Mark, Phair sharply divided on abortion, trans rights, Black Lives Matter movement during Mass Senate debate

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Democratic state Rep. Paul Mark has more than a decade of experience in Beacon Hill. The trade unionist from rural Peru represents the 2n/a The district of Berkshire, which will soon be eliminated as population growth in western Massachusetts has lagged.

“The reason I’m running for the Senate is because the redistricting has made our Senate seat potentially on the chopping block,” Mark said. “And to prevent our district from being divided, half ending in the district of Northampton and the other half in the district of Westfield, I have made a commitment to run to preserve our voice so that we do not lose this important seat that covers the entire county and that we do not further dilute our voice in the state house.We have the opportunity, for the first time, I think, since the 1960s, to run for a member of the Senate. So to have a senator come in on day one with actual legislative experience – That hasn’t happened in decades.

Mark was endorsed by Democrats across the state as well as the last person to hold the seat – Adam Hinds, who resigned in September at the end of his third term to take over the Edward Kennedy Institute for the US Senate in Boston . Hinds ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary.

Political newcomer Brendan Phair is a paraprofessional from Pittsfield. Conservative, he is running as an unregistered candidate.

“I’m pro-life,” Phair said. “I’m against abortion on demand. I’m also against taxpayer funding of abortion. And I’m against killing babies because they have Down syndrome or spina bifida. I I also support the Second Amendment, I support constitutional carry, and I support any system of carry permits. I am pro-energy. I support an “all of the above” approach to our heating needs, and I support your right to ‘buy, own and use a gas-powered vehicle here in Massachusetts. I am against the 2035 electric vehicle mandate, and I would have voted against it. I am pro-business, pro-tax cut and pro – tax relief.

Mark and Phair differ on potentially divisive issues: the Democrat backs the Fair Distribution Amendment that would require the state’s wealthiest residents to pay for infrastructure projects and public education, while the Conservative opposes it. Phair said the 2020 State Police Reform Bill was totally unnecessary, while Mark welcomed the new training it is offering for law enforcement. While Phair is adamantly against access to abortion, Mark supports its expansion and codification.

WAMC asked applicants to offer a vision for the future. Will the quality of life in Western Massachusetts improve or decrease in the years to come? Mark offered a bullish response.

“I think we’re ready to take advantage of opportunities that didn’t exist 10, 20, even 30 years ago,” he said. “I think the investments we’ve made in broadband infrastructure are making our region more attractive to people who have the ability to work remotely or have the ability to be educated remotely. And I think the investments that we are making and plan to make in the future in transport will also be a key part of how we put this amazing region at the forefront of people’s minds when they consider, if they consider where live or where to place a business.

Phair said he sees a region struggling to make ends meet and bleeding from the population.

“I think there’s a disparity in demographics,” he said. “It seems like middle class, working class, middle class people are moving. And we’re getting people from out of state who are wealthy, that’s great. But we’re moving people who are born here and raised here. So we have this gap, this income gap, between very poor people and very wealthy people, and it’s the people in the middle who decide to leave. They may not be eligible for food stamps and transitional assistance, and they are the ones who travel for other economic opportunities.

One of the most interesting exchanges in the debate came when Phair was allowed to ask Mark a direct question.

“Should we, as a society, allow doctors to perform irreversible, life-changing sex reassignment surgeries on children under 18? He asked.

“I guess a person who would want to go through this doesn’t do it because they think it’s recreational or because they think it’s something fun,” Mark replied. “I think what’s most important is that the young person going through whatever they’re going through, whether it’s bullying in the classroom, a feeling of not being accepted, and I hope it’s not the parents i hope the parents are engaged in any type of situation like that but i think the most important thing is if you’re a doctor obviously you follow what you know is best practice I haven’t come across many doctors who go into medicine trying to do something that will end up for their patient… First do no harm, is- So I’d like to think that if a doctor and a patient make a decision, that’s the right decision, that’s the smart decision. And I think it’s important that in almost every case, that ‘it’s about choice, about gender-affirming care, about the government staying out of it, about letting people make the decisions that are best s for their lives. And that’s part of freedom for me.

The stark divide between the candidates continued when the two were asked to share their thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is a Marxist organization,” Phair said. “They are anti-life. They are anti-Second Amendment. It’s an anti-nuclear family. They are anti-Semitic. And they are prone to violence. And all the money that they raised, they raised, I believe, $76 million. And it doesn’t go back to our minority communities. It’s really a pity. We should honor George Floyd, what happened to him was horrible. And for Black Lives Matters, A, engaging and promoting violence in 2020 was bad enough. But if people are just profiting from the ideology of victimhood and making money from it, that’s terrible.

“If I remember correctly, I believe Black Lives Matter started as a hashtag after the Trayvon Martin incident in Florida where a young man was killed by someone in his neighborhood who distrusted him and didn’t was obviously unarmed,” Mark said. “And so I think what’s most important to talk about as a white person living in the overwhelmingly white county of Berkshire, when I think of the anger that people from different communities must feel, when I think of the persecution people who don’t look like me have felt, it’s really hard for me to judge how they should act and how they should react. And I think back, again, to my story, there was a time when I I felt depressed, I felt bad. And I’m lucky- Here I sit with a suit, and I clean, and people look at me differently, and they talk to me differently. And I think that there are a lot of people in this country and in this state who don’t have that same opportunity, and I don’t blame them for being angry.

You can listen to the full debate here:

StateSenateDebate102722.mp3

The general election is November 8e.

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