In the Arena: Kulik avoids endorsing anyone from strong field of replacements

Published: 4/23/2018 11:22:19 AM

I ’ve often wondered what impact endorsements have on a political campaign.

Usually, it depends on the political heft of the endorser. But in an eight-way race, where candidates are struggling to emerge from the pack, just about any public show of support can be welcome.

That’s the situation in the race to succeed Steve Kulik in the 1st Franklin District, where sides are starting to be chosen by a number of politicos, with one big exception.

“I’ve made it clear I’m staying out of this primary,” Kulik said. “I’m glad to see there are so many good Democratic candidates, but it’s up to the voters to decide who the best choice is.”

Kulik clarified his position recently following the entry into the race of Worthington Democratic Committee Chairman Casey Pease, who said during a radio interview that Kulik “encouraged” him to run. Pease also has been hoping to capitalize on the connection between his grandmother and Kulik, who served together on the Worthington Selectboard prior to Kulik’s election to the Legislature.

Pease apparently isn’t the only one with whom Kulik has had encouraging conversations. He’s also spoken with Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Natalie Blais, who recently picked up the endorsement of former Third Hampshire State Rep. Ellen Story, who retired at the end of last term.

Having Story’s blessing is probably going to help Blais with female voters in a field that boasts four women, all looking to pull in that very important voting block.

From what I’ve seen so far, Blais looks like the strongest woman in the field, both in terms of experience and message. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when you can trot out your former boss, ex-Congressman John Olver for an occasional house party or public event.

Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Swihart recently exited the race, but not before throwing her support behind former Greenfield School Committee Chairwoman and current Montague Town Meeting member Francia Wisnewski.

Wisnewski’s candidacy is an intriguing one. She’s about as pure a progressive as you are likely to find, but her campaign might benefit from a little message honing. Reading her campaign literature, she seems to be for every government-funded program possible, which is great if you’re a Democrat, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear sense of what her focus would be. It’s not enough to just be for everything, especially in a crowded field with candidates who may have a more cohesive message.

The good news is, Wisnewski’s enthusiasm is palpable, and she still has plenty of time to make her case to voters between now and September.

Another Democrat who has picked up some endorsements is Whately Selectman Jonathan Edwards, who may be the first candidate to ever gain support from an entire sitting Selectboard.

Sunderland Selectboard members Tom Fydenkevez, David Pierce and Scott Bergeron have all publicly endorsed Edwards, which is interesting, considering that these guys have not always been on the same page, most recently over the now abandoned plan to relocate the South County EMS from Deerfield to Whately’s new town office building in the former Western Mass. Library System building.

Edwards and Fydenkevez are both members of the SCEMS Board of Oversight, and locked horns over the relocation as well as other operational issues — moments which Fydenkevez says only served to strengthen his level of respect for Edwards.

“We know him, and how passionate and knowledgeable he is,” Fydenkevez said, just prior to last Friday’s Sunderland Democratic Committee 1st Franklin Candidates Night at the Sunderland First Congregational Church.

“I’ve seen first-hand how he works to build coalitions, while advocating for the best interests of the people of Whately, Sunderland, and the entire region,” Fydenkevez added. “That’s the kind of person you want in this job.”

In addition to the Selectboard, Edwards has also picked up the endorsements of Sunderland School Committee member Keith McFarland, and Leverett Selectboard member Peter D’Errico.

And on we go.

GREENFIELD GARAGE

From the “I sure hope he knows what he’s doing file” comes word that Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin has removed the firm acting as “clerk of the works” for the now $10 million-plus Olive Street parking garage.

Martin said the move was necessary after the City Council trimmed his request for $529,000 in un-expended FEMA grant money to $250,000, which Martin said brought the project to exactly budget level, but not much more.

I don’t ever remember hearing Martin tell the council that failure to pass his funding request would result in the clerk of the works being removed, but had he done so, the vote might have gone differently — because there are still a few of us around who remember what happened the last time a large scale Greenfield building project lacked proper oversight.

It became known as “The Little Dig,” a.k.a. the Greenfield Middle School renovation, and it remains, to this day, an abject example of how not to run a building project, which triggered several changes in the state school building oversight protocols.

It was a dark chapter in Greenfield’s political history, one we can only hope doesn’t wind up repeating itself.


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