AMHERST — Protecting undocumented immigrants, ensuring sufficient funding for education and transportation, promoting single-payer health care and guaranteeing reproductive rights are policies for which the Democratic candidates for the 3rd Hampshire District are pledging to stand.
“I believe the essence of government is to respond to the needs of our communities, and the most vulnerable,” said Mindy Domb, executive director of the Amherst Survival Center, noting that her professional career has focused on caring for all people in the community.
“The very first thing I’d want to do is pass the Safe Communities Act,” said Eric Nakajima, chairman of the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee, calling this an urgent need to give comfort to undocumented residents living in Massachusetts.
In a forum Wednesday at the Bangs Community Center that brought out about 75 residents, Nakajima and Domb explained why they should be the Democratic nominee for the 3rd Hampshire District, which consists of Amherst, Pelham and Precinct 1 in Granby. They will face off in a primary Sept. 4, with the winner taking on incumbent Solomon Goldstein-Rose, I-Amherst, in the Nov. 6 general election.
The forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Amherst, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Amherst Media and WSHM.
Both candidates expressed concern about the recent Supreme Judicial Court decision striking down the Fair Share Amendment that was to have come before voters this fall.
Nakajima said he still supports the concept of a progressive income tax and assessing a tax on those earning $1 million or more, with the additional money targeted for education and transportation.
Both candidates said single-payer health care, or Medicare for All, should be a priority for legislative action.
“My approach is to defuse fear and concerns about single-payer, and replace it with facts and information,” Domb said.
Nakajima said he is deeply committed to single-payer health care, but believes that it may take having voters throughout the state formally express support for its adoption.
“We’re going to probably need a ballot initiative,” Nakajima said, pointing to the success this had in moving the Legislature to take up the $15 minimum wage and paid family leave.
Charter school funding, they agreed, is worrisome.
“The way we are funding charters is an absolute travesty — it’s absolutely devastating school districts,” Nakajima said.
Domb said parents should have the right to send their children to any public school, but money for school districts should not be pitted against money for charter schools.
“The funding is completely unfair, and public schools as a result are not on a level playing field,” Domb said.
On the environment, implementing a carbon pollution tax is something both would support, though Domb said she cautions that carbon pricing and increasing the gas tax could have an impact on people who are struggling to make ends meet. She supports going to 100 percent renewable energy sources by 2050.
Nakajima said there need to be expanded resources for promoting a sustainable economy.
“I think there are multiple programs that we need to be able to support to green our infrastructure and put ourselves in a better position economically,” Nakajima said.
Reproductive rights are essential to protect in Massachusetts, they said, especially if the Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal.
The candidates expressed support for the Legislature this week rescinding laws still on the books prohibiting abortion, and suggested the state should take action to repeal parental consent for teenagers.
Nakajima said 2018 is a scary time with the Trump administration in power, but he hopes this represents the last gasps of a racist, sexist and xenophobic regime.
“Everyone has to stand up and be counted now,” he said.
He said the Democratic Party “needs to stand for social, economic and environmental justice for everyone.”
Domb said Democrats should find ways to resist the president’s agenda by reducing economic inequality, addressing devastating climate effects and resisting “the corrupt federal government’s inhumane policies.”
“We have to stand for economic equality, voter engagement and making voting easier,” Domb said.
“Despite our challenges, I’m deeply hopeful about the direction of our commonwealth,” Nakajima said.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.