The Oct. 10 U.S. Senate debate between Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren takes place in Springfield, Mass. It's far from their first stop in the region. Throughout their campaigns, Brown and Warren have racked up the miles on the Mass. Pike — and voters to the west have taken notice.
“There is a lot of excitement here about this debate. It’s like having a Hollywood premiere,” says Timothy Vercellotti, director of the Polling Institute and professor of political science at Western New England University. “Western Massachusetts is a great place to live, great place to work but we always feel like we’re in the shadows of Boston in terms of media attention, in terms of attention from statewide elected officials. So I think folks in this area are excited to have our turn.”
Paying attention to Western Mass. is one thing but its impact on the election is another. In the special election in which Brown beat Martha Coakley 2 years ago, most Western counties – Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire — strongly favored Coakley. Only Hampden favored Brown.
And in the last governor's race, Deval Patrick won by a landslide in Western Mass. There, the key issues are similar to those statewide: jobs and health care. But rail transportation and education are particularly important to Western Mass. voters.
“Western Massachusetts styles itself as the knowledge corridor along I-91 because we have so many prominent colleges and universities in this region and helping families to pay for a higher education would seem to be a reasonable topic,” Vercellotti says.
At the same time, Vercellotti predicts the debate will quickly broaden to other statewide and national subjects.