Wednesday November 3, 2010

DALTON -- Democrat Paul W. Mark won the 2nd Berkshire District race late Tuesday night with most towns reporting.

Mark, a Hancock attorney, held a commanding lead over Republican Michael F. Case of Washington, with independent candidate Stefan G. Racz of Buckland a distant third. Mark will replace state Rep. Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton, who didn't seek re-election to another two-year term.

With most towns reporting (only Becket in Berkshire County and Ashfield, Colrain and Leyden in Franklin County were not reporting), Mark had 6,226 votes to Case's 4,286 and Racz's 1,211. Mark won all of the reporting towns with the exception of Hinsdale, which he won by a 49-vote margin.

Mark built up an early lead by edging out Case by 130 votes in Dalton, the largest of the 21 towns that comprise the district, which also includes Ward 1B in Pittsfield. Mark won four of the six towns in the district located in Franklin County that reported results Tuesday night, and he won all of the Berkshire County towns reporting.

"[Case and I] were both here in Dalton non-stop," said Mark after the Dalton results were posted. "It was the battle ground."

Mark had to overcome whatever backlash existed with Dalton voters following his Democratic primary win seven weeks ago over Dalton Selectman Thomas S. Szczepaniak and Noreen Suriner of Middlefield. Szczepaniak accused Mark of releasing information about Szczepaniak's criminal past of nearly 20 years ago and making it a campaign issue -- an allegation Mark denied.

Case was not conceding the race Tuesday night, but he realized earlier in the evening after polls closed and results rolled in that Mark had the ability to close out a victory.

"I was facing a Democratic machine," said the veteran and retired Pittsfield police officer. "I was hoping honesty and integrity would come through for me, but it wasn't enough."

The effective of Mark's campaign machine was evident on Sept. 14, when he overcame Szczepaniak's solid support in Berkshire County.

While Szczepaniak led Mark by 416 votes in the 11 towns and Ward 1B in Pittsfield, that was erased by Mark's nearly 860-vote differential in the 10 communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties.

On Tuesday, Mark had already won several towns outside the Berkshires, including a slim 20-vote victory over Racz in his hometown of Buckland.

"I'm not surprised Mark won here," said Racz. "He spent his time here. And besides, the majority of voters in Buckland are Democrats."

Racz has no regrets campaigning as an independent, which also proved unsuccessful in 2006 when he attempted to unseat Guyer.

"Voters are still really, really scared to have an independent voice in government," he said. "They're comfortable with a Democrat in office no matter how bad things are."

To reach Dick Lindsay:

rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,

or (413) 496-6233.