Fields Set for Five Legislative Special Elections

Boston Statehouse

SHNS, Boston, – All four March 31 special elections for vacant state legislative positions are on track to be contested by at least one Democrat and one Republican.

Sixteen candidates, including a current state representative seeking a Senate seat, multiple municipal officials and several hopefuls who have run unsuccessfully before, submitted certified nomination papers to Secretary of State William Galvin’s office by Tuesday’s deadline to run in any of the four special elections. The candidates will all make the ballots unless they withdraw or someone objects by Friday.

Voters in the 3rd Bristol and 37th Middlesex Districts, previously represented by Republican Rep. Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton and Democratic Rep. Jennifer Benson of Lunenburg respectively, will select new representatives in the special elections.

Those in the Plymouth and Barnstable and 2nd Hampden and Hampshire Districts, last held by Republican Sens. Viriato deMacedo of Plymouth and Donald Humason of Westfield respectively, will choose new senators.

Primary elections will take place for all four races on March 3, although only two feature multiple candidates from each major political party.

Two Senate Seats

Westfield Rep. John Velis will seek election to the Legislature’s upper chamber after filing to run for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire Senate seat. A Democrat who has served in the House since 2014, Velis does not face a declared primary opponent and will contest the general special election against the lone Republican candidate, Southwick construction business owner John Cain.

Velis is the only member of the House seeking a Senate seat in either of the two Senate special elections. Other representatives had been linked to the Plymouth and Barnstable race before declining to run.

The field for the seat formerly represented by deMacedo is crowded, with five Democrats and two Republicans set for the ballot.

The Democratic primary will feature Becky Coletta, an attorney and former selectwoman who chairs the Pembroke Planning Board; John T. Mahoney Jr., a Plymouth selectman who was the Democratic nominee in the 2016 and 2018 elections for the 1st Plymouth House district; Thomas Moakley, a nephew of former Congressman Joseph Moakley who works for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office; Susan Moran, a Falmouth lawyer and selectwoman; and Stephen Michael Palmer, a Plymouth Redevelopment Authority commissioner who was the Democratic nominee for the 1st Plymouth House district in 2014 and ran unsuccessfully for the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate seat in the 2018 Democratic primary.

Jesse Brown, a Plymouth businessman and veteran, and James McMahon III of Bourne, an attorney who was the GOP nominee for attorney general in 2018, will face off in the Senate race’s Republican primary.

Three House Seats

The only other March 3 legislative primary that will feature multiple candidates from both major political parties is in the 37th Middlesex House district.

Shirley Democratic Town Committee Chair Dina Samfield will vie for the Democratic nomination in that race against Danillo Sena, an Acton resident who has worked as Sen. Jamie Eldridge’s district director for six years. Eldridge told the News Service on Wednesday that he anticipates Sena will resign next week to focus on the campaign full-time, adding that he is “very excited” to see Sena run for office.

On the Republican side, Lunenburg real estate agent and volunteer Catherine Clark will face off against another Lunenburg resident, former small business owner Malena Chastain.

Two Democrats will compete in a primary for the 3rd Bristol House district: Carol Doherty, a four-term School Committee member in Taunton who ran for the seat unsuccessfully in 1988 and 1992, and Muzammil Nazir of Easton, the chief financial officer at Green Car Rental.

Jetpac Inc., a Cambridge nonprofit that works to improve nonwhite representation in politics, described Nazir as the first Muslim immigrant set to make the ballot in a Massachusetts Legislature race.

The winner of that race will oppose the lone Republican candidate, Kelly Dooner of Taunton, in the March 31 general election.

The legislative special primaries line up with the March 3 presidential primary in Massachusetts. Senate Democratic leadership had pushed for the general election for the Plymouth and Barnstable seat to be held March 3, but conceded to March 31 after repeated objections from Republicans who argued the high presidential turnout would skew the state Senate results.

A special election for the 32nd Middlesex District, which former Democratic Rep. Paul Brodeur vacated to become mayor of Melrose, will take place on March 3. The House scheduled the date in early December before each of the other races were set.

No Republicans filed paperwork to run for that seat, and the three Democrats will face off in a primary Feb. 4.

The three Democrats running are Melrose city councilor and Executive Office of Education chief legal counsel Kate Lipper-Garabedian; Ann McGonigle Santos, a Wakefield town councilor and Suffolk University assistant dean of students; and Mathew Helman, a Malden resident who has worked in various state government positions including as an aide to Sen. Jason Lewis.

Special elections are a common occurrence to fill state legislative seats when lawmakers depart during their two-year terms. A November MassINC report found that “nearly one-quarter of state representatives and over one-third of state senators currently holding office first entered the legislature through a special election.”

Reps. Aaron Vega of Holyoke and Jose Tosado of Springfield announced this week they plan to serve out their terms but will not seek re-election. Five House lawmakers have announced plans to retire after this session.

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