NORTH ADAMS -- An editorial board meeting at the Transcript office Friday saw U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, defending his progressive credentials in a Congressional campaign marked by frequent fire over his convictions from opponents former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo Jr. and writer-activist Bill Shein.
For his part, Neal seemed to welcome the challenge. "I've really drilled down on policy" he said at one point -- particularly noting his focus on "economics, job creation and job growth."
To this end, the 1st Con gressional District candidate stated the need for a "big transportation bill" and continued action to mitigate the mortgage crisis nationally and locally.
Neal's solutions also included a continued backing for community colleges and a pledge of unwavering support for Medicare and Social Security. He said: "I was raised on Social Security ... there [is] no greater supporter of Social Security and Medicare in Congress than me."
Touting what he views as a "long, successful career marked by many accomplishments," Neal cited frequent collaborations with notables from both parties, including Silvio Conte, Ted Kennedy, President Barack Obama and John Olver.
Bidding for the Berkshire vote, Neal said "I've worked with John Olver for a long time and I'm grateful for his support. I know the Berkshires are used to aggressive representation and I intend to do that."
With an eye to national policy, Neal
Neal said he told former president George W. Bush with "candor and respect" that he "didn't think [the Bush tax cuts were] a good idea."
"I suggested to the president at the time that I thought [better policies were] modest tax cuts for middle-income Americans, fixing Medicare, fixing Social Security and spending some money on education -- and, that we should continue to pay down the debt."
Neal also advocated repeal of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision of 2010, and pointed out his support for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.
In recent months, Nuciforo and Shein have been strident in their criticisms of the congressman: for taking over 90 percent of his campaign contributions from corporate interests, according to Shein; allegations of favoring of Wall Street initiatives and financial deregulation; and his lack of support for a tax on carbon emissions and election finance reform.
Neal responded to the financial criticisms, saying "my voting record on those issues was the same as Ted Kennedy and John Kerry" and that "I think [the specific criticisms] don't stand up under a magnifying glass." He also cited supporting a multitude of regulatory measures after the financial crisis of 2008 and his "huge rating" from the Consumer Federation of America.
Neal brushed away the frequent criticism he's received for taking corporate money to run his campaign, saying "it's one of the hardest parts of public life" but that "you can't disarm."
"In all these years I have never run a negative ad, never sent a negative flyer -- I've never had to," Neal said.
To reach Phil Demers, email