In the only competitive county-wide seat in Massachusetts' Hampden County, Republican Marie Angelides and Democrat Cheryl Coakley-Rivera are both vying for the position of Register of Deeds.
The register of deeds is responsible for maintaining all property records in the county. It's an office that doesn't get much attention, since it's mostly used by professionals like real estate lawyers. But if you own property, that's where records of your deeds, mortgages and other information is stored.
The candidates met last week for their one and only debate, on WWLP.
Coakley-Rivera is an assistant superior court clerk, and a former state representative. She said the Registry of Deeds should periodically send staff to every Hampden County community to hold office hours with residents. That way, she said,people don't have to hire lawyers to get advice.
“What I’m going to provide, so you won’t get scammed, is for an attorney to come out once a month to give free legal advice,” Coakley-Rivera said. “I’m going to implement that, different hours in every city and town.”
Angelides is an immigration law attorney, and a member of the Longmeadow Select Board. She doesn't think it's necessary to send staffers to work in individual communities, but she does think the registry could make better use of the real estate data it keeps.
“Every day the data that come across that front desk is more accurate than Zillow, and it can tell us what problems are occurring in what neighborhoods,” Angelides said. “We can reach out to the towns and cities and say, ‘Look, there seems to be a problem on this street. How can we reach out and help you?’”
Both candidates also talked about a campaign controversy that arose last month. Angelides reported to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office that some signatures on Coakley-Rivera's nomination papers appear to be forgeries.
She said a campaign volunteer brought it to her attention.
“We started calling some of the people we knew," Angelides said. "The first 10 people we called said that was not their signatures."
Coakley-Rivera initially told The Republican newspaper that allegations of falsified nomination papers were a "political stunt." But at the debate, she said more than 200 people helped collect signatures, and some may have been overzealous.
“I take responsibility, because that’s my campaign, and they were acting on my behalf,” Coakley-Rivera said. “They thought they were acting on the best interests. They weren’t.”
The winner of the election will succeed Donald Ashe, who served as Hampden County's Register of Deeds for more than 35 years until he died in July.
Correction: The version of this story theat aired during Morning Edition incorrectly said Ashe died in June. It was July 10.