The candidates for mayor in North Adams, Massachusetts have put their campaign strategies to work – and there’s one who claims she won’t spend a dime on a campaign headquarters, lawn signs or mail outs.
Rachel Branch is running for mayor of North Adams, because she has deep ties to the city.
“Actually I am a direct decedent from Captain John Gallup who came to this country in 1630,” Branch says. “The ties in North Adams go back to my great-great-grandfather was William Wetherell Gallup was a state representative in 1891; my step great-great grandfather A.C. Houghton was the first mayor of North Adams in 1895, my great-great uncle Harvey Gallup was mayor in 1921, 22.”
Branch’s father served two terms on the North Adams City Council, including as president.
“I am carrying on a family tradition and breaking one at the same time,” Branch says. “Nobody in my generation has run and obviously no women have run.”
Branch claims she is the first woman to run for mayor since former City Council President Francis Buckley in 1983.
“I stand on her shoulders,” Branch says. “I just love her, she’s wonderful.”
What sets her apart from the other candidates – Tom Bernard, the Director of Special Projects at Smith College in Northampton, and North Adams City Councilor Ronald Boucher – is that Branch does not plan to run a traditional campaign.
“I am not going to do signs. I am a low-income person. I am not going to do campaign mail outs, I am not going to do signs. I am thinking of having a little gathering in the garage where I have muffins and coffee on one of these Saturday mornings,“ Branch says. “This is about, this is about the voters.”
Branch says she’s confident in her campaign strategy, as it’s worked before. Three years ago, Branch was elected as a write-in candidate for the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School Committee.
“Very hard, slogging campaign,” Branch says. “Cost me a lot of money – like zero.”
Branch says she isn’t keen on debates either.
Mayoral races in North Adams are non-partisan – candidates don’t have to be affiliated with a political party. Both Bernard and Boucher are enrolled Democrats.
Branch, on the other hand, is not enrolled with a party.
Throughout her career in public service, she has held positions as a Republican and others as a Democrat.
“I think people who goes into Congress or any legislative body should be human beings first and Americans second,” Branch says. “This seniority over parties is just not right.”
Branch left her hometown of North Adams for various public service jobs in Bridgeport, Connecticut and Denver, Colorado. She returned to the western Massachusetts city in 2000 to care for her mother.
In the Berkshires, Branch has fought for a full-service hospital in North Adams. The North Adams Regional Hospital, which her great-grandfather Arthur Gallup bought the land to build, closed in 2014.
Branch submitted a resolution to the North Adams City Council to oppose the now-delayed Tennessee Gas pipeline that would have cut through Massachusetts. The council accepted Branch’s resolution. Branch has also hosted a community television show to draw attention to women and children who are victims of violence.
So why is Branch running for mayor?
“For me it’s another way to stand up,” Branch says, “and if it empowers other women run for office, I’m thrilled.”
Branch says she’s hyper-focused on the needs of children.
“Anybody says ‘What are you about?’ is ‘What are you doing for a child today?’” Branch says. “You can start from there and go out to the whole world.”
In 2009, Branch answered a newspaper ad and has been an intensive foster care mother for 23 children.
“We have to start caring more about our children and solve these problems,” Branch says.
Branch says she is concerned about the region’s opioid crisis, poverty and education funding.
“It was always like civic responsibility, and it was part of your – and I’d like to see that in our education now: we need civics,” Branch says.
If necessary, a preliminary election will be held September 19th. The general election is set for November 7th.