By BRIAN GELINAS
ADN Staff Reporter
ATHOL — Part-time resident and former Republican candidate for state representative Bob Parks was interviewed recently, while in town, by an Australian production company shooting a documentary on the downturn in President Barack Obama’s popularity and the “Scott Brown effect” on American politics.
The main portion of the interview, conducted by video journalist Aaron Lewis, was filmed at AOTV studios in Athol, with some outside footage being shot around town. The documentary is being produced as part of Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service’s “Dateline” program (not to be confused with the American NBC news program of the same name).
The show is to air this month in Australia, and Parks, whose primary residence is in Manassas, Va., will be sending a DVD copy of the program to AOTV for airing on the local public access channel.
While in town, Parks took time out to discuss all things political, including the current race to fill the seat for state representative for the 2nd Franklin County District (currently held by Democrat Christopher Donelan, of Orange, and who is not running for re-election), and Brown’s election to the U.S. Senate.
Parks said that, during his own campaign against Donelan, he was tempted to ask him if he planned to leave the state legislature after attaining pension eligibility, or if he would pledge to the people who put him in office that he would not seek election as sheriff of Franklin County.
Parks said a reliable source had told him that was Donelan’s intent, but he chose not to call him on it, because “I didn’t know if the question would rub voters the wrong way, and would be seen as a personal attack.”
In hindsight, Parks said he wished he had posed the question, but noted, “it’s one of those what-ifs.”
Parks, who comments on all things political and more on his Web site Black & Right (www.black-and-right.com), said he doesn’t see that the district has improved much since his move south, and noted that the upside of Donelan’s decision to not seek re-election is that the “district will get some new blood and, hopefully, new blood that isn’t self-serving.”
Parks said he fully expects that the person elected to Donelan’s seat “will be an independent thinker and one who doesn’t think waiting for Boston to help [the district] is the way to go.”
He added that whoever wins the race should take a page from his own political play book and personally approach business executives and invite them to the area to show them what is available as a means to boost economic development in the region.
“The North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce does what it can, but [there is a need to be] aggressive, and a state representative has the clout to open doors,” he said.
He added the focus should be on high-tech companies and others that attract young people and offer internships. Of the area’s younger generation, Parks said, “We need to give them more to aspire to than what is here. I would hope the new representative would get personal about economic development, and not leave it to state policy.”
Parks said one of the things that is going to work against such an effort if undertaken is the fact a program to create economic opportunity zones is being done away with by the Obama Administration and Beacon Hill. Such a program works to bring economic development to areas most in need. “Both administrations are not business-friendly,” he said.
Whether or not a Republican can win the district remains to be seen, but Parks feels it’s an uphill battle. “Personally, I don’t think Ronald Reagan could win here,” he said.
In support of his belief, he points to the fact Brown lost to Martha Coakley in the district, which includes the towns of Athol, Orange, Erving, Gill, Greenfield and Wendell. However, of those towns, Athol and Orange went to Brown, and Parks sees that as hopeful, but noted, “Voters in Athol and Orange see realities [the other towns] don’t. At some point, you have to stop voting against your own self interests.”
During his own campaign, Parks told supporters and others that if they wanted change they had to vote for it, but if they liked the status quo then they shouldn’t complain. He said he still hears complaints when he’s in the area.
For Parks’ in-depth opinion on the district’s voting results and political tendencies, read his Black & Right posting on the topic: My Massachusetts District Didn’t Learn A Thing.
While Parks appreciates what Brown was able to accomplish, he said he is “not a big fan of Brown.” In fact, when being interviewed for this article in mid-February, he even suggested Brown might be swayed to vote with Democrats on certain issues, an observation which has since proved itself true.
Parks said that the election of Brown and of Republican candidates in New Jersey and Virginia seems to have Democrats dumbfounded. “They seem to be totally mystified by the results,” he said.
He added that he takes issue with Democrats claiming that Bush winning the presidency with 51 percent of the vote equated to the country being strictly divided, while Obama taking 53 percent means their party has a mandate. “That’s sort of illustrative of the arrogance of Democrats,” he said.
Parks said he feels that Democrats are mostly out of touch with voters. To support his claim, he cites the fact poll results have shown voters largely against the proposed health care bill, yet “they don’t seem to listen and continue to ram down a bill nobody wants in [its current] form.”
Another example he cited was Coakley’s statement regarding former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, which was made during her campaign and accused him of being a Yankees fan. “You’d have to be on another planet not to know about the New York-Boston rivalry,” he said. “I think the remark was the final nail, and shows an elitism that puts people off.”
In contrast, Parks noted how Brown was out in front of the Garden in Boston talking with fans after a Bruins hockey game during his run for office.
Regarding his own political aspirations, Parks, who currently works as a video producer with the Media Research Center in Alexandria, Va., says if he were still a full-time resident in town he would consider running again for state representative.
A frequent guest on radio and TV programs, he said he has also been asked to run for political office in other states, including Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. To date, he has declined to do so.
Although he is unable to run for the 2nd Franklin County seat, and he lives over 400 miles away, his concern for the district remains solid and genuine. “I would do anything I could to help with economic development in the district, if I were asked,” he said. “I know people in Washington, but I don’t want to step on any toes.”