Dem Candidates Carey, Hine, McCourt Vie In Primary For 2nd Hampshire Seat

Aug 29, 2018

Three candidates are running in western Massachusetts in the Democratic primary for the 2nd Hampshire state House seat, which includes Hadley, South Hadley, Easthampton and part of Granby.

They're looking to succeed Rep. John Scibak, who is retiring after 15 years in the legislature.

The candidates have plenty in common. They all support LGBTQ rights, believe state and local government should play no role in enforcing federal immigration law, and are concerned about the financial impact of charter schools on traditional public schools.

But there are some differences.

At a debate recorded by Northampton Community Television, the candidates were asked what their top priority would be in their first year on Beacon Hill.

Their choices reflected their life experiences.

Marie McCourt, who has a job overseeing after-school programs, said she'd focus on state education funding.

She later pointed to her six years on the Granby School Committee, when during budget season, she said, "We know for a fact that we will have to lay off teachers. Who do you lay off? How do you decide whether you're going to lose a high school history teacher or music?"

Dan Carey is an assistant district attorney and Easthampton city councilor. He said he'd work to keep attention on the opioid crisis.

"It'd be so easy for folks to say, 'Alright, yeah, we passed a bill on that last year. That's all set. Forget about that.' And this really is a lifelong struggle," Carey said.

John Hine, a former South Hadley selectman who works in IT at Baystate Health, said he'd focus on health care.

"There really hasn't been much effort at focusing on how to reduce costs. And that's got to go hand-in-hand with anything else that we do with health care," Hine said.

There was also some daylight between the candidates on whether they supported a November ballot question that would mandate specific nurse-to-patient ratios at Massachusetts hospitals.

McCourt supports it.

"People can only take care of so many sick patients, and we need to make sure that they're safe and that patients are safe and that's the only way it's going to happen," she said. 

But Hine called it a complicated and difficult issue, and said there may be unintended consequences if hospitals -- including his employer -- have to adhere to the ratios.

"Are they going to start cutting other programs in order to meet the mandated staff levels on certain units?" Hine asked. 

For Carey's part, he said he still digging into the issue, and couldn't give a definitive answer.

Rep. Scibak has chosen not to make an endorsement, but has said he approves of all three Democrats.

The primary is September 4. The winner will face Republican Donald Peltier of South Hadley in November. 

Take a look at NEPR's Massachusetts Primary Voter Guide 2018.