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IN THE NEWS: No Contest for Downing
September 07, 2010

By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff
September 7, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- State Sen. Ben Downing is somewhat relieved -- but not surprised -- that he has a free ride to another two years in office.

While all four state representative seats in Berkshire County are up for grabs this fall, the Pittsfield Democrat lacks a challenger, as he did in 2008, and will easily win re-election on Nov. 2.

Downing's only contested race came in 2006 when he defeated Republican Matthew Kinnaman to succeed Andrea Nuciforo Jr., who didn't seek re-election.

Avoiding the physical and mental rigors of campaigning in the state's largest senate district has allowed the senator to fully recover from heart-related surgery on May 29.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say it's been a little bit of a blessing not having an opponent this year," he said in an interview.

In May, Downing was hospitalized for eight days for treatment of bacterial infection associated with a medical device that the senator had implanted last year. Doctors at Tufts New England Medical Center replaced an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), installed in 2009 as a precautionary measure based on family medical history.

Downing appears to have caught a break this election year, but he believes his lack of opposition was almost expected. He said it's expensive and time consuming to run a campaign that covers 48 cities and towns; also, more political opportunities availed themselves in 2010 when state Reps. Daniel E. Bosley and Denis E. Guyer decided against seeking re-election.

"I think the size is daunting," Downing said, "and with open seats in the 1st and 2nd Berkshire districts, possible [senate] candidates had a chance to campaign for the legislature in much smaller political arenas."

Three candidates are vying for the seat held by Bosley, who is running for Berkshire County Sheriff, and six are looking to succeed Guyer.

Kinnaman, a staunch Republican from Lee, claims his lopsided loss to Downing four years ago is why his political party has stayed away from the senate race. Downing defeated Kinnaman by a 3-1 margin, after narrowly beating former state representative Christopher Hodgkins by 244 votes in the 2006 Democratic primary.

"The result in 2006 was a rude awakening for Republicans," Kinnaman said. "The county and senate district have proven tough for the GOP to crack."

In fact, Michael E. Case and Rosanne M. Frieri are the only two Republicans among the 13 candidates in the local races for state representative. The rest of the field includes nine Democrats and two member of the Green-Rainbow party.

Case and Frieri square off in the Sept. 14 primary, and the winner advances to a three-way race to succeed Guyer in the 2nd Berkshire District.

While Kinnaman isn't afraid to battle well-established Democrats -- he lost to Congressman John W. Olver in 2002 -- he wasn't about to enter the local political fray in 2010.

"Once you've run for office, it's hard not to think about," he said. "But not right now."

Meanwhile, Downing is thinking about what agenda the Berkshire delegation will bring to Beacon Hill in January, when the Legislature returns to formal session.

"The No. 1 issue is jobs and how can the government help put people back to work," Downing said.

Additional priorities include stabilizing energy cost, relying more on renewable energy resources, and implementing the state's $95 million plan to expand broadband Internet service in Massachusetts.


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