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BOOM! Puppolo Passes on Senate…

UPDATED 2/4/14 1:46PM: For comment from Rep. Brian Ashe and news of Eric Lesser’s interest in the race.

Rep Angelo Puppolo (via Twitter/Puppolo campaign)

State Representative Angelo Puppolo, a former City Councilor in Springfield announced this morning that he will not seek the seat held by retiring State Senator Gale Candaras.  In a report published on Masslive and later confirmed in a link on his Facebook page, Puppolo declined a bid citing his family.  He will instead seek reelection to the 12th Hampden District that covers parts of Springfield’s central south region, a quarter of East Longmeadow and all of Wilbraham.

Puppolo’s decision will almost certainly send ripples through a somewhat blindsided Valley political establishment.  The early word says that Puppolo, as recently as last week, was fully committed to running for the upper chamber and told reporters at Candaras’ announcement he was in.  Even before that, Puppolo was touting his campaign warchest, which, at the end of last year, exceeded $200,000 and made potential rivals wary.

His apparent reversal infers reasons beyond the oft-stated “family” concerns. Puppolo, a staunch ally of Speaker Bob DeLeo could be on tap for a plum committee chairmanship.  Former Massachusetts Democratic Chair John Walsh alluded to this fact in a tweet today.

The 1st Hampden & Hampshire Senate District in gray. Click for larger view. (via

The 1st Hampden & Hampshire Senate District in gray. Click for larger view. (via

Candaras’ seat is the 1st Hampden and Hampshire Senate district.  It consists of about a third of Chicopee and Springfield each as well as Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham.

In any event, the composition of the race changes considerably.  Republican Debra Boronski suddenly lacks the massive cash disadvantage she had going into the race. Ludlow School Committee member Chip Harrington is now the only Democrat in contention, but that will almost assuredly change soon.  It presents an opening for Chicopee  Ward 6 City Councilor Tim McLellan, whose name has been mentioned.  Ludlow Select Board member Aaron Saunders is apparently also considering the seat.

It could also prompt Longmeadow State Rep Brian Ashe to reconsider the race, touching off a scramble for his seat. However, given the opportunity, Ashe may not be the only Longmeadow resident to contemplate a run.  However, were Ashe to also stay in the House, Republicans salivating over his seat may consider the Senate instead.  Longmeadow Select Board Member Paul Santaniello is said to be on the cusp of challenging Ashe, but he may find the Senate a more enticing giving Boronski a challenger in the GOP primary.

But this evening, Ashe confirmed to WMassP&I that he would not be a candidate for the 1st Hampden & Hampshire seat and would seek reelection to the House.  However, Eric Lesser a graduate of Longmeadow High School and a former White House staffer is looking at a bid for the seat.  Said to be in only the earliest of stages in mulling a bid, Lesser served as a special assistant to David Axelrod, a top aide of President Obama’s, and later a director of strategic planning for the Council of Economic Advisers at the White House.

Moreover, with Puppolo staying put, the potential candidacies of the 12th Hampden, like Springfield Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen or Springfield political gadfly and one-time city councilor Brian Santaniello, are on ice.  Either might consider the Senate seat, although Allen is probably less likely to do so.  Both he and Harrington share a political consultant, dimming the prospects of an Allen Senate run.

Time is short for new entrants into the race.  Some other names mentioned in November also seem unlikely to move having made little noise since then.  The clock ticks.