In The Arena

Lee says no to recount

But don’t expect her to disappear

There will be no recount in the race for 2nd Franklin District state representative.

Republican candidate Susannah Whipps Lee has decided not request a formal recount of Democratic incumbent Denise Andrews’ 180-vote win. Lee had 10 days from the election to ask for the review, but expressed concerns about the added expense that would impose on a number of small towns that are already struggling financially.

Lee confirmed she wasn’t going to call for the recount during an appearance last week on “Fox 25 Morning News” in Boston, where she expressed satisfaction at having cleanly beaten Andrews in Orange, Athol and Templeton, “the towns where the people knew us both the best.”

Lee also did not rule out a future run and said she’s not going to stop fighting for the values that drove her to run.

“I’m going to get out and be vocal and show people that there are Republicans out there that are middle-of-the-road, hard-working people who demand smart fiscal stewardship and really want to make their community better.”

Lee also left little doubt that there are still bad feelings regarding Andrews’ decision to report to police an alleged, unfounded cocaine transaction at Lee’s house.

“No I haven’t talked to Denise since the election,” Lee told Fox. “And I suspect any future communication we have will be conducted through our lawyers.”

I guess we can scratch Lee’s name off the guest list for Andrews’ second-term swearing-in ceremony?

Ashfield drama

Any political junkies in need of a post-election drama should keep their eyes firmly planted on the normally quiet town of Ashfield.

I mean quiet in the sense of the town’s bucolic scenery, not its politics, that have always been on the volatile side. But the dysfunction surrounding the town’s selectmen over the past few months is on a level never before seen there and, possibly, the entire county.

In one corner, we have board member Paulette Leukhardt, a veteran board member who, up until this past spring, seemed to be fairly happy in her job. In the opposite corner is newcomer Ron Coler, who was elected this past spring and obviously has his own ideas about how the town should conduct its business.

And in the middle — or at least he was up until Thursday — is board Chairman Doug Field, whose skills as a retired fire chief were clearly not enough to extinguish the flare up between his colleagues.

“It got to the point where I had to say, ‘enough is enough,’” Field said. “It was giving me nightmares ... I couldn’t sleep at night.”

Like any political rivalry, there are lots of layers to the Leukhardt-Coler rivalry, that had been simmering since the spring but came to a rapid boil during a Sept. 27 meeting, when the two went hammer-and-tong for the better part of two hours. I happened to be in the room that night and I can tell you that I’ve never seen anything like it, with charges of gender bias and accusations about unprofessional conduct that became so heated that Leukhardt almost had to be escorted out of the room by an off-duty Ashfield police officer.

As much of a train wreck as it was, the session ended on a positive note, with a pledge from everyone involved to try to find a way to work together, a detente that now seems was short-lived.

Now, with Field out of the picture, Leukhardt and Coler are going to have no choice but to find a way to coexist, or, at the very least, not kill each other before they can elect a new chairman and schedule a special election to choose Field’s replacement.

Kerry on the move?

Indications are that we here in Massachusetts will soon be bidding adieu to now-senior U.S. Senator John Kerry.

Initial speculation had Kerry departing Congress to become secretary of state during a second Obama term. But now it appears that Kerry has the inside track to replace Leon Panetta as secretary of defense.

If Kerry does end up as the new defense chief, he will have one advantage over Panetta, Donald Rumsfeld, Bob McNamara and others who went before him — in so much as none of them managed to swallow a bug while talking to a reporter.

It was a hot summer day in the late 1990s and I was stationed with my tape recorder outside Sloan Theater at Greenfield Community College, waiting for Kerry, who was stopping by for yet another grant announcement. Kerry’s SUV eventually arrived and the senator emerged carrying one of his favorite local indulgences, a Friendly’s milk shake.

I asked one question, which is really all you ever need to do with Kerry, and as he spoke. I noticed a small fragment of milk shake had formed on the upper right side of his mouth. I wasn’t the only living creature in the area who noticed it. So did a mosquito, that landed on the spot and managed to crawl inside the senator’s mouth — and he never stopped talking.

Let’s see those career bureaucrats in the Pentagon top that one.

Chris Collins is the Franklin County News Bureau Chief for WHAI, WPVQ and WHMP Radio. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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