Three Western Mass. Counties Face Primary Battles for Register of Deeds

The Massachusetts Primary is tomorrow, with a lower profile position up for grabs in Franklin, Hampshire, and Berkshire counties in Western Massachusetts.

The Register of Deeds has been an elected official in Massachusetts for over a hundred years, according to secretary of state William Galvin. Each county in Massachusetts has at least one, though some counties, like Berkshire, have as many as three. Galvin says the person in this role primarily registers and maintains property records.

“For most people, their most valuable possession is their home. Obviously protecting the title to it and making sure the rights to it are protected is something that’s very important.”

Galvin says his office is working with registers of deeds across the state to continue to modernize record-keeping in the digital era. Marianne Donohue is the former register of deeds for Hampshire County. She says the most regular users of the registry of deeds are attorneys, title examiners, genealogists, and the general public.

“It’s a very low profile job. It’s one that in my opinion should remain elected because I think it’s very important that the people of the county have a say as to who is the librarian, so to speak, of their records.”

There are contested Democratic primaries for the Hampshire, Franklin, and Middle Berkshire Registers of Deeds, and no contested Republican primaries. Hampshire county Democratic candidates are Bonnie MacCracken, Mary Olberding, and Timothy O’Leary, who will run in the general election against independent George Zimmerman. In Franklin County, Democrat Scott Cote is challenging incumbent Joseph Gochinski. And for Middle Berkshire, Patsy Harris, Jody Phillips, and Scott Pignatelli are vying for the democratic nomination.