Lenox man in 4th Berkshire race

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LENOX -- Lee Scott Laugenour said he will challenge state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, in the fall election.

The Green-Rainbow Party member and Lenox resident who unsuccessfully ran for the Lenox Board of Selectman last spring is the first declared candidate in the 4th Berkshire District race. While Pignatelli hasn't formally announced his re-election campaign, the Democrat recently told an Eagle reporter he will be seeking a fifth, two-year term this fall.

Pignatelli is also the first incumbent of the Berkshire delegation to garner opposition. So far, state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, are running unopposed.

State representatives Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, and Denis E. Guyer, D-Dalton, aren't seeking re-election, creating wide-open races in the 1st and 2nd Berkshire districts, respectively.

Candidates for legislative offices have until April 27 to submit signatures to local election officials for certification, and then the nomination papers are due to the Secretary of State on May 25.

While Laugenour hopes to capitalize on the anti-incumbent sentiment which emerged in the local elections last November, he realizes Pignatelli is well established locally and at the Statehouse.

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"I'm not going to pretend it'll be easy defeating him," he said. "It'll take hard work if I'm going to do it. But I'm talking to people in bars and supermarkets and there's a lot of unhappiness among voters about their individual situations."

Nevertheless, Laugenour, 53, believes he can defeat the four-term incumbent because his campaign and party-platform "resonates with the people."

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"Our job as lawmakers is to make sure people are healthy, educated and protected against troubling economic times," said Laugenour.

The California native who moved to Berkshire County 16 years ago, cited how state-mandated health insurance coverage and increasing the sales tax from 5 to 6.25 percent -- both supported by Pignatelli -- are hurting Massachusetts residents.

Laugenour called for a comprehensive Medicare program on the national level which would make the state's health insurance plan unnecessary.

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"I would love to see a health system that's the pride of the world -- but I haven't found it yet," he said.

Laugenour, who's worked in hotel management and the arts, also advocated for a progressive state income tax and rolling back the sales tax to 5 percent to ensure a "fairer collection of revenue."

"The tax burden has shifted more to the low and moderate income in recent years," he noted.

As a member of the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority board, Laugenour encourages more use of public transportation to reduce automobile emissions and save money.

"Being on the BRTA route, I often take the bus to Pittsfield," he said. "The car, once a symbol of freedom, is now a symbol of debt."


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