The Republican endorses Nick Cocchi in the Democratic preliminary election for Hampden County sheriff.
The preliminary vote will be held Thursday, Sept. 8. Voters should take note of the unusual Thursday scheduling, which was determined so that citizens would not have to vote on the Tuesday immediately following Labor Day.
The sheriff's race has attracted plenty of attention for many reasons. Foremost is that after 42 years on the job, highly acclaimed and innovative Sheriff Michael Ashe is retiring.
Ashe's legacy has become part of the campaign dialogue because Cocchi is the retiring sheriff's endorsed choice as his successor. Predictable to a political campaign, some Ashe policies and practices have come under review or question.
That is not the case, however, with an impressive list of local, regional and national law enforcement officials who say the Ashe tenure will go down as a pioneering and groundbreaking record of public service and accomplishment, particularly in identifying rehabilitation as a crucial element to the penal justice system.
If Cocchi is indeed the "establishment candidate,'' as has been portrayed during this campaign, he represents an establishment that has served the needs of the county well, attracted acclaim from many quarters and does not require a disruption.
As for baggage among the candidates to replace Ashe, they all carry some. In some cases, it's the carry-on variety; in others, it would require a separate weigh-in at Bradley.
Cocchi, Springfield City Council member Tom Ashe (who is of no relation to the retiring sheriff) and Governor's Council member and former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano are entered on the Democratic side. Cocchi brings the most complete and impressive set of credentials to the table.
His 23 years of experience at all levels of the correctional field include direct work with inmates and the designing of rehabilitation programs. Under Sheriff Ashe's administration, and with Cocchi's years-long involvement, Hampden County's progressive attitudes toward rehabilitation and re-entry into society have been used as a model for other systems, without compromising the punitive aspect necessary to maintaining a county jail.
Cocchi's candidacy carries pledges of expansion and modernization of practices already in place. He promises a review of programs and staffing strategies and improvement in many areas, notably technology.
Tom Ashe and Albano also brings experience to the table, though not quite to Cocchi's degree. He has the savvy to handle the necessary political responsibilities of the position.
The Democratic preliminary victor will face Republican John Comerford and non-party candidate James Gill in the November election. Based on his proven record of top-to-bottom experience in the field of corrections, the Republican feels Cocchi should get that chance.