Natalie Blais wins Kulik, Healy endorsements

  • Natalie Blais  Paul Franz

  • From left: State Sen. Adam Hinds looks on as State Rep. Stephen Kulik addresses West County business leaders. Staff file photo/DIANE BRONCACCIO

  • Former state Rep. Jay Healy of Charlemont. Staff file photo

Staff Writer
Published: 8/16/2018 2:25:53 PM

First Franklin District state House candidate Natalie Blais won the endorsement Thursday of not only the 25-year legislator who’s retiring from that seat, but from his predecessor as well.

The endorsements – from retiring Rep. Stephen Kulik of Worthington and former Rep. Jonathan L. “Jay” Healy of Charlemont – represent a combined 47 years of experience in the Legislature.  

Kulik, whose seat is being sought by seven Democrats running in the Sept. 4 primary, endorsed Blais in a letter saying, “She has also earned my vote by the way in which she has conducted her campaign as an accessible, responsive, thoughtful and honest candidate.”

Kulik had no plans to make an endorsement when he announced his retirement last March but has been asked to by many of his constituents in the 19-town district.

He told The Recorder that with so many candidates with very similar progressive positions in the key issues, he felt it would be helpful for voters to now who he believes “can do the best job based on their background, their life experience, their work experience. And having sat in that seat for 25 years, and worked with hundreds of legislators and seeing who does the job well and who doesn’t do it so well, I thought it would be useful for people to know what I thought  …. I’m not knocking the other candidates, but she’s outstanding.”

Blais, who is executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of commerce, has worked on a host of regional issues as a legislative aide to Congressmen John Olver and James McGovern, as well as an assistant to University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy.

 “While I respect all seven of the candidates for their willingness to step forward and participate in the electoral process, in my view there is one candidate who stands above the others for having the professional experience, leadership skills and dedication to public service that would make her an outstanding legislator” he said in a letter on Facebook and Twitter.  

In his written statement, he added, “I have no doubt that Natalie Blais has all of the experience, knowledge and personal qualities to be among the very best and most effective members of the House and to make sure that our priorities are addressed and never ignored.”

Kulik said that in addition to Blais’s experience, “It’s all about relationships. Knowing Natalie and working with her, as I have over 10 years, I’ve seen her bring people together, have fruitful discussions, be flexible when you need to be. She understands how public policy and politics intersect and how they can result in really great things. That being part of her personality will make her a great rep. …. She’s the person I want to represent me, going forward.”

Blais also received a separate endorsement from Healy, who represented the 1st Franklin District from 1971 to 1993.  

“Natalie would do a great job,” said Healy, who like his father before him served as a Republican legislator but who has since changed his party affiliation to Democrat. The Charlemont tree farmer lives in what is now the 2nd Franklin District because of redistricting.

Blais said she was “honored” to receive the  endorsement of Kulik, who “has served our communities with extraordinary devotion and distinction. He knows what it takes to be an effective voice in Boston, and I am profoundly grateful to earn Steve’s support. I have always appreciated Steve’s thoughtfulness around the very unique issues impacting our region. His deep knowledge of the legislative process enabled him to be an extremely effective advocate for his constituents.”

She added, “Jay Healy spent his career advocating on behalf of rural Massachusetts – something he continues to do to this day. He worked across all levels of government – local, state and federal – to ensure that the voices of farmers were heard and that their concerns were addressed. I am extremely grateful for Jay's support.” 

After his time in the Legislature, Healy, a tree farmer, went onto serve as state agriculture secretary and then as New England director of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, a post in which he worked with Blais when she was a legislative aide to Olver.

He retired from that position about five years ago.

Blais has also won the backing of Olver as well as retired state Rep. Ellen Story of Amherst,  Franklin County Sheriff Chris Donelan, Franklin Register of Probate John Merrigan, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, Shelburne Selectman and former First Franklin candidate Andrew Baker and the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus.

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