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Briefings: Paul Mark, the Rep from Peru, Is Running for Senate…

Paul Mark Senate kickoff

Paul marks his spot on the Senate ballot. (via Mark campaign)

Peru State Representative Paul Mark made official Monday what many expected with the release of new legislative district maps. The Berkshire rep will run for the sprawling Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Senate district that Senator Adam Hinds is vacating. Hinds announced last week he is running for lieutenant governor in 2022.

While something of a chicken and an egg situation, the new maps obliterate Mark’s district. Whether he is running because of that or legislative cartographers nuked his seat knowing Mark was leaving, the Berkshires will have one fewer rep after 2022. The region’s population decline all but assured painful rejiggering. Mark’s Senate run means no tweaks to the maps will revive a fourth Berkshire House seat.

“The people of this district deserve a dedicated advocate,” Mark said at his kickoff according to a release. “COVID has devastated our communities. It has destroyed small businesses and exasperated the divide between the wealthy and the folks struggling to put food on the table.”

However, it also gives the region “a unique opportunity to develop policies and a state budget that not only heals our economy, but recreates and re-envisions our government in a way that truly supports our families, neighbors, and those who are most in need.”

Mark’s House district drapes from a corner of Pittsfield northeast to Greenfield. Under the new maps as proposed, as many of five sitting reps would take on territory Mark currently represents. He has represented the seat since 2010. Before joining the House, Mark was a tech for Verizon and active in his union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Despite population loss, the Senate district has only gained five towns in the new maps. They include some blood-red territory now in Senator John Velis’ district such as Granville, Southwick and Tolland. However, the indigo-blue nature of the Berkshires and existing Hampshire County towns like Williamsburg assure no significant partisan rebalancing in the district. Colrain and Whately have also moved into the Berkshire-anchored district.

The proposed revision to the Berkshire Senate district in periwinkle. (via malegislature)

The Berkshire Eagle reported last week that former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo, who toyed with a comeback, would not seek the seat. Mark quickly consolidated support from Berkshire House colleagues. John Barrett, III of North Adams, Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield and Williams “Smitty” Pignatelli or Lenox all sang Mark’s praises.

WAMC reported Pignatelli’s observation that the last seven state senators had not served on Beacon Hill before. That legislative experience will be crucial he said.

“He is an effective legislator and has been a wonderful team player whose priorities fit perfectly with the needs of our area. With a shrinking delegation, Paul’s legislative experience is more important than ever for our collective success,” Pignatelli said in the release.

In addition to Hinds and Nuciforo, this list includes gubernatorial candidate Ben Downing and former acting governor Jane Swift. The district had been historically if not exclusively Republican until Swift left office. It has become reliable Democrat since.

No other prominent names have surfaced on either the Democratic or Republican side of the ledger. However, Mark’s move to consolidate is reasonable. Although unsuccessful, state reps have sought the seat before. The eventual victors usually had some name recognition or base of support.