The executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce has announced her candidacy for state representative in the 1st Franklin District.
Natalie M. Blais of Sunderland, a Democrat, said her priorities include broadband availability, transportation, affordable housing and workforce development. She cited other state representatives who inspired her to run.
“I’ve chosen to enter this race at this time because I’ve seen the impact that public servants like State Representative Ellen Story, Stephen Kulik, John Scibak, and Peter Kocot had on their district,” she said on Sunday. “I’ve had the pleasure of working for some really visionary leaders.”
Blais is believed to be the second person to announce a run for the seat currently held by Kulik, a Democrat from Worthington, who recently announced that he would not seek re-election this year after serving since 1993. Kate Albright-Hanna, a Democrat from Huntington, announced her candidacy last week.
Blais entered politics 20 years ago because she wanted to advocate on the behalf of those who didn’t have a voice. She began by working with then-Congressman Bernie Sanders. She was also a congressional aide to representatives Olver and McGovern.
She expressed concern that rural communities often go unnoticed, and promised she would make sure that “rural people have a voice.”
“I think it’ll take a strong voice in Boston to advocate for the needs of rural people,” she said.
She also called for more women to get into politics and be “at the table” when policies are being drafted.
“We need it,” she said of broadband internet. “It’s critical for not only the workforce but for children, too.”
As for infrastructure, Blais worked behind the scenes to get enhanced service for the Amtrak line that runs along the Connecticut River.
“Right now, we’re looking at additional service in the form of additional trains,” she said. “I’m hopeful if elected, I could get back into that issue and ensure that we have those opportunities available.”
Blais also expressed concern for rural public transportation systems.
“We have to ensure that people without cars can get to their jobs or go to the doctor,” she said. “It’s a critical need for us.”
She also voiced her support for small business, including local farms.
“(Local farms) play an important role in our economy and are the keepers of our scenic area,” she said.
Public accessibility to representatives is important to Blais, especially since the politicians she’s previously worked with found this important, too.
“I think that all of the people I’ve worked for have put a real premium on being responsive to their constituents,” she recalled. “It would be important for me to carry on that legacy of constituent services. I would absolutely make that a priority if elected.”
A campaign kick-off event for Blais will be held later in the spring. She says she “looks forward to talking with residents and getting to know what’s on their minds.”
“Government can be good and it can do good things for people,” she said. “I hope to be able to show people that good government is possible and that we are the keepers of good government.”
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