Lt. gov. candidate looks to be ‘champion’ for western Mass.

  • Lieutenant governor candidate Eric Lesser, who is currently a state senator from Longmeadow, speaks with locals at Stage on Main in Orange on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Lieutenant governor candidate Eric Lesser, who is currently a state senator from Longmeadow, speaks with locals at Stage on Main in Orange on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Lieutenant governor candidate Eric Lesser, who is currently a state senator from Longmeadow, speaks with locals at Stage on Main in Orange on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 8/31/2022 4:26:27 PM
Modified: 8/31/2022 4:26:14 PM

ORANGE — Lieutenant governor hopeful Eric Lesser, the race’s sole candidate from western Massachusetts, repeatedly circled back to the term “champion” as he considered his prospective role during a campaign stop at Stage on Main.

Lesser, a Democrat who currently represents nine communities in the 1st Hampden and Hampshire District as a state senator, chatted with a small crowd of locals before delivering a speech on Sunday evening. He then heard from audience members, who primarily asked education-related questions.

Lesser, D-Longmeadow, faces state Rep. Tami Gouveia, D-Acton, and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll — who visited Stage on Main on July 31 — in the Sept. 6 state primary. Former candidates state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and businessman Bret Bero failed to reach the delegate threshold at the Democratic Party convention.

During his opening address, Lesser introduced himself as an attorney, a former White House staffer for Barack Obama and a current state senator. He also took particular care in acknowledging his western Massachusetts roots, having lived in Longmeadow since he was 7 years old. His work as a senator further exposed him to the infrastructural diversity across the region, he said.

“I have some of the densest, most diverse communities in the state,” Lesser said of the district he represents. “I also represent a community without a stoplight.”

Having such close ties to western Massachusetts, he argued, is crucial for the region to receive the fair representation locals have complained about not receiving from the state in the past. Not voting with this reasoning in mind would be a mistake, he continued.

“It’s a recipe for us being locked out,” Lesser said. “It’s a recipe for our needs not getting the champion that they deserve.”

By the time he closed out his introductory speech, Lesser had made a point to address issues particularly pertinent to locals. He told the crowd about having worked with Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey to get “thousands and thousands of doses of Narcan” into the hands of emergency workers to combat the opioid epidemic. He also expressed pride in eight years of advocacy for a high-speed east-west rail system.

As he began the subsequent question-and-answer session, Lesser was met with a question about ethical solar panel installation. He responded that “under no condition” should land be cleared for solar installations, as there are plenty of buildings and parking lots that could house panels. Lesser also expressed frustration over the issue being “largely invisible to decision makers on Beacon Hill.”

“The added unfairness of it is that we have the land and eastern Massachusetts has the power demand,” added Lesser, referencing the generation of energy in the west to power the east.

The questions that followed primarily regarded Lesser’s outlook on education. He voiced disapproval for the creation of new charter schools, while expressing a “need to dramatically expand the support for vocational education.” He also acknowledged the issue of rural schools being forced to regionalize, communicating how it has created “a lot of bad blood and distrust with the state” in the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District that exists within his jurisdiction.

“I think that the Student Opportunity Act … really didn’t address the rural schools or the rural school issues at all,” Lesser said, adding that the provided funding should be redistributed.

Lesser closed out his visit by mingling with the crowd briefly before heading to another event in Palmer.

“This was a lot of fun,” he said. “Hopefully it was informative.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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