John Barrett has taken another step in his political comeback. The former North Adams mayor claimed victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for state representative.
Barrett garnered about 2,200 votes, more than 42 percent of the votes cast, in the race for the open 1st Berkshire District House seat.
“What an overwhelming turnout for a special election,” Barrett says. “Most of the experts in elections, in special election like this were predicting that less than 3,000 would show up. So, it was an amazing turnout – it really, really was.”
The seat was left vacant after the June death of State Representative Gailanne Cariddi. The Democrat was in her fourth term.
Barrett, a former 13-term North Adams mayor, was running against Stephanie Bosley, daughter of former Representative Daniel Bosley, North Adams City Councilor Lisa Blackmer, and Kevin Towle, Cariddi’s legislative aide.
The special election culminates on November 7th.
“All four of the candidates in this race stuck to the issues, talked about what they believed in and that’s something that is rare in this day and age in politics,” Barrett says.
Bosley finished second with about 1,600 votes, behind Barrett by more than 500. Occupying the corner office in City Hall for 26 years, Barrett won handily in North Adams with 1,239 votes, more than half of his total and half of the votes cast in the city.
Barrett will face Republican Christine Canning in the general.
It marks a return to politics for the 70-year-old Barrett.
“Well, it’s never something I expected to be doing at this stage of my life,” Barrett says.
Barrett was ousted from office by Richard Alcombright in 2009, and lost his bid to retake City Hall in 2015.
“I am very excited,” Barrett says. ”I have gone through eight years of some difficult times – I have been ostracized a bit, but that’s OK.”
Focused on reforming state education funding and workforce development, Barrett says the region needs to build on the forgotten middle class.
“I think that people are not happy with the way that we are being treated in Boston,” Barrett says. “I think that our economy is not that great. We got two communities that have unemployment rates of close to 6 percent, and two other communities that’s population is shrinking, ranks in the top five in the state of Massachusetts. So I think that the people are frustrated and I think the middle class has been hurt badly out here.”
Canning is ready for the final month of campaigning.
“Like Gail Cariddi, I care about all of the towns of 1st Berkshire. Each town is important, not just North Adams,” Canning says. “Our people need real jobs. Jobs that are paying. We need to attract business. Transportation is a real issue for people up here in North County. I feel our veterans need enormous support.”
Canning has spent much of her career in education, regionally and overseas. In 2009, she reached a settlement with Pittsfield Public Schools after claiming she was improperly fired after raising concerns about drug use, discrimination and violence among students.
Running for state Senate last year, Canning got 30 percent of the vote in losing to Pittsfield Democrat Adams Hinds.
This September, the lone GOP candidate claimed she was silenced by police at a Democratic candidate forum in Lanesborough.
“I am not the underdog,” Canning says. “This is politics. Politics is never fair. But I tell you one thing, I learned a lot from the last race and the first thing is don’t take things personally. It’s business and it’s politics.”
Canning hasn’t always toed the party line. She supports single-payer health care, welcomes the economic benefits of recreational marijuana, and doesn’t support discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Republican also is a Second Amendment defender.
“I am very much a constitutionalist – whether people agree or disagree, academics teaches you: you need a free exchange of ideas and no one should be silenced.”
North Adams will also choose a new mayor November 7th.