New England Newspapers
PITTSFIELD -- Even with two years before the 2012 elections, some political power brokers in the Berkshires have already begun choosing sides in the battle for the 1st Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. John W. Olver confirmed his decision to run for re-election in 2012 this week, which is likely to mean a challenge from Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield.
"Andy’s been a great supporter of mine and a good friend," North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said on Friday. "But I’ve been in Olver’s corner for a long time, and if you’re asking me if I’d expect that to change, I’d say no."
State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, who worked in Olver’s office from 2003 to 2005, said he wasn’t surprised about Olver’s announcement, and that he stood behind his former employer "110 percent."
"Anyone who puts their name up for Congress ought to be able to say why [Olver] shouldn’t be our congressman," Downing said. "Anyone who would seek to unseat him shouldn’t simply do it out of personal ambition -- they should have a good reason for it."
Questions loom about the redistricting of Massachusetts’ House districts as a result of the 2010 U.S. Census, which could alter the House membership for Massachusetts. Still, it’s likely that Olver and Nuciforo would face off in a primary
With that potential showdown still in the air, many well-known political figures in the Berkshires said they would side with Olver.
"It’s important for a sitting mayor to support a sitting congressman who has earned that support," said Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto on Friday. "I have a great deal of respect for Andrea Nuciforo ... but [Olver] has earned that position, and the right to continue in that position."
Ruberto said he had donated to Nuciforo’s congressional campaign last year, believing at the time that Olver was not running again.
Following Olver’s announcement to run again, however, Ruberto said he would support the incumbent legislator because "[Olver] has been a good friend and very generous in supporting Pittsfield’s agenda in Washington."
Alcombright, meanwhile, said that he didn’t see Olver’s announcement coming, particularly not before the Amherst Democrat is even sworn in for the two-year term he won last month.
"But if all things are equal and there’s a primary in two years, you have to look at the big picture," Alcombright said. "If Andy is running against the Congressman, you have to look at the big picture."
Nuciforo, 46, signaled his intention to run for the 1st Congressional District seat in July 2009. A former state Senator of 10 years, Nuciforo stepped down in 1996 to run for his current post, the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds.
Meanwhile, Olver, 72, a former chemistry professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has served as the U.S. Representative for the 1st Congressional District since 1991. A longtime political veteran, Olver chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and sits on the House Appropriations Committee.
Meanwhile, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli praised the veteran Olver for his intention to run again, which he felt could help protect the 1st Congressional District from redistricting.
"I wasn’t taken off guard at all. He’s a healthy man. He’s passionate about his job," Pignatelli said. "If we lose that Congressional seat, the Berkshires lose."
Yet when asked whether he would back Olver or Nuciforo in the coming election, Pignatelli remained noncommittal.
"Two years is a lifetime in politics, and I think it’s too early to presume anything’s going to happen," Pignatelli said. "I’m not even thinking about it. It’s too far in advance."