The League of Women Voters of Amherst (LWVA) will host two virtual forums in the next two weeks, to help members of the public learn about campaigning for office. The LWVA organized the sessions to help those considering a run, or those just curious about the process. Registration is required (see links below.)
All Amherst’s elected posts will be on the ballot this November, including seats on the Town Council, School Committee, the Jones Library Board of Trustees, the Housing Authority, and Elector of the Oliver Smith Will. Nomination papers will be available July 1.
Part 1, on Thursday, April 8 from 7 to 8 p.m., called “Nomination Procedures and Campaign Issues” will feature Amherst Town Clerk Susan Audette and local panelists Sarah Barr, Eric Nakajima, and Jim Pistrang, with Jessica Ryan as moderator. Register here for Part 1.
Part 2, on Thursday, April 15 from 7 to 8 p.m., called “Campaign Finance Regulations and Reporting” will feature Jason Tait of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and local panelists MaryAnn Grim and Bonnie MacCraken, with Phyllis Lehrer as moderator. Register here for Part 2.
The forums will also be streamed live to the LWVA Facebook page.
Starting in November, all elective offices in Amherst will be up for election every two years, for two-year terms. Amherst no longer has staggered terms.
“In the best of scenarios, we will have some incumbents re-upping; otherwise we stand to lose institutional memory on our boards, committees or councils,” said Joan Rabin, who serves on the LWVA Steering Committee and was lead organizer for the two upcoming events. Rabin said that robust elections promote democracy, and ideally, the town will have contested races that lead to choices for voters.
This past winter, the LWVA invited candidates who ran for contested seats in 2018 and 2019 to provide input about the experience. The group included some candidates who ran successfully and others who did not. “An impressive number responded, and were generous with their thoughts and suggestions,” Rabin said. “We learned that the experience of running for office left many first-timers shell-shocked. Some benefitted from help from organized interest groups, and were grateful for that help.” For many, the learning curve was steep.
Rabin said that unlike running for the former Town Meeting, where many residents had their initial experience at seeking elective office, running for a district or town-wide seat can be difficult to do without support.
“There is just too much for one person to do in a short amount of time.,” Rabin said, adding that the LWVA has developed a guidebook called “Running for Elective Office” in Amherst. “We hope it will be of help to all candidates, but particularly those throwing their hats in the ring for the first time,” Rabin said. The guidebook will be posted on the LWVA website soon. An LWVA forum on redistricting is set for April 29, and will feature former state Sen. Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst, and State Rep. Michael Moran, D-Boston, who chairs the House Redistricting Committee.