Sunday, November 05
Democrat Benjamin Downing and Republican Matthew Kinnaman have done well by the voters of the First Berkshire District in their campaign to succeed state Senator Andrea Nuciforo. The differences on the issues between the two candidates were clearly articulated and debated without any of the vitriol that marred the governor's race. We are confident that either candidate would comport himself with dignity on Boston's Beacon Hill.

The question is which candidate would serve the district most effectively? While both candidates have emphasized education, health care reform and job creation in the campaign, we feel that Mr. Downing's approaches are more likely to bear fruit. On the social issues that confront the Legislature with increasing regularity, we believe that Mr. Downing is more in tune with the voters of the district. As a Democrat, the party which dominates the Senate chamber, Mr. Downing is sure to have greater influence than would Mr. Kinnaman. For these reasons, The Eagle endorses Benjamin Downing for state senator.

Mr. Kinnaman's background is in education and as a state senator he would be an advocate in particular of the community and state colleges that have been grievously underfunded. He promises to encourage economic development by freeing business from government-afflicted burdens, such as high unemployment insurance rates. On auto insurance, we support Mr. Kinnaman's backing of aggressive reform efforts to introduce competition to a broken system that favors a chosen few.

Mr. Downing has proposed pooling work-place development grants into a single fund to give businesses flexibility in pursuing specific grants. He has emphasized making early childhood education available to everyone so all students will be on an even footing entering middle school. On health insurance, we share Mr. Downing's support of single-payer legislation, which would lower costs to consumers by removing burdensome insurance company restrictions from the equation. Both candidates share a realistic approach to Pittsfield's Hill 78, a PCB-laden landfill requiring monitoring by the appropriate agencies.

We share Mr. Downing's opposition to an immediate rollback of the state income tax rate to 5 percent. That would translate into property tax hikes, and as long as the state is not fully funding its mandates, such as regional school transportation, an important issue in this district, the tax rate should remain where it is. The rollback to 5 percent advocated by Mr. Kinnaman would jeopardize the higher education programs he advocates.

Mr. Downing is pro-choice and supports gay marriage, in contrast to Mr. Kinnaman, and will also be an advocate for stem cell research. The Legislature needs every progressive vote possible on social issues, and Mr. Downing will supply those votes.

The assurance of Republican leadership that Mr. Kinnaman will have a position on the Senate Ways and Means Committee notwithstanding, he would if elected be one of a half dozen Republicans in the 34-member Senate and his prospects of achieving a committee chairmanship in the foreseeable future would be slim. Senator Nuciforo used his considerable influence to help Berkshire projects, most notably by gaining funds for Pittsfield's downtown projects, and as a Democrat Mr. Downing will have an easier road to positions of power than would Mr. Kinnaman.

At a youthful 25 years of age, Mr. Downing brings little experience to the table, but Mr. Kinnaman has no experience in elected office either. Mr. Downing's youth may prove be to his advantage, as he has run an energetic campaign throughout the district that should translate to an energetic performance in office. His enthusiasm is infectious, his potential considerable, and The Eagle believes he will become an excellent state senator.