BOSTON (State House News Service) – The attention and money in Massachusetts politics has largely flowed to the race for governor, a few other statewide offices and the four public policy questions on the November ballot.
That’s partially because most House and Senate incumbents are expected to coast back to their Beacon Hill seats. But a number of competitive races are drawing some localized heat, along with battles for seats left open by the departures of legislators such as Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) and Rep. Cleon Turner (D-Dennis).
Much of the electoral action appears to be in the Senate, where Republicans hope to match, or at least come close to, the gains made by their House colleagues in 2010 when they doubled their caucus after years of few to no gains.
There are 91 contested races – 71 for House seats and 20 in Senate districts. Four open Senate seats and 14 open seats in the House mean the 40-member upper chamber and the 160-member lower chamber will see fresh faces in January, regardless of Tuesday’s outcomes. The GOP currently holds 29 House seats and four Senate seats.
Some of the races to watch on Nov. 4 include:
WORCESTER AND NORFOLK SENATE DISTRICT: Sen. Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) is facing a fierce challenge from Rep. Ryan Fattman, a Webster Republican who decided to give up his House seat to run against an incumbent whose service on Beacon Hill dates back to the 1970s. Considered one of the key architects of the state’s health care reform law, Moore is the Senate’s president pro tem and served nine terms in the House before taking a break in 1994 to work in the Clinton administration as associate director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Fattman, a sophomore lawmaker, has hit Moore on a vote for a 2013 law that raised gas and tobacco taxes. The race has split the state GOP, with former Gov. Bill Weld backing Moore, and Fattman receiving support from Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker, who won swathes of Moore’s district during his first gubernatorial run in 2010. Politics is a family affair for Fattman in this election cycle: His wife Stephanie is running for Worcester County register of probate and facing Shrewsbury Democrat Stephen Abraham.
WORCESTER, HAMPDEN, HAMPSHIRE & MIDDLESEX SENATE DISTRICT (BREWER SEAT): Rep. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) and Michael Valanzola (R-Wales) are on the ballot for a seat that opened due to Sen. Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) opting against running for reelection. Brewer has served in the area, the state’s second largest Senate district, since 1996. The seat is located in a Republican-leaning district, which stretches from the New Hampshire border to the Connecticut border.
PLYMOUTH & BARNSTABLE SENATE DISTRICT (MURRAY SEAT): Rep. Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) is facing former Rep. Matt Patrick (D-Falmouth), with Bourne libertarian Heather Mullins also on the ballot for Senate President Murray’s seat. The district, which Murray has represented since 1992, is considered Republican-friendly and Beacon Hill insiders view deMacedo as the favorite in the race to replace her. The Cape Cod Times reported in October that Murray is “staying far away” from the race to succeed her, while making a campaign trip to New Hampshire against Scott Brown, a former U.S. senator from the Bay State who is mounting a run against U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. The newspaper also noted that deMacedo did not endorse Murray’s Republican challenger, Thomas Keyes, in 2010 and 2012. Asked by the News Service earlier this month whether she is voting for Patrick, Murray said, “I think when you vote, it’s a secret, isn’t it? And I’m a Democrat, remember that, no matter what the Cape Cod Times wants to say.”
FIRST HAMPDEN AND HAMPSHIRE SENATE DISTRICT (CANDARAS SEAT): Former Obama White House aide Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow), Debra Boronski (R-East Longmeadow) and America First candidate Michael Franco of Holyoke are vying for outgoing Sen. Gale Candaras’s seat. Lesser won a five-way Democratic primary in September. Boronski has criticized Lesser’s fundraising, pointing to checks from current and former top Obama White House officials. According to MassLive, Lesser has defended the donations, saying he has received support inside and outside the district, “an indication of strong momentum, and the desire people have for new ideas and a new approach.” Lesser has raised $382,452 between January and Oct. 17, and spent $339,642 in the same period, according to campaign finance reports. Boronski has raised $83,389 and has spent $64,321 this year. Click here to watch video of the candidates’ debate on 22News. Candaras (D-Wilbraham) is running for Hampden county register of probate. She is on the ballot with Westfield independent Suzanne Seguin.
SECOND ESSEX & MIDDLESEX SENATE DISTRICT (FINEGOLD SEAT): Former Rep. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) and Selectman Alex Vispoli (R-Andover) are fighting for Sen. Barry Finegold’s seat. Finegold, an Andover Democrat, gave up his seat to run for state treasurer but was knocked out in the primary. “The campaign…has gotten ugly,” the Eagle-Tribune newspaper reported last week. “In fact, it’s been ugly for weeks, ever since someone ‘leaked’ a document to The Eagle-Tribune pointing fingers at L’Italien for not paying her taxes to the state Department of Revenue.” The newspaper also reported that the Massachusetts Democratic Party has sent out mailers saying Vispoli raised taxes as a selectman and adding, “Don’t send taxman Alex Vispoli to Beacon Hill.”
SIXTEENTH ESSEX HOUSE DISTRICT: William Lantigua, the controversial former mayor of Lawrence, is looking to return to his old House seat, currently held by Democratic Rep. Marcos Devers. They both face Republican Roger Twomey. Dan Rivera, who narrowly defeated Lantigua in the 2013 race for mayor, is aiding Devers. But the Eagle-Tribune reported last week Lantigua, who left the Democratic Party and is running as an unenrolled candidate, is leading both Twomey and Devers in fundraising. Devers won the seat in a special election after Lantigua stepped down in 2010 and backed him. Lantigua had unsuccessfully attempted to hold both the office of mayor and state representative at the time. Devers was one of the candidates who ran against Lantigua in 2013.
SECOND FRANKLIN HOUSE DISTRICT: The battle between incumbent Rep. Denise Andrews (D-Orange) and Susannah Whipps Lee (R-Athol) spilled onto Beacon Hill this week, as an $86 million supplemental budget made its way to the governor’s desk. Andrews, first elected in 2011, blasted Republicans in a Friday release, saying they were holding up a budget bill that included an earmark for a “vital” Templeton Senior Center. House Minority Leader Brad Jones blasted back, saying, “While I understand it is Halloween I do not find it a treat for Representative Andrews to accuse me of blocking a bill that she didn’t even show up at the State House to advocate for” or to vote on. The final bill sent to the governor, instead of including that earmark and some others, sets up a $2 million fund. Whipps Lee previously lost a three-way race against Andrews, and in this election gets a chance at a one-on-one match.
FIRST BARNSTABLE HOUSE DISTRICT (TURNER SEAT): Dennis lawyer Elisa Zawadzkas, a Democrat, faces off against retired state police sergeant Timothy Whelan, a Brewster Republican. Retiring Rep. Turner has represented the district for ten years. Zawadzkas won a three-way primary in September, and both candidates are making their first bids for public office. Zawadzkas has raised $35,830 and spent $23,207 this year, while Whelan has raised $58,981 and spent $68,926 in the same period, according to campaign finance reports. Turner is backing Zawadzkas.
SECOND BRISTOL HOUSE DISTRICT: Incumbent Rep. Paul Heroux (D-Attleboro) is on the ballot with Bert Buckley (R-Attleboro) in a district that appears to flip back and forth between Democrats and Republicans in each election cycle. Heroux won the seat when he ran against incumbent George Ross, a Republican, in 2012, and Ross had beaten a Democrat, incumbent Bill Bowles, in 2010. Ross and Bowles had previously faced off in 2008, when Republican Rep. John Lepper decided to retire after 14 years in the seat.
THIRTY-FIRST MIDDLESEX HOUSE DISTRICT (LEWIS SEAT): Caroline Colarusso (R-Stoneham) and Michael Day (D-Stoneham) are competing for the open seat created by Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) winning the Fifth Middlesex Senate seat in a special election earlier this year. It’s another race that former Gov. Weld has waded into, endorsing Day, who had worked at Mintz Levin, the same firm that currently employs Weld. Weld said Day, a former Middlesex County prosecutor, could work “across party lines.” In a recent forum, Colarusso slammed “one-party rule” on Beacon Hill, saying “no one is held accountable,” according to Wicked Local Stoneham. Colarusso also criticized donations Day received from former colleagues at Mintz Levin, the news site reported.
For WBUR/State House News Service podcasts on the House and Senate races, go to: http://www.wbur.org/series/poll-vault.
[Mike Deehan and Andy Metzger contributed reporting.]