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The Primary Numbers: 1st Congressional District…

Reapportionment left Massachusetts in the lurch, losing one congressional district.  The cramming together of 10 congressional districts into 9 ultimately led to Western Massachusetts taking the hit after evading the redistricting knife the past.  Stitching Chicopee, Holyoke, Pittsfield, Springfield and Westfield together into the new 1st Congressional District was a fair move.  It has also prompted fair challenges from candidates from the Berkshires.

Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield, who represents much of the population of the new district, faces a challenge from Middle Berkshire Registrar of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo and Bill Shein, a activist/humorist form Alford.  For several months now the three Democrats have fought to claim the nomination for district.  With no Republicans or Independents filed, the primary is all, but certain to settle who the 1st Congressional district’s Representative will be.

Cong. Neal (WMassP&I)

The Berkshire County challengers are not without their mertis, but we find Richard Neal to be the superior choice for the new 1st District.

Why not Mr. Nuciforo?  We like Andrea Nuciforo, indeed, much more than other Neal partisans.  We feel that there is an energy and passion for public service in him.  However, his campaign has not always lived up to the ideals.  The campaign has been dogged by charges of plagiarism and a failure to file ethics reports.  He claims Neal has coddled Wall Street in exchange for contributions.  This despite the fact that Neal has legislated against Wall Street and that Nuciforo contributors are similar to Neal‘s.

On abortion rights, Nuciforo has hit Neal over being insufficiently pro-choice.  However, this too is an oversimplification of his record.  We recognize the complications of the Stupak and especially the Hyde amendment.  However, we confess an agnosticism on the topic of taxpayer funding for abortion.  Neal opposes it, Nuciforo supports it.  There are valid reasons to hold both opinions.

However, today, taxpayer funding of abortion is not the critical question.  Often it is the protection of women’s health at all.  Neal supports maintaining Roe v. Wade and has opposed the insane efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.  More importantly, to us, the true battle over choice is in the Senate, where Supreme Court Justices are confirmed.

Why not Mr. Shein?  As for Bill Shein, we actually applaud his run to the extent that it proved a point.  Shein and his candidacy have pointed out the immense power of money in our politics.  Shein has appeared to argue that Neal has failed to lead on innumerable issues because the latter receive contributions from various PACs.  However, Shein and Nuciforo are selective about where Neal has not led, as he certainly has elsewhere.

Neal is no happier with the current system.  He has voted for campaign finance reform and condemned the Supreme Court for upending those reforms.  We appreciate Shein’s point, but we do not support unilateral disarmament either.  Certainly we would like Neal’s contributions to reflect the grassroots just as his campaign’s operation genuinely does.  However, we also feel those contributions tell not even a scintilla of the story.

We, probably like Shein, were disappointed President Obama essentially blessed the pro-Obama SuperPAC.    However, in the face of an tsunami of cash buying up endless hours of TV time to air patently false venom, the President relented.  Given the damage the other side has already vowed to inflict, the sense of satisfaction we would have following defeat would be hollow, indeed.

We do admit that in the course of this campaign we were unable to find the time to interview Mr. Shein.  To that end, we feel it is only right to link to our colleague Maureen Turner’s apparent endorsement to see an alternative estimate of Shein‘s campaign.

Cong. Neal w/ Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren (WMassP&I)

For us, the best candidate is Richard Neal.  Contrary to what his critics charge, Neal has been a leader on several issues and has in fact done good things for this region.  We do not claim he has been a perfect congressman, but on balance we find his record to be one worthy of Greater Springfield.

Neal rightly trumpets votes on two subjects that have bedeviled this country for much of the past decade.  Neal voted against both Bush tax cuts.  These cuts, exacerbated by two wars, have done more to run up our debt and structurally damage our nation’s finances than anything else.  Neal also rejected the second of those two wars, the war in Iraq.  Residents of the 2nd Congressional District were deftly represented in the House during those sorry votes a decade ago and today stand vindicated.

Incidentally, on the issue of taxes, Neal has also been a leader.  For years he has fought to end a practice of off shoring, whereby profitable US companies escape taxation by setting up a post office box in the Caribbean.  He has even gone toe to toe with Paul Ryan on the subject of fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax.

More recently, Neal has been an ally of President Obama’s voting for health care and Wall Street reforms, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, ending giveaways to banks for servicing (not issuing) student loans and the Recovery Act.  Working with Congressman John Olver, Neal sought and secured money for developing broadband internet access in that act, which was on full display during a visit to Pittsfield.

Neal also as recently as this year cosponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage that would also raise the minimum wage on tipped employees, which has been frozen for eighteen years.

Cong. Neal, third left, on the campaign trail in Pittsfield (WMassP&I)

It goes without saying that Neal has also been a staunch defender of Social Security and Medicare.  He has consistently opposed privatization of either of these programs and voted against Congressman Paul Ryan’s misguided attempts to replace the programs guarantee with a voucher.

We could go on and on, but the point is made in our book.  We have not agreed with every single action Neal has taken since joining Congress, but we are satisfied that he has represented the Greater Springfield area well and will continue to do so as well as represent the Berkshires well for another two years.  For these reasons we support Richard Neal’s bid to continue to serve in Congress representing the new 1st Congressional District.