Following Democratic Convention Win, Palfrey Heads To Pittsfield
Palfrey is seeking a spot as lieutenant governor on the ticket this fall. The party's delegates at the weekend convention endorsed him over his competitor Jimmy Tingle by 59-41 percent. He is looking to build on that win as he looks forward to the primary.
"We were really gratified. I am a first-time candidate and I was thrilled to get the endorsement of the Democratic Party on Saturday. We've been working really hard to build a grassroots campaign from the Berkshires to Cape Cod and I think that came through at the convention," Palfrey said following a tour of the downtown led by state Sen. Adam Hinds, who endorsed him the day before the convention.
Hinds led Palfrey from Dotties to Otto's, pointing out the investments made in downtown market-rate housing, places like Mission, Framework, Methuselah, and Hotel on North.
But he also walked Palfrey through the Columbus Avenue garage, which is failing so badly that the top floor has been closed off to vehicles and limits the development of more downtown housing and businesses. Hinds pointed out the Intermodel Center and elaborated on how rural transportation is difficult and how even with the jolt of economic tourism the proposed Berkshire Flyer could bring, there is a lack of ways to get from the center of Pittsfield to other destinations. He showed him the Juvenile Court, which Hinds had attempted to get the state to move off North Street.
Hinds hammered home a point that there are some fundamental infrastructure needs that aren't in place here in the Berkshires and that is holding the county back from further successes. He said the needs of Berkshire County are often very different from the needs in eastern Massachusetts.
"We want to take advantage of showing him some of our needs out here. He's been really responsive and very aware of what we are confronting and our challenges related to transportation, housing and jobs, and the need for regional equity," Hinds said.
"It is good to start working with him already. We have a lot of issues that we have been working on at the state level my entire term. To have an ally in that is critical. It is a demonstration of his support for the region that he's already been out here and he continues to come out here."
Palfrey said it is tours like this that will provide him with a stronger base heading into the election and, if he wins the office, he hopes to be a lieutenant governor focused on the needs of individual communities.
"I want to be a lieutenant governor who really cares about local issues all across the commonwealth, who spends time in the Berkshires, and is responsive to local issues," Palfrey said. "One of the things I think happens too often on Beacon Hill is a shortsightedness about the challenges that face people all across the state."
Palfrey said his top issue is income inequality but solving that takes addressing multiple issues concurrently. He is pushing for more funding for education to make sure districts aren't laying off teachers and have enough to ensure a proper education to those with special educational needs or those learning English as a second language. He wants to finish up the last-mile broadband effort, connecting every corner of Massachusetts to high-speed internet. He wants economic development programs to focus not just on the Boston metro area, but also in Western Massachusetts.
"I want to make sure I am a voice for people who are getting left behind in an economy that is increasingly plagued by inequality. In order to do that, I think you need to understand regional differences and understand the particular needs of communities like Pittsfield and the Berkshires and understand the ways of which economic development, education, transportation, college affordability, criminal justice reform, and the opioid crisis affect ordinary people's lives," Palfrey said.
He is looking to push economic prosperity by raising the minimum wage and instituting paid family leave.
"The issues I care about the most are poverty and inequality. We're pushing hard on raising the minimum wage to $15, paid family leave, passing the millionaire's tax and taking those resources and investing in education and transportation, some of the projects Sen. Hinds was pointing out to me today fit very neatly into that set of challenges," Palfrey said.
But Democrats have a difficult task ahead in convincing voters to make a change at the top. Incumbent Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has routinely received high approval ratings. He's been considered the most popular governor not only in Massachusetts but in the entire country.
Yet, Palfrey doesn't quite see it the same as polling numbers do.
"If you ask people what they like about Gov. Baker you will often hear them say that he's kind of a nice guy and he's not as conservative as Donald Trump and other Republicans across the country. But if you ask them how they feel about his leadership on the issues that really affect them, whether that is education or transportation or climate change, those numbers really drop significantly. People have trouble pointing to areas where he is leading and do not rate his performance on the issues that affect them as highly as his overall approval ratings," Palfrey said.
Palfrey said Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito has shown a "lack of leadership" when it comes to addressing the big issues he believes people care about. And, if he wins the primary, his plans will be to compare the Democrat's vision on the issues with what Baker and Polito have done.
"We've got a governor who won't tell us who he voted for in the most important election of our lifetime, who won't tell us where he stands on the minimum wage and paid family leave, who has a lieutenant governor who stood in the way of the right to choose and LGBTQ rights, who won't raise revenue to invest in education or transportation or solving the opioid crisis," Palfrey said.
Palfrey continued to say that while Baker's numbers are favorable, he sees an "enthusiasm gap." He said people don't have very strong feelings toward the governor one way or the other. At the same time, Palfrey said there is a "blue wave" of Democrats getting active. The voter turnout, he said, is going to be the key factor in taking back the corner office.
"If you see Charlie Baker's numbers, there is an enthusiasm gap. There are very few people who have very strong positive feelings about Charlie Baker. There are also relatively few people who have strong negative views about Charlie Baker," Palfrey said. "It's not that we have to convince passionate supporters to vote against him. It is that you have to take people who do not dislike him but do not passionately support him and say, we present a better alternative."
Palfrey spoke those words before meeting with Indivisible Pittsfield, one of the many liberal organizations that formed following the election of Donald Trump. A number of groups have been created and more younger voters have been getting active in politics.
Palfrey said 22 percent of the delegates at the convention were there for the first time. He said college and high school Democratic groups have been created. He believes the Democrats just need to focus that energy into the governor's race because there is a greater number of people who tend to sit out the non-presidential elections who will now head to the polls.
"We're seeing a blue wave building across the country. We've seen it in other states -- in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alabama -- but we are also starting to see it in Massachusetts," Palfrey said, citing a big upset in the Attleboro special election for state representative.
But first things first. Now that the convention is out of the way, Palfrey said he needs to focus his own attention on getting not just party delegates on his side, but Democratic voters throughout the state to choose him to be on the ticket.
The winner between Palfrey and Tingle will join either Jay Gonzalez, who was endorsed by the Democratic Party on Saturday as well, or Bob Massie for a run at the governor's office.
"I would be honored to serve with either of them. I think there is a real difference between the vision for Massachusetts that Jay and Bob and I have been articulating and where Baker and Politio have failed to lead on the issue that affects ordinary people," Palfrey said.
"Whether it is Jay or Bob who wins the nomination, we will have a strong leader who's going to really lead on the issues that affect ordinary people, who is going to really lead on climate challenges, who is going to really lead on solving the opioid crisis."
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