Pittsfield — Democratic primary candidate and lawyer Rinaldo Del Gallo III told supporters at his campaign announcement last night that he’s already demonstrated he’s got what it takes to be a state senator, and that he’s the one of the three candidates who, as a “Bernie Sanders progressive,” can make changes that will lift the middle and lower classes up and out of economic quicksand.
Del Gallo is one of three Democrats and one Republican to qualify for the ballot after getting the required 300 signatures by May 31.
All the progressive ideas out there, including his own, he said, are “just talk” without being “able to get at the money of the super rich.”
And this is where his lockstep with Sanders comes in. “The top 1 percent has as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent,” he told a nodding audience of about 30 supporters at the Shire City Sanctuary space in the former Notre Dame Church on Melville Street. And it is from this “income disparity,” he added, that “everything” in his campaign platform “flows.”
“I think I can get jobs here,” he said. “I think I have a real chance; I have a real name.”
Del Gallo, 53, of Lenox, is referring to his name recognition in the Berkshires, mostly in Pittsfield, land of Italian-American immigrants who prospered here as factory workers or as one of “the teams of workers” who, back in the day, headed to the General Electric Company every morning, workers who made a good life back when living was simple, and there were still men who could “rip a deck of cards in two,” like one of his uncles, but were always properly mannered and well dressed.
Pittsfield-born and bred, Del Gallo’s Uncle Reymo is one of the city’s former mayors. Del Gallo’s family owned Del Gallo’s Restaurant, which began decades earlier as a pool hall as soon as prohibition ended.
He says his upbringing inspires him to make Pittsfield “a gateway city” for immigrants “to come here and then move on to the middle class.”
Del Gallo, who earlier in life was an electrical engineer, worked on Trident submarines at GE, then went to George Washington School of Law in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve done a fantastic amount of pro bono work,” Del Gallo said. Indeed, he is known around the Berkshires for it, from First Amendment battles to the war on plastic bags and Styrofoam; he won a ban in Pittsfield, helped with one in Lee, and inspired one in Williamstown. He is presently, he said, helping a farmer fight off a developer. “They want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” Del Gallo said, quoting Joni Mitchell.
“He’s more concerned about justice then he his about making money,” said Jim Martin, whom Del Gallo helped in his capacity with fatherhood rights law, for which Del Gallo has done a lot of free and reduced-fee work. Del Gallo said he had put “100 hours” into Martin’s case.
Del Gallo started the Berkshire County chapter of the Fatherhood Coalition, a national organization “working to promote shared parenting and to end the discrimination faced by divorced and unwed fathers,” according to its website. He said his passion for this issue is what “propelled him into the fatherhood rights movement.” Del Gallo added. Without elaborating, he said that he didn’t see his son “for 6 years.”
“Without being asked or paid,” said supporter and former Berkshire Eagle managing editor Grier Horner, Del Gallo helped his neighborhood fend off developers by “knocking the legal footing out” from under them. Horner said Del Gallo wants to “ease the stranglehold the rich have on us.”
Del Gallo said he is working on a petition to support transgender rights in Pittsfield, and will continue that fight in the senate if elected. He supports the decriminalization of marijuana, along with changes to the economy as a crime-reduction method rather than an increase in law enforcement presence or the building of more prisons.
He wants the state to be like the 30 other states with a graduated income tax, he said, and supports amending the state constitution to do this. He supports a millionaires tax, and wants the state’s property tax “circuit breaker” to apply to those with low incomes rather than just the elderly. He wants a $15 minimum wage, and universal healthcare and free or reduced higher education.
He said he had been opposed to the Northeast Direct (NED) natural gas pipeline project, which is now dead, and also the Connecticut Expansion Project gas storage loop set to cut through state-owned land in Sandisfield and now in the appeals process. He favors bioremediation for the Housatonic River cleanup and high speed rail to Boston.
But again, he said, all these ideas will go nowhere without removing some green from that 1 percent of Americans who are rolling in it.
He admits to his rabble-rousing in these parts. “I’m not always controversial,” he said, noting his prolific editorial and letter-writing tendencies that have gotten him extensively published in newspapers all over the place. “I don’t write many negative things about people.
“I am cordial with the Pittsfield City Council,” he added.
He took tiny swipes at two of his opponents, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Executive Director Adam Hinds, of Pittsfield, and lawyer Andrea Harrington, of Richmond, saying Hinds had only just moved back here while Del Gallo himself was getting real work done, and that Harrington has been “quiet,” other than about her work on the board of Berkshares. He did not mention Republican candidate Christine Canning of Lanesborough, however.
Del Gallo said all his free legal work and local policy change initiatives show he’s looking out for the little guy, and ultimately everyone.
“I have a very big heart and that’s what I want to be known for,” he said.