|Sent on:||Sunday, October 28, 2012 8:30 AM|
Contest for Western MA seat on Governor's Council
By Dan Ring, The Republican masslive.com
October 27, 2012 at 4:53 PM
Voters in Western Massachusetts will get a clear choice between two candidates when they cast ballots for the8th District Governor's Council seat in November.
Democrat Michael J. Albano, a former four-term mayor of Springfield, is facing Republican Michael Franco, a veterans-agent investigator for the city of Holyoke, for the two-year position on the council. The council is a remnant of the Colonial Era that is little known by most voters despite its long history.
Albano said he would not accept donations from anyone looking to become a judge or gain any other position up for council appointment. He said he would return money if a potential appointee contributes to his campaign.
Albano said he wants to boost the public image of the council, currently tarnished by conflicts and a perception that it is largely a rubber stamp for a governor's appointments.
Albano said he would also work to assess the needs of courts and join with state legislators to advocate for increase funding if needed.
Over the past couple of decades, the council has voted to reject only one gubernatorial nomination of a judge -- John H. Flood, who was turned down for a spot at Quincy District Court in 1993 after councilors questioned his temperament.
On relatively rare occasions, the council's scrutiny has forced a governor to withdraw nominees. Gov. Deval L. Patrick has at least twice withdrawn nominations for judge positions, according to council records.
The council has also rejected four nominations to the Parole Board over the past two decades, as well as two nominations by former Gov. W. Mitt Romney as administrative judges on the state Industrial Accident Board, which rules on disputes over workers' compensation.
Franco said he will work to hold judges accountable by supporting a constitutional amendment that would require judges to go before voters.
He said that after judges are appointed, he would support a bill to put their names unopposed on the ballot every six years. A judge would need to receive a majority vote for another term.
Albano said he would oppose Franco's proposal to put judges on the ballot.
"The last thing in the world you want is elected judges, given the influence of special interest money and the emergence of super PACs," Albano said.
No matter who wins the election, one result is sure: a Hampden County resident will sit on the Governor's Council for the first time since 1978.
Franco is facing steep odds. A Democrat has held the Western Massachusetts seat on the council for the past 40 years. The late Edward M. O’Brien, of Easthampton, held the seat for nearly 30 years before his death in 2004. Current incumbent, former judge Thomas T. Merrigan of Greenfield, is not running for re-election.
The 8th Councilor District district has 96 cities and towns.