|Paul Mark Announces Run for State Senate|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff |
05:14PM / Monday, October 18, 2021
|State Rep. Paul Mark announces his run for state Senate on Monday at Park Square. The Peru Democrat has represented the 2nd Berkshire District since 2011. |
Mark is endorsed by his House colleagues John Barrett III, left, Smitty Pignatelli and Tricia Farley-Bouvier. With his district being eliminated, Mark would have had to take on Barrett next election to stay in the House
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Paul Mark made official his run for the state Senate next year representing Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden District on Monday afternoon.
The 2nd Berkshire state representative had been expected to make a bid for the seat — the current senator, Adam Hinds, is running for lieutenant governor
and Mark's own House district in Berkshire and Franklin is about to disappear in redistricting.
Mark made the the announcement in Park Square surrounded by supporters, including endorsements by his fellow House colleagues William "Smitty" Pignatelli, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, and John Barrett III.
The six-term representative said the people of the Berkshire district deserve a dedicated advocate in the Senate. He cited the devastation that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on its communities and small businesses and how it widened the divide between the wealthy and those struggling to put food on the table.
"At this moment, we have a unique opportunity to develop policies and a state budget that not only heals our economy, but recreates and re-envisions our government in a way that truly supports our families, neighbors, and those who are most in need," the Peru Democrat said.
"That is the work that I am committed to and why today, I am happy to announce my candidacy for state Senate."
Mark largely spoke on the importance of advocating for Western Massachusetts during decision-making in Boston and his working-class background.
When he was about 12 years old, his father's place of employment — a warehouse — shut down and compromised his family's livelihood. Mark said he went without food and hot water and internalized the stigma of government assistance, staying silent about his family's struggles.
"I couldn't understand why things like this would happen to so many people that did absolutely nothing wrong," he said about his family and others who were put in a tough place with the warehouse closure.
After high school, Mark learned firsthand how hard it was to pursue higher education and the barriers that exist for many people. He attended the University of Massachusetts and realized that he couldn't afford to stay there after a year.
Upon dropping out, Mark took a job for a phone company, Verizon, and joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union. He said this changed everything because, suddenly, he had educational benefits, a fully paid health plan, access to a dental plan, a pension, a living wage, and job security.
Within two months of finishing his doctorate in law and public policy from Northeastern University, a seat opened up in the Legislature and he decided that he wanted to serve the working people of Western Mass. He was elected in 2010, replacing Denis Guyer.
During the past decade, Mark has represented 29 different communities across three counties through two district configurations. He currently represents 15 communities, five in the Berkshires, and including Greenfield. He has advocated for Medicare for All, higher education funding reform, student debt relief, additional funding for vocational programs, solutions to combat the climate crisis, providing good-paying jobs, convenient and affordable transportation options, and high-speed broadband internet.
"Paul Mark has not only been my friend and somewhat of a mentor to me as I entered the Legislature just about a year after he did, but he's also been a strong partner in representing and advocating for Pittsfield," Farley-Bouvier said. "He also knows the needs of rural communities, which in this Senate District, which is vast and complicated, is incredibly important and for those reasons and for many more, he has earned my support for state Senate."
Barrett said he couldn't be happier that Mark is running for Senate.
"We need someone who states and understands all of Berkshire County, all Franklin County, all of Western Massachusetts, we have that individual: Paul Mark," he said.
"I am here sincerely because I believe he is the best candidate, in fact when we heard that Senator Hinds would be leaving, which we learned about several weeks ago, the delegation, each and every one of us in unison said [Mark] has to run, he has to be our candidate."
Pignatelli said he and Mark represent the two largest geographic districts in the House of Representatives, meaning that he truly understands Western Massachusetts. He cited the state's coming redistricting that would pull Mark from Pittsfield and said this is the opportunity to retain his voice.
"Paul Mark is the best choice. I don't care who else gets in this race, there's nobody better than Paul Mark," he added.
The new configuration for the state Senate district would add five communities to its current 52 and cover all of Berkshire County and parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden.
Liz Recko-Morrison of the public community college union, speaks in support of Mark's campaign for state Senate.
Liz Recko-Morrison, assessment and testing coordinator and Berkshire Community College and director of the Berkshire chapter of the Massachusetts Community College Council, also spoke in support of Mark.
"There are many things that make Paul Mark qualified for this job, he understands rural communities understand gateway cities, understands, education, from zero through public higher education, but the thing that I want to speak about a few seconds here is his commitment to the labor movement," she said.
"He has been a champion of the rights of working families, not only here in the Berkshires but across the state, he himself has been a union member and retains his union membership, both from his position at Verizon and when he is an adjunct faculty member at [Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts]."
"He understands what it's like to come from a family that doesn't know whether they are on secure grounds, he understands that unions make life bearable, in fact, move people into the middle class, if I had to choose from every single person that I know and I know many wonderful legislators, I would want Paul Mark."