Briefings: Another Read on the 2014 Candidates…
SPRINGFIELD—Only another four weeks separate candidates for local and statewide office from the primary that will decide many of their fates and, in many cases, the election, too. That leaves precious little time before voting begins and it may be even less as the electorate slowly begins to check into politics after a largely pleasant summer.
To help voters get the lay of the land, the Springfield Public Library hosted a candidate meet and greet in which over 40 campaigns were represented. Jean Canoso Albano, who as head of public engagement for the library organized the event said the response from campaigns defied her expectations.
“As the day went on, the more campaigns confirmed they were coming,” she said.
By WMassP&I’s count, all candidates for all local offices, including both Springfield House seats, the open Senate seat, District Attorney and Registrar of Probate, Democrat, Republican and Independent were present. Candidates up for reelection, including Rep. Michael Finn, who has a general election race and Senator James Welch, who is unopposed this cycle, also made appearances. Most statewide campaigns from US Senate to Treasurer were also represented or present themselves.
Candidates were spread out among the ground floor foyer, the community room and the first floor rotunda. Voters mingled with rep and senate candidates and their supporters trading campaign literature and chatting about the issues. Some candidates slowly meandered between the ground and first floors. Others shifted around more quickly.
Among the hotly contested 1st Hampden & Hampshire Senate race candidates hardly any stayed in one place for long. James “Chip” Harrington was spotted on both floors (and a few stairway landings) making his case to voters. Tim Allen chatted with folks and caught up with Library Director Molly Fogarty. In his travels, Aaron Saunders ran into his former boss Gale Candaras, herself a candidate for Registrar of Probate (facing independent Suzanne Seguin). Eric Lesser greeted people on both floors, often hugging it out with voters.
Leland Cheung, a candidate for Lieutenant Governor said it presented a great opportunity to spread his message to the commonwealth’s western regions. “We’re spending a lot of time in Western Mass” where “there are opportunities for economic growth and to help people.”
Both of Cheung’s competitors Steve Kerrigan and Mike Lake attended as well. Cheung has events planned this Thursday including local endorsements from politicians and labor. Kerrigan has a house party today in Springfield. WMassP&I is awaiting word on the next Lake event in Western Mass. Other statewide candidates on hand included a Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Fisher and Independent Evan Falchuk. The Western Mass Directors for all three Democratic gubernatorial camps attended, too.
Not far away, Thomas “Tommy” Ashe, Western Mass field director for Warren Tolman stood by to hand out literature and answer questions about his candidate for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. “We need a strong presence in Springfield,” Ashe said of his attendance and the campaign’s activities in the city, including canvassing and other outreach in the area.
Ashe referred WMassP&I to Tolman’s campaign for the date of the former legislator’s public appearance in Western Massachusetts. A spokesman for the Tolman campaign said he would consult schedule for the next event.
Down the hall, Linda O’Connell, a Springfield team leader for Maura Healey, Tolman’s primary opponent, said she looks forward to sharing voter conversations with her candidate. “Talking to the community informs her thinking as much as the experts,” O’Connell said. Together with intern Peter Musante of Palmer, she and husband Geoff got prime real estate by the ground floor entrance.*
Malyun Ali, freshly registered to vote, was touring candidates’ booths and stopped to listen to O’Connell’s pitch. No stranger to research (she did a project on Susan B. Anthony and the struggle for women’s suffrage), Ali said she was beginning to learn about who was running and what they stood for. O’Connell invited her to an event with Healey this Saturday at the library.
Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola and her staff stood by in a room with computers on the Library’s ground floor, ready to assist voters with their election-related needs. While some like Ali were filling out voter registration forms, Oyola observed that many passing through were verifying their polling places and elected officials. “More people are getting education on who their reps are,” Oyola said. She added that her office also collected applications for absentee ballots.
Canosa Albano, the outreach director, said the forum was part of the library’s mission. “I feel the library is here for people to get educated for the things that affect their lives.” Tonight, she continued, voters “let the candidates know what [they] can do about it.”
*Editor-in-Chief Matt Szafranski has also organized events for Healey in the Springfield area and serves on the Springfield Ward 6 Democratic Committee.