginning to practice medicine," Neal said. "If you're looking for a lawyer for a crucial case in your life, you might not want the student straight out of law school."

Neal said that members of Congress make term-limit pledges that they go on to break so they can continue to serve in Washington.

Banter among the three was relatively laid-back, but on-point when prompted by voter emails or callers. Bianchi and Rivers almost always referred to Neal as "Richie."

Neal spoke about his high school days playing against Pittsfield High School's football team, and laying railroad tracks as a gandy worker.

"Here's a guy from a very modest background that we can all identify with," Bianchi said on the show. "It's a real value that we have someone like that."

To reach Adam Poulisse:,
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On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse


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