|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD The race is on.
With the announcement that State Senator Brian Lees would not seek re-election only an hour old, Ronald Hastie, a member of the Republican State Committee, said that the search for a candidate to replace Lees was already underway.
The Longmeadow resident said Republican officials will be looking at people within the district who have served in elected office in the past as possible candidates. These people are being sought because of their experience in running a campaign, he explained.
Hastie said that Lees's announcement on Thursday afternoon "came as a surprise," although he had a suspicion that Lees would not run for re-election.
Hastie said the Republicans hold "precious few seats in the Senate, and to lose one would be a catastrophe."
Lees has served for 18 years and has been the Minority Leader in the Senate since his third term.
Lees conducted the press conference in his district office in Indian Orchard. Amidst dozens of photographs and memorabilia from his time in the Senate, Lees explained that he never considered the position "a life- time job."
"It will always belong to the people in the district," he said.
While he is not closing the door on the future, he emphasized that he has no plans at this time beyond completing the rest of his term. He said that he wanted some new challenges in his life.
He said that while he had been on a "short list" twice before for a shot at the lieutenant governor candidacy, that he had turned the opportunity down and that he was not running for the position now.
He said, "I loved working in the private sector and I loved working in the public sector."
When asked, he didn't rule out a run for the mayor's office in Springfield or a bid for a congressional seat.
He said that of his many accomplishments "nothing gave me more satisfaction" than working on the state's tax structure ensuring fair and equitable rates for all the Commonwealth's citizens.
Lees said that he is aware that his departure might weaken the Republican Party further in the Legislature and said he thought there were two or three Republicans who might seek the seat as well as one or two Democrats. He added that although one "never knows what is going to happen," some of his staff might run for the office.
"It's important to have balance [between the political parties]," he said.
Robert Collamore, a Springfield insurance agent who ran against State Representative Gale Candaras during the last two elections for that seat, told Reminder Publications Friday that he is seriously considering a bid for either a state rep seat or the state senator position depending upon who else enters the race.