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Massachusetts Dems look to build on big legislative margins



By Chris Lisinski

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, NOV. 7, 2022…..Whichever way the national currents pull in the midterms, Massachusetts Democrats feel confident they will perform relatively well in a state where voters have awarded them the entire Congressional delegation as well as veto-proof supermajorities in the state House and Senate.

But Tuesday’s election does not forecast an opportunity for too much growth on those already-massive margins, even with doubts echoing about Republican chances from those wired into GOP circles.

Democrats do not see much room to pick up seats in the Senate, where they hold 37 of 40 districts and might be vulnerable with Democrat Sen. Becca Rausch facing a potent challenge from Republican Rep. Shawn Dooley.

In the House, Democrats expect they will about retain their current margin — they started the 2021-2022 session with 129 of 160 seats — or maybe achieve a very small net gain.

Even if Democrats nationally are poised for a bruising fight that could result in loss of one or both chambers of Congress, the Bay State figures to be an outlier, and it’s not just Democrats broadcasting that opinion.

Columnist and talk show host Howie Carr, who frequently has Republicans as guests on his show, wrote last month that the MassGOP’s top of the ticket is “beyond hopeless” and urged voters to “get out and try to salvage some of the down-ballot races from the impending electoral carnage.”

“It’s strange how similarly 2022 seems to be shaping up to 1972 — a huge year for Republicans, except in one state, and guess what, it looks like it’s going to be the same state holding out this year as it was a half-century ago,” Carr wrote.

In 1972, President Richard Nixon won in a landslide and the GOP picked up 12 seats in the U.S. House, while Massachusetts Democrats expanded their margins in the state House and Senate.

Down-ballot Republicans with what Carr dubbed “tough fights” this cycle include Rep. David DeCoste of Norwell, who faces a challenge from Hanover Democrat Emmanuel Dockter, and Rep. Leonard Mirra of Georgetown, who will try to fend off Hamilton Democrat Kristin Kassner.

Democrat party insiders believe they might secure the North Shore district most recently represented by Republican Rep. James Kelcourse of Amesbury, where Newburyport Democrat Dawne Shand will face off against Salisbury Republican C.J. Fitzwater in a contest set by primary write-in campaigns.

They’re also optimistic that former Pepperell Select Board Chair Margaret Scarsdale can flip a seat formerly held by Groton Republican Rep. Sheila Harrington, though Carr also said he thinks Townsend Republican Andrew Shepherd can beat Scarsdale and independent Catherine Lundeen given the district’s past voting patterns.

On the other end, Democrats are worried that retiring Rep. Christina Minicucci’s district in the Merrimack Valley, which was reshaped significantly in the latest redistricting, might be leaning more toward North Andover Republican Joseph Finn than Democrat Adrianne Ramos.

Some on Beacon Hill also see Reps. Carol Doherty of Taunton and Natalie Higgins of Leominster, both Democrats, locked in close races.

In a 2020 special election, Doherty flipped a formerly red district held by Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell until she left to become mayor of Taunton. Doherty now faces a challenge from Taunton City Councilor Chris Coute, whom Carr described as “an ally” of O’Connell.

Higgins, meanwhile, is trying to secure another term against unenrolled attorney and former Leominster City Councilor John Dombrowski, who touts a long list of endorsements from current and former officials in their shared home city including Mayor Dean Mazzarella.

The toughest hold of them all for Democrats might be in the upper chamber.

Democrats remain optimistic Rausch can emerge victorious over Dooley, especially after she unseated longtime incumbent Republican Richard Ross in 2018, but acknowledge it’s a toss-up. One insider estimated the contest is “probably the most competitive race statewide.”

Outgoing Gov. Charlie Baker has deployed his popularity to try and get voters behind Dooley, a five-term rep from Norfolk who narrowly lost a 2021 bid to seize the MassGOP chairmanship from Jim Lyons.

Rausch has the support of many of her colleagues, but has not been endorsed by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey. That’s an unusual snub: according to a CommonWealth Magazine report last month, Healey endorsed 17 of 19 incumbent Senate Democrats with challengers, excluding only Rausch and Brockton Sen. Michael Brady.

Another wrinkle in the race is redistricting. The political lines on the ballot Tuesday have been reshaped from the version Rausch has represented since 2018, and the senator is newly campaigning in communities like Medfield, Dover and Bellingham and and lost precincts she previously represented in Natick and elsewhere.

Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, on Monday forecast low turnout in Tuesday’s elections, saying voters appear to have little enthusiasm for Massachusetts contests despite several open statewide offices including governor and a tense national political climate.

Galvin said there are some geographical outliers, including Barnstable County, which features open races for sheriff, district attorney and a House seat. While a handful of legislative races are “far more intense than others,” the state’s top elections official said those are “relatively few.”

“It’s almost a little anticlimactic,” Galvin said of the state’s election outlook. “In the absence of really intense campaigns, as I mentioned earlier, we’ve seen more activity about New Hampshire on our broadcasts than we’ve seen about Massachusetts.”

Galvin agreed that the Dooley-Rausch Senate showdown forecasts as one of the biggest legislative races to watch. Others he said are on his radar from conversations with local elections officials include Democrat Sen. Barry Finegold’s re-election bid against Republican Sal DeFranco and the race for an open House seat on Cape Cod being vacated by Republican Rep. Tim Whelan of Brewster, who is running for Barnstable County sheriff.

At Least One in Eight Winners Will Be Newcomers
Continuing a long-running trend, a majority of state lawmakers — all of whom serve two-year terms — will cruise to reelection without even facing an opponent. An even 100 of the 160 sitting representatives are unopposed on Tuesday’s ballot, as are 16 of 40 senators.

Nineteen incumbent senators face a challenger, a larger share of the chamber than the 39 representatives who will need to fend off an opponent to secure another term.

When members of the next General Court takes the oath of office in January, at least 26 of 200 lawmakers — about one in every eight — will be a newcomer to the House or Senate.

Eight incoming House freshmen and two incoming Senate freshmen are all but guaranteed after winning primaries and facing no opponents in the general election. Another 13 House races and three Senate races that will be contested Tuesday feature challengers and no incumbents.

Only one incumbent, Rep. Marcos Devers of Lawrence, lost in the Sept. 6 primary election. The winner of that race, Democrat Francisco Paulino of Methuen, does not face any opponent in the general election.

The vast majority of newcomers will fill open seats vacated by lawmakers who either opted against reelection bids or resigned partway through their terms to leap to new jobs.

Last Chance for Endorsements from Gov. Baker
The legislative elections will be the fourth and final during Baker’s tenure in the corner office, marking his last chance to sway voters toward Republican candidates in spite of the tension between him and the state party’s leadership under Lyons.

While Baker made a point of staying out of the contest to succeed him — and all statewide races except for auditor, where he backs Anthony Amore — he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have endorsed Republicans in 28 district contests.

In the Legislature, the popular duo backed 12 sitting lawmakers: Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr of Gloucester and Reps. DeCoste of Norwell, Mirra of Georgetown, Nicholas Boldyga of Southwick, Marc Lombardo of Billerica, David Vieira of Falmouth, Mathew Muratore of Plymouth, Jay Barrows of Mansfield, Angelo D’Emilia of Bridgewater, Paul Frost of Auburn, Hannah Kane of Shrewsbury and Alyson Sullivan of Abington.

One new candidate who earned Baker and Polito’s support is Fitzwater, the Northeast Auto Auction general manager who emerged victorious in a Republican primary against Boston “Straight Pride Parade” organizer Samson Racioppi after both ran write-in campaigns. Other hopefuls running for open House and Senate with the governor’s endorsement are Shepherd in Townsend, Marcus Vaughn of Wrentham, Chip Harrington of Ludlow, Tracy Post of Yarmouth and Bill Johnson of Granby.

All of the challengers Baker and Polito endorsed are also Republicans hoping to beat incumbent Democrats: Dooley in the high-profile Senate race; DeFranco of Haverhill, who is running against Finegold of Andover for the Senate; Ed Dombroski of Wakefield, who is challenging Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester; Coute in the race for a Taunton House seat; and Evan Gendreau of Westport, who hopes to top Westport Rep. Paul Schmid.

[Sam Doran contributed reporting.]



  1. Ken Masson

    November 8, 2022 at 7:42 am

    It’s sad to see the Massachusetts Republican Party go extreme right like the national party. That won’t work with educated Massachusetts voters.

    • Antifa

      November 9, 2022 at 7:27 am

      The big conspiracy in Massachusetts is the Republican Party has gone extreme MAGAt fascist right and the people of Massachusetts are too smart to vote for MAGAt’s. We aren’t suckers!

      It’s sad to see the Massachusetts Republican Party die like this.

      • MortisMaximus

        November 9, 2022 at 1:18 pm

        Washington D.C. the headquarters of the UniParty.

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