In the Arena: ‘Unenrolled’ hold the key
Massachusetts may not be quite as “blue” as we think it is and that may be good news for local candidates looking to take out a pair of entrenched incumbents this fall.
According to numbers released this week by Secretary of State Bill Galvin, just over 35 percent of Massachusetts voters are registered Democrats, while fewer than 11 percent are registered Republicans. The number of “independent” or unenrolled voters stands at 53 percent, and one of the largest pockets of that particular voting block is right here in Western Mass., especially in the 1st and 2nd Franklin districts, where there will be competitive races this fall against Democratic incumbents Denise Andrews and Steve Kulik.
We won’t know until after Tuesday whether it will be Karen Anderson or Susannah Whipps Lee on the ballot across from Andrews, but we do know that Kulik will be facing a challenge from Republican newcomer Dylan Korpita, who has already begun to openly court the unenrolled voters who present his best hope for sending Kulik into early retirement.
“I find myself agreeing with the Republicans more on fiscal issues, but I’m fairly socially progressive,” Korpita said. “For example, I don’t agree with the idea of corporate personhood, that corporations are people. I guess I’m with the left on that, but I don’t really understand why that is partisan, because it’s really a policy issue.”
Korpita has also done something very GOP candidates rarely do — openly praise Stan Rosenberg, the Democratic senator from Amherst and the Senate president in waiting.
“He’s done a great job and I love his energy,” Korpita said. “We could argue all day long about certain issues, but he’s been a tremendous advocate for the people of his district.”
One Korpita’s biggest challenges will be to convince 1st Franklin voters that they should replace an established member of the Democratic leadership with a rookie member of a party whose House membership numbers aren’t large enough to field a competitive pick-up softball team. Korpita says one of the keys to making that argument lies with Rosenberg and his Senate colleague, Ben Downing.
“We’re lucky in this district to be represented by two great senators, and when I look at the one-two punch of those guys and myself representing these 19 towns, I think it’s the perfect mix,” Korpita said. “You are still drawing plenty of water for the district, and now you’ve got the fire of a younger guy who can use his energy to get things done.”
I like where he’s headed with this, but I’m not sure how it will play with the 58 percent of independent voters, myself included, who call the 1st District home.
Interest in Lunt property?
Some good news for Greenfield residents who have been wringing their hands about the possibility of the former Lunt property becoming home to a new public safety complex.
Greenfield Economic Development Director Robert Pyers says the town already has a potential buyer for the former factory side of the building, that is being taken for nonpayment of taxes as part of the deal to preserve the Lunt Little League baseball fields.
“I would say it probably would take it off the table as a possible public safety site,” Pyers said. “Especially if we have a purchaser and that would be a company which would employ 60 or 70 people and pay taxes.”
Pyers said that tax-taking isn’t likely to be complete until the first quarter of 2015. He added that the realty firm that is marketing the retail side of the building may also have a potential buyer or tenant, but that the town is not involved in that deal because it has no claim to that part of the property.
Pyers says the focus now is one changing the zoning of the fields, “but we are confident that we will be able to put this property back on the tax rolls, which has been the goal from the beginning.”
Let’s hope so.
Honoring the late Bill Wiles
It’s fair time again and everyone is understandably pumped, but it will also be somewhat bittersweet year for some, as it is the first fair without one of its biggest fans, former WHAI News Director and Operations Manager Bill Wiles, who passed away over the winter.
Though Billy won’t be there in person, he is being honored for his years of service to the fair and the community with the dedication of a bench in his memory near the front gate fair office.
“Bill was a great friend of both the radio station and the Fair with his dediction as a former director,” Franklin County Agricultural Society President Fred Steiner said. “His loyalty was never ending, as was his friendship, which I and everyone in the organization will never forget.”
The bench will be dedicated during a 1 p.m .Sunday ceremony, and I invite as many people as possible to turn out and honor a great guy, gone from us in body but never truly forgotten.
Chris Collins is news director/managing editor of WHAI FM and Bear Country 95.3. He is a former staff reporter for The Recorder and a Greenfield native.