PITTSFIELD — Brendan Phair, a paraprofessional in the special education department at Taconic High School, has long contemplated running for state office.
He felt the moment came in December 2020 when the state Legislature passed the ROE Act, opening access to abortion to any woman at any time for any reason, and reducing the age to have access to the procedure from 18 to 16, he said.
“I found that pretty upsetting,” Phair said, noting that he would prefer abortions only be allowed in the case of rape or if the mother’s life is endangered. “No other time.”
Early in 2021, Phair gathered the signatures needed and filed to run for the state Senate seat held by Adam Hinds, who declined to seek reelection and instead run for lieutenant governor, a quest that came up short at the state Democratic convention.
The winner of the Senate race will represent the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden districts.
Phair is running as an “unenrolled” candidate, meaning he is not a member of any party. He is 52 and lives in Pittsfield with his wife and three children.
There are two Democratic candidates: state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and newcomer Huff Templeton of Williamstown. No Republican candidates filed to run for the seat. Phair will face the winner of the September Democratic primary in the November election.
Aside from the abortion issue, Phair said he has not been happy with voting records of state legislators in the Berkshires. “I thought I could represent the people in the Legislature much better than they are,” he said.
Sitting Friday in shade in his backyard, with his son bobbing about in the nearby above-ground pool, Phair talked about the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying it was “unfortunate and unnecessary.”
And after the conservative backlash to the protests and rioting that occurred in reaction to the murder of George Floyd, for conservatives to attack the capitol “was unfortunate for the conservative side.”
Phair said he did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016, but did vote for him in 2020, citing support for policies on foreign relations, trade, the economy, immigration, the border, abortion, the Second Amendment, freedom of speech on college campuses and religion.
He acknowledges that Joe Biden was legitimately elected in November 2020.
Phair said he hasn’t been following the U.S. House hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection. “It has not caught my attention.”
Generally, Phair said he believes the state “is going in the wrong direction” and needs to provide more business opportunities and counter the number of people leaving the state by giving them “more reasons to stay.”
Even before the current high rate of inflation, people were having a hard time making ends meet in Massachusetts, he said. His strategy to provide relief is to reduce the state tax bite on gasoline and to support seniors and farmers.
Phair said he would seek to reduce the sales tax rate from 6.25 percent to 5 percent, and do the same with the meals tax.
Asked how he would reduce state spending, Phair said he hasn’t fully figured that out. He said he went through 804 line items in the 2020 state budget and found two dozen spending cuts worth about $200 million, but said that is not enough to have an impact on a $50 billion budget.
Phair said he is against mandates for vaccinations, the use of masks to help prevent the spread of disease and the purchase of electric vehicles.
He said he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, pointing out that vaccinated people can catch COVID, too. Still, he acknowledges that others feel differently.
“I understand the importance of (COVID vaccinations) and the people’s right to get it,” he said.
Phair is a supporter of term limits. “No one should hold the same position for more than 12 years,” he said. In his view, that should include state and federal legislators and governors, but not U.S. Supreme Court justices.