Originally published in the The Berkshire Eagle, August 11, 2022

If you’re reading this, you probably feel at least a bit overlooked by Beacon Hill. As statewide elections near, the ballot suggests one of the big reasons why.


Electoral contests for five key statewide offices — governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of the commonwealth and state auditor — feature more than a dozen candidates from both parties. Just one of those candidates hails from west of the I-495 corridor: State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, who is running for lieutenant governor.

Yes, there are fewer people in our more-rural neck of the woods than in greater Boston. Still, we westernmost constituents do exist, and that feeling of being overlooked is underscored by the reality of being all but locked out of representation in the state’s highest offices and the elections that fill them. We flagged that unfortunate reality after the state’s Democratic convention. State Sen. Adam Hinds, a considerably qualified candidate, entered as an LG hopeful and the last standing Berkshire-based candidate for statewide office only to exit without even securing enough delegates to get on the primary ballot.

It’s a historical trend that we fear won’t end anytime soon. North Adams’ own Jane Swift, who was elected lieutenant governor in 1998 and then served as acting governor from April 2001 to the end of the term in 2003, was the last statewide constitutional officer elected from Western Mass. If you don’t know the second-most-recent one to reach that level, don’t feel embarrassed — it was Foster Furcolo, who was elected governor in the ’50s.

This isn’t just the sour grapes of regional parochialism. Representation matters. It matters whether our perspectives and the issues unique to our communities get a hearing in the state’s highest offices.

It’s no surprise, for example, that Sen. Lesser has been far more vocal than any other statewide candidate in touting the benefits and necessity of progress on east-west rail, a transformative project that would benefit the entire state but especially the regions who would see some long overdue parity in public transit infrastructure and growth opportunity.

High-quality hopefuls for public office can come from anywhere, but we see and appreciate the value in serious candidates vying to put our oft-overlooked corner of the commonwealth on the ballot and in the broader electoral conversation as Bay Staters prepare to hit the polls.

That goes for Western Massachusetts, and it goes specifically for Berkshire County, too. In the race for the eighth seat on the Governor’s Council’s — the geographically largest council district covering the entire western half of the state and comprising four whole counties and part of a fifth — there are five candidates across both parties. Only one of them is from the Berkshires: Tara Jacobs, a North Adams resident and member of the city’s School Committee. In general, voters ought to appreciate Governor’s Council elections a bit more, as its duties include confirming judicial appointments and parole board nominations as well as weighing in on commutations and pardons. Further, Berkshire voters can appreciate the chance to put a Berkshire voice on such a critical panel.

The Eagle editorial board does not endorse in primaries except those that serve as the de facto general election (which is why we will endorse in the Berkshire sheriff and DA Democratic primaries, which will essentially decide who wins those respective offices). In keeping with this policy, The Eagle is not endorsing for lieutenant governor or Governor’s Council, as those contests feature candidates across multiple primaries and will ultimately be decided in November’s general election.

What we can endorse is this: Campaigns like Mr. Lesser’s and Ms. Jacobs’ push an issue-centered spotlight toward our neighbors, our county and our region amid an important election cycle that might otherwise completely overlook them. That matters. We’d like to see more of it so that Western Massachusetts stands a better chance of getting a seat at the table where the systemic issues affecting our communities can be meaningfully addressed.

Link to original story: https://www.berkshireeagle.com/opinion/editorials/our-opinion-western-mass-candidates/article_e2c7885e-18d0-11ed-b046-8732b366ea92.html