Endorsements on Parade: For Region, Lesser Has Been More, & Should Continue to Be…
It is arguably the most competitive election in the Pioneer Valley, but it has not been like the national election. Apocalyptic, dark ads are not carpet-bombing television. Debates are not soaked in tension and wrath and indeed, are a bit dry. The 1st Hampden & Hampshire Senate race may not be a lovefest, but the candidates are cordial and the race civil. And yet…a tinge of cynical anti-politics has leeched in.
Senator Eric Lesser, a Longmeadow Democrat, is seeking reelection. He faces Ludlow School Committee member James “Chip” Harrington, Republican who competed against Lesser as a Democrat in the 2014 primary.
On the evidence, on his record and on the strength of his campaign, we endorse Eric Lesser for reelection.
The 1st Hampden & Hampshire District includes Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Wilbraham and about a third of Chicopee and Springfield each.
Lesser emerged from a hard-fought primary two years ago—Harrington came in third—and won the general somewhat comfortably. He promised an aggressive push on job training for the region’s (unfilled) manufacturing jobs; a study on high-speed rail and stepped-up efforts against the opiate crisis.
By almost any measure, Lesser has delivered progress on all these fronts as well fulfilling the normal duties of a legislator in Boston.
But that has not been enough for Harrington, who has pilloried Lesser on his background, not the substance of his record except on the most granular level. Harrington argues he is a better fit, but we find his platform vacant except for a few planks on public safety and the opiate crisis.
Two years ago, Harrington seemed more substantive and certainly talked about issues more. Now, some of his campaign literature is all biography, eliding any plans for the Senate. He is tickling the Valley’s proclivity for provincialism, which in this blog’s estimate, is the root rot driving our region’s decline.
To press his case, Harrington is trying to delegitimize Lesser, cast him as the other, unfit and unworthy to represent us. What business does a young man have pursuing a career in national politics and public service and winning public office on his first try? Perhaps if he had stayed behind and sought almost every local office at one time or another, Lesser could have escaped the stain of ambition.
Harrington carps about Lesser’s prodigious—but transparent and aboveboard—fundraising, claims a moral high ground to cover for his limited resources and then swaddles himself in Charlie Baker coattails. The governor is not even on the ballot. It is worth noting Baker has warts here. His excellency raises princely sums out of state and took over the GOP state committee raising funds from sources that, outside party elders, are known but to God .
And what of Lesser’s sin of ambition? Who cares? Whether Lesser has designs on higher office is immaterial if he is doing his current job. And he is.
In addition to delivering progress on his campaign promises, Lesser has been an engaged and productive legislator. He will meet with anybody, something all electeds from mayors to select board members appreciate.
Alongside his colleague Harriett Chandler, Lesser has fought to amend state law that could revive Springfield’s foreclosure ordinances. He has showcased the region’s assets to officials and business leaders.
Leading the Senate’s Millennials initiative, Lesser has helped develop his chamber’s agenda for this rising generation spanning the spectrum from working-class young people to yuppies.
Together with Republican Don Humason, Lesser fought to ensure the Holyoke Soldiers Home remains unburdened by bureaucracy that could have jeopardized its place as a resource for 413 vets. Harrington harangues Lesser over not getting more money for the Hampden District Attorney’s office, but Lesser and his colleagues (successfully) beat back a cut to the office Harrington’s patron, Gov. Baker, imposed.
Lesser is only one man, but his pitch and his one term in office, like his campaign in 2014, have been refreshing. He has delivered on the promised passion and yielded more results, too. His advocacy for bringing the tech economy to the 413 and establishing regular rail service to Boston are essential. Together they may better connect the commonwealth, sharing the resources and advantages both East and West possess.
Were voters to succumb to Harrington’s parochial appeal, this region would not get the senator we need but the one it deserves, revealing itself as insular, diminished and ultimately, in Boston, weak.
As we have said before, this region will only endure and thrive again if we reach out and connect with Boston, Connecticut, New York and beyond. It means reaching out with an open mind as well as with steel and railroad ties.
It means reelecting Eric Lesser this Tuesday November 8.