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November 25, 2005

Another Trio of Special Elections

Thought we were all done with special elections?  Think again!  Cos has written up this excellent roundup of three more open seats that will be filled well before next year's general election in November.  --David

There are three more special elections coming up to fill vacant seats in the Massachusetts House - a new wintertime tradition! Unlike last winter, when three of the most conservative Democrats in the House stepped down, in three solidly Democratic districts, this time we have one Representative who moved up to the Senate, one who died of cancer, and only one who left the legislature. The districts are rather different, too:

  • The 27th Middlesex, completely within Somerville, MA, is very progressive and solidly Democratic
  • The 2nd Worcester is conservative-leaning and has been held by a Democrat but could elect a Republican. Its population centers on Gardner, and it also contains Winchendon and a few smaller nearby towns.
  • The 1st Bristol has been held by Republican representatives for a very long time, but might elect a Democrat. Foxboro is the main population center.

So we've got an urban metro-Boston progressive Democratic district, an inland semi-rural conservative-Democratic district, and a south shore Republican district, all up for grabs. The primaries for all three are on January 10th and the general elections are on February 7th. Filing deadlines are Nov 29 - this Tuesday.

Here's a roundup of the candidates so far...

1st Bristol - Foxboro and half of Mansfield & Norton

State Rep. Michael Coppola, R-Foxboro, died of cancer earlier this year. His widow, Ginny Coppola, has been recruited to run to replace him. She has some state house experience, having served as legislative aide to her husband's predecessor, 1st Bristol State Rep. Barbara Hyland. On the Republican side, the field seems clear for her.

Although this seat has been held by Republicans for a long time, one Democrat is reportedly considering a run - Paul Feeney of Foxboro, an aide to state Sen. James Timilty (D-Walpole). I don't know much about Feeney, though MassEquality says he's a strong supporter of equal marriage.

Timilty's Senate district, the Bristol and Norfolk, includes all of Foxboro, Norton, and Mansfield. Former Sen. Jo Ann Sprague, R-Walpole, stepped down last year, making it an open seat. Timilty ran against Republican Dave McCarter and won 57% to 43% districtwide. Relevant town by town results are:









McCarter (R)Timilty (D)
Foxborough 3,389 4,686
Mansfield 5,455 4,788
Norton 3,347 4,176

Remember, only half of Mansfield and Norton are in this district, but all of Foxborough is. Despite its Republican history, it looks like it could be a competitive district, especially with Timilty's support. We should know within the next few days if Feeney is running.

2nd Worcester - Gardner, Winchendon, Royalston, Ashburnham, Ashby

Conservative Democratic State Rep. Brian Knuuttila resigned in October to take a job with Worcester County Sheriff Guy Glodis. Knuuttila's former campaign manager, Gardner Chamber of Commerce President Michael Ellis, is running on the Democratic side... with Knuuttila as his campaign manager! Ellis labels himself "very conservative" and says he agrees with Knuuttila on almost all issues. Interestingly one one major issue they differ on is gay marriage: Knuuttila twice voted to amend the constitution, while Ellis says he opposes such amendments. That prompted MassEquality to call this race "the strongest opportunity" to replace an anti-equality legislator with a strong supporter of equal marriage rights, according to Bay Windows.

Another Democrat, Gardner City Solicitor Robert Rice, is also running, so he and Ellis will face each other in the primary on January 10th. According to that article in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Rice seems to be emphasizing his experience in both public and private employment and familiarity with "the plight of the small business owner". With an opponent who chairs the local chamber of commerce, it looks like this race may focus on small business issues.

The Republican candidate is Ashburnham Selectman Jonathan Dennehy, who announced his run the day after the election date got set. Another Republican, Gardner grant administrator Mark Hawke, pulled out of the race last week, citing state election laws that make it difficult to run for office while working for city hall. He is endorsing Dennehy, who has said his campaign will focus on financing for infrastructure projects in small cities and towns.

27th Middlesex - middle half of Somerville

This was Pat Jehlen's state rep seat from 1991 until she got promoted to the state senate last month (it's also the district I lived in from 1996-2003). It includes Davis Square and has become one of the most strongly progressive districts in the state.

The first candidate to signal her intention to run was Somerville Alderman-at-Large Denise Provost, who did all but announce at Pat Jehlen's victory party, and pulled papers as soon as they became available. Provost's neighbor, liberal Somerville planning board member Elizabeth Moroney, an aide to state Senator Pam Resor (D-Acton), is also running. The third Democrat in the race is Somerville Ward 5 Alderman Sean O'Donovan, viewed as a "conservative" by Somerville standards. Another Somerville ward Alderman, Walter Pero, was considering a run, but decided against it.

Provost, Moroney, and O'Donovan will face each other in the January 10th Democratic primary, which in this district will likely be the deciding election. John Roderick will likely run in the February 7th general election, as an independent. He ran for this seat as a Libertarian in 2002, against then-incumbent Pat Jehlen, who defeated him handily. The Somerville News reports that he is pro-choice, opposes the death penalty, supports gun ownership, and labels himself "a union man", and that he would like to see a non-Democrat run for this seat.

In this one, Denise Provost is strongly favored. She just won her second at-large race in a row, coming in first in a seven-candidate field for four slots. In 2003, she actually got more votes than the mayor (this year, the mayor's race was uncontested). Of her 5,776 total votes, 3873 came from precincts in the 27th Middlesex district. Her biggest base of support is wards 5 & 6, both of which are in this district. She has been twice endorsed by Progressive Democrats of Somerville (of which I am an active member) for Board of Aldermen, and I think she is likely to get the PDS endorsement again at the organization's November 29th meeting. She is allied with many of the same progressives who elected Carl Sciortino and Pat Jehlen. And she just ran an election campaign, so her signs have been all over the city for months, and she's got a very up to date list of supporters throughout the district. She simply never stopped campaigning after the November 8th election.

Sean O'Donovan is also an incumbent, but he's only been running in Ward 5. He won on November 8th with 1302 votes, and at the same time Denise Provost got 1299 Ward 5 votes for the at-large race. It's not clear if he has more support than she does even in his own ward. O'Donovan will be viewed as the conservative in this race, and insiders expect mayor Curtatone's organization to help him, though as far as I know Curtatone hasn't said anything in public. Either way, I think a united progressive community would win this district.

The wildcard is Elizabeth Moroney, who hasn't run for any elected office. She just resigned from a long stint working for Pam Resor in order to run for this seat, and Resor is loved by hooked-in progressive activists, but both she and Elizabeth are mostly unknown to Somerville voters. Moroney has a lot of liberal positions, but can she catch up to a candidate who's had several months head start in such a short campaign? If she does manage to draw off some more liberal voters, that could split the vote and give Sean O'Donovan a realistic opening.
Personally, I'm going to support Denise Provost.

I'd love to hear more about the Gardner and Foxboro elections, from people who live there or who know more about the candidates. [ed. note: Beyond 495 already has several posts up on the Gardner race and will no doubt have more as time goes on.]

Posted by Cos at 06:00 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink


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» Massachusetts Special Legislative Elections from The Eisenthal Report
Blue Mass. Group has a good roundup of three special elections for seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives within the next few months. The primaries for all three are on January 10 and the generals are on February 7. [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 26, 2005 11:05:43 AM


I don't think O'Donovan is running. He hadn't pulled papers as of a ten days ago. As for Somerville being progressive I think it is so only because of Sen. Jehlen. As I am sure Cos can attest having lived in Somerville there is a battle between progressives and I guess conservative Dems here in Somerville. I agree Provost is likely to win but it isn't because she is progressive, I think it is because she, like Jehlen, has worked hard for a long time at being involved in the community and being well liked.

Posted by: Andy | Nov 26, 2005 2:01:34 PM

Somerville News "reports" that "OD" is in. Should be an interesting month.

Posted by: the sound of one hand clapping | Nov 28, 2005 10:55:46 AM

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