The three Democratic candidates running for an open western Massachusetts state senate seat met for their second debate in less than a week Thursday.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, Andrea Harrington and Adam Hinds are continuing their battle to be the Democratic nominee. One of the main issues of the debate at Berkshire Community College was the opioid and heroin crisis affecting the state and much of the country. Del Gallo, a Pittsfield attorney, says nearly all of the focus should be on treatment instead of enforcement. The self-proclaimed Bernie Sanders progressive also questioned the effectiveness of drug courts.
“They have a very bad attitude towards relapse,” Del Gallo said. “It’s a moral failure if you can’t pick yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s a terrible attitude. It’s a disease. People are going to relapse.”
Hinds, a former United Nations conflict negotiator, says he’s been working on the opioid issue as executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition.
“You have to take advantage of the crisis moments,” Hinds said. “That’s why drug courts are so critical. Making sure that every access point you have, maybe it’s an overdose and it’s meeting someone in an emergency department, you have to really utilize those to first ensure safety and then make movement towards treatment.”
Harrington, a Richmond attorney, says she has represented a number of people struggling with addiction. She also stated support for drug courts.
“The intention of the drug court is to address the underlying issues which is mental health problems and a lack of access to education and opportunity,” said Harrington.
Del Gallo says he has been the one talking about progressive issues the longest. He continues to call his opponents “me too” candidates, claiming their opposition to the now-suspended Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline was in response to his own vocal opposition. He says the same about their support of a $15 minimum wage. Harrington defended her dedication to progressive issues as did Hinds.
“His [Del Gallo’s] actions have not impacted when I release any of my statements,” Hinds said. “We came out against the pipeline in March. I don’t off the top of my head remember when we talked about minimum wage. And so there you go.”
All three support some kind of progressive income tax and the fair share amendment or so-called millionaire’s tax. Del Gallo says that ideal is essential to his other causes.
“It all goes back to that, folks,” Del Gallo said. “That’s why I sound like a broken record because otherwise this is just a bunch of empty rhetoric. You got to get the money from the rich folks to pay for the transportation and the education.”
On regional education, Harrington would like to change the Chapter 70 funding formula, saying area schools are at a disadvantage because it is based on student enrollment.
“As far as the idea about creating three school districts, I’m very interested in that idea and I would fight for money from the state as an incentive to further regionalize,” said Harrington.
Hinds says overall he supports the work of the Berkshire County Education Task Force that is looking at the future of the area’s public schools. Hinds says he supports lifting the solar net metering cap, adding the state is at an energy crossroads with natural gas a bridge to a diversified energy portfolio. Harrington says she would like to pursue a manufacturer carve-out from electricity bill fees. Another debate has been scheduled for August 29th in Great Barrington. The winner of September 8th’s Democratic primary will face Republican Christine Canning in November. Retiring Democrat Ben Downing has represented the Senate’s Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden district for a decade.
Click here for coverage of August 7's Democratic debate.