In western Massachusetts congressional races, two powerful Dems face underfunded Republicans
Both incumbent U.S. representatives covering western Massachusetts are up for reelection next week. Richard Neal of Springfield and Jim McGovern of Worcester, both Democrats, have Republican challengers, but it's been a quiet election cycle in each race.
Neal's 1st Congressional District is largely made up of Berkshire and Hampden counties. First elected in 1988, he he hasn't done much in the way of campaigning this year, and his campaign has kept a relatively low profile.
Neal has, however, been making appearances organized by his government office — including several grant announcements.
In a visit to the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority in Springfield in mid-October tp plug $54 million in funding, Neal was asked by reporters about his reelection campaign.
Neal touted pieces of legislation — including COVID relief, the infrastructure bill, and an expansion of the child tax credit — that were handled in part by the the House committee he chairs.
"All of these initiatives required sizeable legislative initiative, and the Ways and Means Committee was in the middle of every one of them including recently the CHIPS Act," Neal said. "We have accomplished extraordinarily things for the American family."
One place Neal didn't appear was at a televised debate on WWLP-TV against his Republican opponent, Dean Martilli.
A statement from Neal’s campaign read at the start of the debate cited a scheduling conflict. That left Martill, a former congressional aide from West Springfield, to field questions from a moderator on his own for 15 minutes.
Martilli said he's running because "the country needs to change and support the people that...you're in Congress to take care of," Martilli said. "That has dramatically changed, and I think you can kind of see that."
Martilli didn't have much to say about Neal, but he railed against President Joe Biden, heavily criticizing his handling of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the crisis in Ukraine, rising energy costs and inflation. Martilli said those last two items are related.
"We need to get back to energy independence, which will help get inflation down, and be strong in our country and stop relying on other people to handle the situation in the United States," Martilli said.
As Neal is attempting to breeze past Martilli into another term, there's a lot of similarities in the 2nd Congressional District. Another longtime Democratic incumbent, Jim McGovern of Worcester, is taking on Republican Jeffrey Sossa-Paquette of Shrewsbury.
McGovern was first sent to Capitol Hill in 1996 and, like Neal, chairs a powerful House panel, the Rules Committee.
But unlike Neal McGovern did take part in a debate, which was also televised by WWLP.
"I fight hard against billionaire corporations that are trying to rip you off, whether it's at the gas pump or whether it's at the grocery store," McGovern said.
Sossa-Paquette, who owns a childcare business, said he’s witnessed families struggling financially.
"All the families that I work for at my childcare centers are all families below the poverty line," Sossa-Paquette said. "That is what I've focused on for the last 22 years of my career."
On the issues, they differed over the inflation reduction act, which aims to lower prescription prices while also combatting climate change. McGovern promoted it, while Sossa-Paquette said it won't work. McGovern also is in favor of the Green New Deal, and Sossa-Paquette is not.
Abortion has been a hot-button topic in races across the country during mid-term election campaigns. The Republican challenger said he's anti-abortion, but pledged to follow what the people of his district favor.
"My job as a legislator is to legislate for what the constituents want, not political party," Sossa-Paquette said. "And what the constituents want in district two of Massachusetts and across this country is legal abortion with limits."
In response, McGovern rapped Sossa-Paquette for supporting former President Donald Trump and the current Massachusetts Republican candidate for governor, Geoff Diehl — both of whom have taken a hard line stance against abortion.
"You know, if my mother were here she'd say, 'Butt out, it's none of your business,'" McGovern said. "The decision about abortion should be decided between a woman and her doctor and not by a legislative body."
As of mid-October, McGovern far outpaced his rival in fundraising. He had nearly $400,000 on hand. Sossa-Paquette has dumped a bunch of his own money into the race, but only had $9,000 left in his account.
In the 1st District contest, Neal had about $3.4 million on hand at the end of mid-October. Martilli had about $4,000.