The Democratic First Congressional District primary race is heating up. It's a "no brainer." Richie Neal, the popular, brilliant and powerful Congressman, will win.
Neal is an extraordinary man by any standards. There is a very good possibility that if the Democrats take back the House of Representatives in this presidential election year, Neal will become the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful in the Congress.
So, when it comes time to bring home the bacon (or pork) for the district, Richie, as everyone calls him, will be in a great position. If you think he will ignore this part of the district, think again. Neal is a very bright politician. He knows that he has to earn the respect of his new constituents, just as he has done with the easterners in his district. He will come around to the degree that people will say, "Here comes Richie again."
I can tell you this about the man: He is a natural teacher. He can take complex subjects and make them accessible to all of us. In the likely event that Barack Obama wins re-election, Neal will be the one who revises our outrageous tax code into a fairer, simpler system that people will believe in and that will make those who earn the most pony up. He has received the glowing endorsement of retiring Congressman John W. Olver, who some consider the most liberal member of Congress. That should certainly put to rest the undercurrent of criticism that Neal isn't progressive enough.
Speaking of Olver, we expect he's fit to be tied with Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who did his best to shove Olver aside. Just try to put yourself in Olver's place. How would you feel? This gets to character. Clearly, the popular Olver has major problems with Nuciforo and has made it quite plain that Neal has it head and shoulders over his opponent.
Hey, I know Nuciforo and have always liked him, but his insistence on staying in this race defies logic. For some strange reason, Nuciforo really believes he can win. His reasoning goes like this: while there are fewer residents in Berkshire County than in the Springfield area, the Berkshire people vote at a higher rate than the Springfield group. He assumes, of course, that he'll get all the Berkshire votes. Of course that's ludicrous, especially with Olver's backing of Neal.
Those of us who vote in Berkshire County don't vote on the basis of where someone lives. We are not clans. The rumblings I've heard among politically active folks indicate that they are going to support Neal. I saw the always perceptive Kate Maguire invite Neal to address the folks at the Colonial Theatre one night before a performance of "A Christmas Carol." Neal got quite an ovation, and the Colonial is in Pittsfield, not Springfield, if you follow my drift.
As if Nuciforo didn't have enough trouble, a progressive-type candidate named Bill Shein decided to enter the race. While Shein is not well known, I am pretty sure that whatever votes he does get will come out of Nuciforo's Berkshire County pot. I doubt Nuciforo is very happy about that. Shein has nothing to lose. Maybe he will build his name recognition for a future run for something. One has to wonder whether Nuciforo hasn't asked Shein to step out of the race. The little I know about Shein tells me he won't.
I end as I started. It's a no brainer. Richie Neal will win big, and frankly, he deserves to. He's earned his seat in Congress, and he is our best bet.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.