8 candidates, 8 visions for 1st Franklin seat





  • Christine Doktor of Cummington, pictured here with her partner Frank Philbrick, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers


  • Jonathan Edwards, of Whately, is one of eight democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin District state representative seat.  Dan Desrochers



Recorder Staff
Published: 4/16/2018 11:23:51 PM

SUNDERLAND — Democratic candidates for the 1st Franklin seat in the Massachusetts House are making it difficult for voters to choose in September.

The eight Democratic candidates vying for the 1st Franklin seat in November’s election spoke with interested voters during a “meet-and-greet” event Saturday, giving voters a chance to hear the candidates together for the first time, and also ask questions of the candidates.

“We’re very fortunate to have such a wide range of choices,” said Allen Richards, who attended the event. “Such a wide range of choices, a wide range of backgrounds and strengths.”

The candidates met with fellow Democrats and other voters at First Congregational Church. Candidates were given two minutes to address the audience, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Among the topics discussed were single-payer health care, education, legislative and economic support for the region and the proliferation of broadband throughout the hilltowns.


Kate Albright-Hanna, an Emmy-award winning journalist from Huntington, spoke about working to provide debt-free college options and create “striving family farms” in the area.

“Cover the basics. Then, step-by-step, start to dream,” Albright-Hanna said.

She also said that she would use her experiences as a “muckraking journalist” to get attention to the area.

“I will amplify our voices and make them listen,” she said. “That’s the secret power of a muckraking journalist.”


Andrew Baker, Shelburne selectman and special projects coordinator for the Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, noted that his experience is what makes him stand out as a candidate.

“I’m running to continue the work I’ve been doing over the past 25 years in the 1st Franklin District to strengthen our communities,” he said.

Baker said that to improve the communities, the region must take care of the elderly, while also strengthening businesses and employment so that families are likelier to stay.


For Natalie Blais, the executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and a Sunderland resident, her efforts rest on gaining exposure to the issues that face this side of the state, including funding for schools and infrastructure, as well as lack of broadband in certain areas.

“I want to be the state representative that follows through on that promise to bring Last Mile connections to every single town in Massachusetts,” she said. “Figure out together how we can succeed with broadband.”


Christine Doktor, a Cummington farmer and lawyer, talked about her experiences in the more rural areas of the district and how it influenced her to run.

“I’m running because I live the issues we’re facing here,” she said.

Doktor said she saw the issues impacting the area, including opiate addiction in a neighbor and the use of genetically-modified crops. However, she also saw positives, such as the general store in town “becoming a beloved cooperative” because of residents’ efforts.

According to Doktor, she wants to build support for farmers, as well as work “to improve main streets and enhance our hilltowns” to improve business and attract young families to the area.


Whately Selectboard member Jonathan Edwards talked about the relationships he has built in his 14 years on the Selectboard in his town, during which he also helped to create South County Emergency Medical Services, a regional paramedic-level ambulance service.

Edwards noted that creation of the service highlighted his abilities.

“I know how to succeed in this region because it is working with everyone,” he said.

Edwards also said that he supports environmentally clean technology, and said combating climate change has been his focus for several years.

“Climate change is generationally a disaster,” he said. “But also the greatest jobs creator we have in this region.”


Casey Pease, a Worthington resident and volunteer firefighter looking to become the youngest member of the Legislature at 20, came with ideas to fix lingering issues, and believes if elected, he can make them happen.

Pease proposed ideas including regionalized single-payer health care extending beyond just state lines, as well as making broadband a public utility so the internet option can be more affordable for customers. He also focused on fixing school and public transit funding in the state.

“We have a very unique opportunity to elect someone who is energetic and bold,” he said.


Nathaniel Waring, a self-professed “cable guy” from Sunderland, said he is hoping to bring a progressive agenda to the position.

Waring said he believes minimum wage should not be increased to $15 an hour, but instead to $25 an hour. He said that a two-bedroom apartment cannot be afforded on less.

Waring also stressed a workers’ platform, speaking of his experience as a contractor for a local cable company for several years.

“I have been fighting for the last five years for workers in the area,” he said.


Francia Wisnewski, candidate from Montague who has a background in education, social services and local government, said that she wants to create an economy that supports families, as well as education, economic development and affordable health care options.

“No one should have to choose between caring for families and loved ones and paychecks,” Wisnewski said. “Strong families build strong communities.”

Wisnewski also spoke of equal pay and affordable housing, so families don’t have to leave the communities they grew up in.

“We must ensure everyone gets a fair shake,” she said. “Owning a home should not break the bank.”

10 Franklin County towns

The eight candidates who appeared Friday are vying for the 1st Franklin seat that is being vacated by state Rep. Steve Kulik, who is retiring. The seat serves residents in 19 towns, including Ashfield, Buckland, Conway Deerfield, Leverett, Montague, Shelburne, Shutesbury, Sunderland and Whately in Franklin County.

Kulik announced in February that he would not seek re-election, ending a 25-year run as representative.


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