All about Western Mass elections

Source: Western Mass Politics and Insight, June 11, 2020

While some campaign activities remain on ice. One thing that marches forward unabated is the ballot itself. Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin has released his office’s list of candidates who have qualified for the September 1 Democratic and Republican ballots. As expected, there will be several contested races in the 413. More unusual is Republicans have contested primaries, too.

Before the shroud of the coronavirus fell, the region was assured to have three open rep races. John Velis election to the state Senate left four open races. Two will be competitive in the general and the Democratic primary is tantamount to election in the other two. Republican contested primaries include one with an incumbent rep and another that will have a chance to nab Velis’ old House seat.

The Secretary’s online records only show primary candidates. Non-party or unenrolled candidates have until mid-summer to file for the November general election.

While, much of the action will be state rep races, the Senate is not completely left out of the fun.

In a November rematch for full term, Velis will face his special election opponent, Republican John Cain, a Southwick businessowner. The Westfield Democrat beat Cain in a May 17 election to fill the 2nd Hampden & Hampshire Senate seat. It became vacant when Don Humason resigned to took office as mayor of Westfield. Neither Cain nor Velis have opposition in their respective primaries.

In the Hampden Senate election, West Springfield Senator James Welch faces fellow Democrat Adam Gomez. A thrice-elected councilor from Springfield’s Ward 1, Gomez announced his primary challenge earlier this year. Welch is seeking a sixth two-year term. The district covers West Springfield, pockets of Chicopee and two-thirds of Springfield.

The only other Senate race affecting the 413 is on its periphery. Democratic Senator Anne Gobi, who represents the eastern fringes of Hampden and Hampshire County, will face her 2018 opponent Steven Hall in a rematch.

The region’s other senators face no opposition in the primary or general elections. Democratic Senators Jo Comerford, Adam Hinds and Eric Lesser have free rides back to Boston, unless a write-in wins another party’s primary. That is a welcome switch for Comerford, who hustled her way into office as a write-in two years ago.

Barring write-in campaigns against incumbents, nearly all contested House races will take place primarily in Hampden County. The exception is the 2nd Franklin House race. Athol native and army vet Will LaRose, a Democrat, is challenging Susannah Whipps, a former Republican who now sits as an independent.

Velis vacated the 4th Hampden too late in for a special to occur under House rules. However, a lively race could be forming to succeed him.

Daniel Allie, a Westfield city councilor and Velis’ vanquished foe from the special and regular elections of 2014, formally joined the race late. Another Republican, Kelly Pease, had already filed for the race with the Office of Campaign & Political Finance in December, correctly assuming Velis would win the special senate race. Allie did not file his paperwork with OCPF until it would have become impractical for Velis to switch gears and seek reelection to the House if the special senate election did not go well.

Allie has some advantage in the primary. He has name recognition after nearly seven years in the Whip City public eye. However, his eccentric persona and votes on the Council have not always endeared him to some in Westfield that prefer to carefully steer the boat rather than rock it.

Whether Allie or Pease is triumphant, they will not walk into the seat. An independent candidate, Ethan Flaherty, announced his bid in April.

Another late entrant was Democrat Matthew Garlo, a Siena College graduate and Velis campaign volunteer. Garlo has no primary, which will give him time to build up his name recognition in what could become a titanic battle for the Whip City’s exclusive rep seat.

In the neighboring 3rd Hampden District, Republican Nicholas Boldyga is no stranger to general election foes. Consisting of a string of towns—Agawam, Southwick and Tolland—the district was once reliably Democratic. Its decade-long lurch rightward has barricaded Boldyga, a fairly right-wing figure, against Dems’ efforts to extricate him.

Yet, Boldyga is not universally beloved, which may explain why Agawam City Councilor Dino Mercadante challenged him in the Republican primary. A cursory review of Mercadante’s social media channels suggests he is putting forward a less ideological image compared to Boldyga. If true, that would give this primary a sharper contrast compared to the Allies-Pease race.

The winner in that primary will face Democrat Kerri O’Connor, an Agawam School Committee member.

On one end is Patricia Duffy, Vega’s aide, who comes from the same reformist background that Vega did. On the other old-school machine side is Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley, the lesser-do-well like-named son of a former Massachusetts House Speaker. By comparison, Patrick Beaudry, public affairs manager for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, has feet in both worlds.Up in the Paper City, Vega’s retirement has yielded a three-way race that vaguely follows the city’s recent fractures. All three candidates are vying for the Democratic nomination. Nobody from the other parties has filed. Given how Democratic the Holyoke-centric 5th Hampden is, a candidacy of other parties would likely be folly.

This description, however, may be overly simplistic. Even without COVID-19, the race could be replete with surprises.

Downriver in Springfield, the open 9th Hampden race will also likely be decided in the primary. Perennial candidate Robert Underwood has filed as an unenrolled general election candidate according to records with OCPF.

Still, the arch-Democratic district, which includes much of 16 Acres and Hungry Hill, the cradle of political Springfield Hibernia, is likely to go to whomever wins the primary. At-large School Committee member Denise Hurst, Ward 2 Democratic chair Sean Mullan and Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos are on the ballot for the primary.

In the 9th Hampden, the candidates all come from different parts of Springfield, which brings various advantages. They can each also lay claim to different fragments of the political landscape. Whoever builds broadest has the best shot on September 1.

In the nearby 7th Hampden district, which covers Ludlow and parts of Belchertown (actually in Hampshire County), Chicopee and Springfield, there are no primary contests. Ludlow School Committee member Jake Oliveira had been preparing for a race against fellow Democrat John DaCruz. However, DaCruz did not ultimately file.

Now, Oliveira can focus on his general election opponent and School Committee colleague James “Chip” Harrington. Outside Westfield’s race, the 7th Hampden is the only other rep seat in the 413 that could flip Republican this year. The seat still tilts Democratic, but Harrington, a former Democrat who also ran for senate seat, is well-known in his and Oliveira’s native Ludlow.

Oliveira has plenty of local name recognition, too. He can also lean on the district’s more reflexively Democratic territory Belchertown and Springfield.

The last contested race is in the 11th Hampden, a shuriken-shaped district in the middle of Springfield. Anchored in Springfield’s historically black neighborhoods, its current occupant is Democrat Bud Williams. His Republican opponent is Prince Golphin, Jr. Though Williams has had his ups and downs in city politics, only divine intervention could pry this seat from Democratic control.

All other Western Massachusetts reps face no opposition. That includes the entire Berkshire and Hampshire delegations, 1st Franklin Rep Natalie Blais, Hampden Reps, Todd Smola, Brian Ashe, Michael Finn, Joseph Wagner, Carlos Gonzalez and Angelo Puppolo. All are Democrats except Smola, the 413’s only other Republican rep aside from Boldyga.

The filing report confirms Holyoke Mayor Alex More’s challenge to Springfield Congressman Richard Neal in the state 1st Congressional district. No Republican has filed for the district, though independents have time. Worcester Congressman James McGovern, whose represents some of the Upper Valley, has Republican opposition in Tracy Lovvorn. Both McGovern’s district and the 1st are too Democratic to make a GOP flip practical.

On the Democratic US Senate ballot are incumbent Senator Ed Markey and Newton Congressman Joseph Kennedy, III. Their Republican general election opponent will be either Kevin O’Connor and Shiva Ayyadurai. Ayyadurai ran a quixotic third-party bid against Elizabeth Warren in 2018.

The only other contested race in Western Massachusetts is the Democratic primary for Hampden Register of Probate. Longtime register employee Rosemary Saccomani faces perennial candidate Robert Collamore. The winner will face unenrolled candidate Lori Landers-Carvalho. Incumbent Suzanne Seguin is retiring.