Election Day 2016: Local races to watch

Sheriff, legislative races will be bringing out voters

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The presidential race is not the only thing that will be drawing voters into the booths on Election Day. All seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate are up for election this year, and though not all of them are contested, there are some open seats and competitive races. Voters in Hampden and Hampshire Counties, meanwhile, will also elect new sheriffs this year. 22News is working for you with a look at some of the local races to watch on Tuesday night.

Hampden County Sheriff

Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe has decided to retire after 42 years in office, and shortly after he announced his retirement, Ludlow Democrat Nick Cocchi announced his candidacy. Cocchi won a contentious three-way primary back in September to secure his party’s nomination. Both Cocchi and independent James Gill of Wilbraham have been running television advertisements and posting lawn signs across the county, while Bondsville Republican John Comerford has been running a more low-key campaign. Comerford overcame a write-in challenger in September to secure his spot on the final ballot.

Hampshire County Sheriff

As is the case in neighboring Hampden County, Hampshire County’s sheriff, Robert Garvey, is retiring after a decades-long career. Running to replace him are Northampton Democrat Patrick Cahillane and South Hadley Republican David Isakson. Like Cocchi in Hampden County, Cahillane landed on the November ballot after winning a three-way Democratic primary in September.

Massachusetts Senate – 1st Hampden and Hampshire District

First-term State Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) is facing a challenge from a man he first faced in a Democratic primary two years ago. Ludlow School Committee member James “Chip” Harrington has switched his party allegiance to the GOP. Arguably the most high-profile of local legislative races, the 1st Hampden and Hampshire race has featured television commercials and some big-name endorsements. Lesser secured the support of his former boss- President Barack Obama, as well as U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. Harrington has been touting the support of popular Governor Charlie Baker. The district is politically diverse, including sections of heavily-Democratic Springfield, as well as more Republican-friendly communities such as Hampden, Wilbraham, and East Longmeadow. It also incorporates several communities that tend to vote Democratic for presidential elections but Republican in high-profile statewide races. These include the candidates’ hometowns of Longmeadow and Ludlow, as well as Granby and Belchertown, and the city of Chicopee- portions of which are located in the district.

Massachusetts Senate – 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District

First elected in a special election in 2013, Westfield Republican Don Humason is seeking his second full term in the Massachusetts Senate. He is being challenged by Southampton Democrat J.D. Parker-O’Grady. Like the 1st Hampden and Hampshire District, the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire is politically diverse, including the reliably Democratic cities of Holyoke and Easthampton, as well as reliably Republican towns including Southwick, Granville, Tolland, Russell, and Montgomery. Humason’s home city of Westfield is the most populous community in the district, and tends to vote Democratic for president, but Republican for governor and has gone to the GOP candidate in recent U.S. Senate races. The same is true for Parker-O’Grady’s hometown of Southampton, and the town of Agawam, the third most populous community in the district. The 2nd Hampden and Hampshire also includes portions of Chicopee’s Aldenville, Fairview, and Willimansett neighborhoods.

Massachusetts Senate – Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden District

The Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden District is geographically the largest legislative district in the Commonwealth; incorporating all of Berkshire County, and wide portions of western Hampshire and Franklin County, as well as the Hampden County towns of Blandford and Chester. The district is currently represented by Sen. Benjamin Downing, who is retiring. Running to replace him are Pittsfield Democrat Adam Hinds and Lanesborough Republican Christine Canning. While Canning went unchallenged for her party’s nomination, Hinds had to fight his way through a contentious three-way primary in September. The district tends to be strongly Democratic, with Democrats tending to win elections by strong margins in the population centers of Pittsfield, North Adams, and Adams; even in races that the party has lost statewide. Only Blandford, Chester, Huntington, Monroe, and Rowe have gone to the GOP in any recent presidential or gubernatorial elections.

Massachusetts Senate – Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Middlesex District

Another one of the largest districts in the state, the Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Middlesex District includes a large swath of central and western Massachusetts. Spencer Democrat Anne Gobi is seeking a second term in the Senate, after serving for many years in the House of Representatives. She is being challenged by Sturbridge attorney James Ehrhard, a former member of the Tantasqua Regional School Committee. Gobi won the seat narrowly in 2014, and the district is one of the most Republican-leaning in the state, for both presidential and statewide elections. Local communities in the district include Brimfield, Holland, Monson, Palmer, Wales, and Ware.

Massachusetts House – 3rd Hampden District

When Agawam Democrat Richard Theroux dropped out this summer, it appeared that three-term Rep. Nick Boldyga (R-Southwick) would be cruising to re-election, but a write-in effort turned this into a contested race. The woman who Boldyga unseated in 2010, former Rep. Rosemary Sandlin, gathered more than enough write-in votes on primary day to secure a spot on the November ballot. Sandlin has since then run a high-profile campaign, even running television advertisements. The district includes all precincts in Sandlin’s hometown of Agawam, as well as Boldyga’s hometown of Southwick, and the neighboring town of Granville.

Massachusetts House – 3rd Berkshire District

Pittsfield Democrat Tricia Farley-Bouvier is looking to win a third term in the House of Representatives, but had to fight for her party’s nomination to do so, winning a close primary battle in September. She is facing City Councilor Christopher Connell in Tuesday’s race. Connell is running as an independent. The 3rd Berkshire District includes all of Pittsfield except for Ward 1 Precinct B.

Local Ballot Questions (Question 5)

Several western Massachusetts communities have additional questions on their ballots Tuesday- including Community Preservation Act (CPA) authorizations. Passing these ballot questions will result in a surcharge on residents’ property tax bills, which will be used to fund historic preservation, open space, or affordable housing. Communities voting on CPA authorization are: Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield, Palmer, and South Hadley.

In West Springfield, voters will be deciding whether to increase the length of the mayor’s term from the current two years to four years. Similar measures have passed in neighboring Holyoke and Springfield.

Amherst will be voting on a debt-exclusion question to build a new elementary school on the Wildwood School site, while voters in town (and also in Pelham and portions of Granby) will also be voting on a non-binding question on whether they support lowering the drinking age for beer and wine from 21 down to 19.

Hatfield residents will vote on a proposition 2 ½ override to allow funding for the second phase of their Town Hall restoration, while voters in Lee will decide whether to establish a dedicated funding source for the maintenance, improvements, or investments to their water infrastructure.

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