LUDLOW — Two years ago, Republican James “Chip” Harrington narrowly failed in a hotly contested race for state representative in Hampden’s 7th District, losing to Democrat Jake Oliveira by 134 votes to 22,122 votes cast.
The neighborhood has been reconfigured following the 2020 US Census and Harrington, 54, hopes the change will do him good. Hampden’s 7th District will now include the towns of Belchertown, Pelham, Shutesbury, Ludlow, New Salem, Petersham and Wendell. Oliveira is running for the state Senate seat vacated by Sen. Eric Lesser, and Harrington’s Democratic opponent in the race is Aaron Saunders of Belchertown. The state election is Nov. 8.
Harrington was born and raised in Ludlow, where he still resides today. After graduating from Ludlow High School in 1986, he continued his education at Holyoke Community College before transferring to Westfield State College (now University), where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.
“At the time, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department was building a new jail and it was to be located in my hometown of Ludlow. So after I graduated, I needed a job and I applied and started working as a corrections officer, after going to the academy,” he recounted. “Now, 30 years later, I’m still in corrections.”
Harrington left the Corrections Department for a time to work as an aide to State Representative Tom Petrolati, whom he attempted to succeed in 2020. While at Petrolati, he married and began raising a family , and decided he should go back to field corrections.
“I opened community correctional centers in Hampshire County and Berkshire County,” Harrington said. “I was the Program Services Coordinator for them for several years.”
Currently, he works for the Department of Corrections as a Program Manager in the Programs Division, writing programs for offenders preparing for release and reintegration into the community. His work, he says, gives him the ability to reduce recidivism. He is also a part-time officer for the Ludlow Police Department and is working on his Masters in Criminal Justice.
In the mid-1990s, Harrington served on Ludlow’s selection committee and for the past 18 years has been a member of the town’s school committee, serving as chairman for 10 of those years.
Asked about his motivation for running for state representative, Harrington said, “I believe strongly in public service and serving your community the best you can. Public service is kind of how I was raised. Growing up in the days when you had your family dinners, and there was always a discussion about the community and the things that were happening around town and around the state and country. I just have this love of public service in my blood. Some people are born to be worker bees and I’m one of them I guess.
As for the issues at the top of his list of priorities, Harrington referenced education.
“One of the things that I think we’re not doing well enough in Massachusetts is getting young people to really consider trades, vocational school,” he explained. “We do a great job talking about two- and four-year schools after high school — as we should — but we should do an equally good job talking about the benefits of vocational schools.
“Some of the smartest people I know are my mechanic and people who work with their hands,” Harrington continued. “I think we should be exposing young people – say, in college – to trades, and we’re not doing any of that right now.”
Harrington said a “sense of balance” was needed in Massachusetts politics.
“I run as a Republican,” he explained, “and I run as a moderate. To be frank, I don’t subscribe to this whole two-party system. I like to vote for people, not for the party. When I campaign, some people say, “I can’t vote for a Republican. So I say, ‘Let me tell you about myself.’
“In Massachusetts, I think we — the legislature, anyway — have become too party-oriented. The party dictates to our state government where we are going to go.
As an example, Harrington cited the Police Reform Act requiring all officers, including part-timers, to obtain a full-time certificate. This, he said, places an undue burden on part-time officers working other full-time jobs and creates additional expense for small-town police departments that rely almost entirely on part-time personnel. It also increases the reliance of small towns on state police.
Harrington also wants to be a voice for moderation in the Legislative Assembly, which he said has historically imposed excessive burdens on small businesses and taxpayers in Massachusetts.
Greg Vine can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.