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IN THE NEWS - Downing Runs for Senate
March 10, 2006

By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Benjamin Downing, 24, of Pittsfield introduces himself to the public as he jump-starts his campaign for state Senate yesterday at City Hall. Photo by Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff

Wednesday, May 10
PITTSFIELD - Benjamin Downing, a former congressional staff member and the son of the late Gerard D. Downing, formally announced his candidacy for state Senate yesterday.

Downing, 24, is hoping to replace Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. in the state Senate. He told a crowd of roughly 50 supporters gathered on the steps of City Hall that the economic health of his district would be a top priority.


"I have seen first-hand the challenge the hard-working, honest and dedicated people of this region face, the squeeze that has been put on the middle class, the isolation the poor have faced, and the abandonment the needy in our society have felt," he said. "And while our officials have worked to address some of those burdens, much more can and must be done."

A Pittsfield Democrat, Downing will likely be competing against four or five others in the Sept. 19 primary. Whoever wins the party's nomination will face Republican Matthew Kinnaman of Lee in the Nov. 7 election.

Downing, the son of former district attorney Gerard Downing, who died in 2003, acknowledged in an interview that it will be expensive to run in such a crowded race, but said he and his supporters are ready for the challenge.

"I think what everybody is looking at is the primary will probably cost in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. I could tell you right now that I will raise $2.5 million, but that doesn't mean I'm going to. ... But we will raise enough to be in it the whole time," he said.

Downing told his supporters that he would be "an energetic advocate" for the 48 cities and towns in the Senate district.

When the disparate communities work together, he said, "our common assets can attract high-quality jobs, growth and development that will spur our economy, strengthen our community, and ensure that generations to come aren't forced to leave the region to find work and raise a family."

In an interview following his announcement, Downing said he would advocate for the region on Beacon Hill, ensuring that the tax credits and assistance that have been earmarked for the biotechnology and high-tech sectors is shared with Western Massachusetts and doesn't stay within the boundaries of Interstate 495.

"A lot of it is being a salesman for the region, of being willing to put your face out there and say, 'Listen, we have a lot to offer.' I'm willing to put the time in to work and sell that to people," he said.

Downing said his goal is to create an economy that serves all the residents so the county's children can return after college to good-paying jobs.

"What type of jobs do we bring in and how do we bring those jobs in without sacrificing the character of our community?" he said. "How do you promote sustainable development in the Berkshires that will meet the needs of our workforce and, at the same time, keep the character of our communities?"

To qualify for the ballot, candidates for state Senate must submit certified nomination papers with signatures from at least 300 registered voters by May 30 to the secretary of the commonwealth.

The other potential Democratic candidates are former Pittsfield Mayor Gerald S. Doyle Jr., John T. Zelazo, former Williamstown Selectwoman Margaret J. Ware, former Lee state Rep. Christopher J. Hodgkins, and Worthington Planning Board member Helen Sharron.


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