Longmeadow Daze: Campaigns Pass You by, Glory Days…
Longmeadow Daze is an occasional series reporting on and analyzing Longmeadow government and politics.
LONGMEADOW—Stretching along the Town Green, the preeminent social, creative and civic event (after Town Meeting) of one of Springfield’s most prominent suburbs offered a view, if at times an ironic one, of the political direction here in local and state elections this year. Amid food stalls, artsy trinket vendors and artists hawking their work, there was on display the town’s politics and what candidates and parties had to sell…or not.
The whole story was not told merely by a saunter down the green the weekend before last during Long Meddowe Days. Politics is often a fixture at the craft fair/historic reenactment/kiddie carnival, which serves as the Longmeadow Historical Society’s primary fundraiser. This year, during a visit on the fair’s first day, observers say the number of political campaign stands was higher than usual.
However, those campaigns stands are largely a reflection of the broader moving of the political earth in Hampden County, not necessarily in Longmeadow itself.
Hometown 1st Hampden & Hampshire Senate candidate Eric Lesser held court at his campaign stall only a few spots down from Hampden Country District Attorney candidate Anthony Gulluni of Springfield. A bit further away another DA candidate, Shawn Allyn of Agawam, had a stand. All are Democrats. Citizens Against Casino gambling, a Springfield anti-gaming group was there as was Select Board Member Marie Angelides, a lawyer (and Republican), up for reelection this year, if unopposed. Then there was the Longmeadow GOP’s tent.
Again this is not a comprehensive list of the politicking taking place there and some were doing double duty. Michael Clark, the School Committee Chair here, is up for reelection this year, but, in his capacity as a Lesser campaign staffer, he spent most of his time at the White House aide turned senate candidate’s tent. Countless other Longmeadow Democrats were out and about as well.
One thing not at the fair, however, was a tent for a Republican challenger to Democrat Brian Ashe. The reason? None exists. Ashe represents Longmeadow as well as Hampden, Monson and three quarters of East Longmeadow in the 2nd Hampden House district. Likewise, Angelides, Clark and his two colleagues seeking another three year term on the School Committee have no opponent next Tuesday. All town contests are nonpartisan.
The failure to field a candidate is a black eye for the GOP, which promised at one point to contest every legislative race and all nine Congressional seats this year. Last year, its somewhat crowded field for the special US Senate election was a hopeful, and indeed necessary sign that the party could get its act together by 2014. That was before its gubernatorial nominating contest descended into bedlam and signature gathering efforts for other statewide candidates risked coming up short.
Of course Longmeadow is not the only town in the 2nd Hampden. Yet, fielding a GOP candidate from here is a helpful boost to cut into whatever advantage Dems have developed for themselves in the increasingly liberal suburb. Moreover, Longmeadow is the largest town and has, for decades, had a vice-grip on whatever House district it is in. Even so a Republican candidate from anywhere in the district would be welcome of the town GOP’s tent. And yet there was no one.
It was not entirely for lack of trying. Jeremy Powers, a Longmeadow attorney, who took out papers with only a week to obtain signatures, failed to gather enough. A campaign to draft Paul Santaniello, yet another Select Board member here, petered out. Angelides was said to consider another run, but ultimately declined. Instead the seat most apt to flip to the GOP in Greater Springfield is (so far) uncontested. The GOP could field a write-in challenger, but in the glare of a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, followed by a tiny general election window to gain name recognition, the GOP may be best served focusing their limited resources elsewhere.
Ashe has a voting record mostly inoffensive to his wealthy, fiscally conservative, socially tolerant-to-liberal district. He opposed casinos, a popular position in Longmeadow and Monson and was a highly visible presence after the 2011 tornado clawed through downtown Monson. A strong Republican actually on the ballot could have a good showing, but might have little narrative to justify trading out Ashe. With only the faintest hope in Hell that the GOP could gain enough seats to sustain theoretical Republican gubernatorial vetoes, raw partisanship is not much of a draw either.
The district itself, as Longmeadow has veered away from the GOP and Monson has stayed fairly true to its Democratic roots, is purple. President Obama won it handily at the same time as Scott Brown won all four towns, something even the President did not do. But in 2012 Ashe won all four towns by a bigger margin than Brown, perhaps complicating efforts for the GOP to challenge him.
After being held by Mary Rogeness (a former Longmeadow town official herself) for seventeen years, Ashe, then a Select Board member and (obviously, still) the son of Hampden County Registrar of Deeds Donald Ashe, won the seat for the Democrats in the Obama wave of 2008. By 2010, the mood of the country had soured and Angelides, who won the Republican primary, was poised to win the seat back for the GOP. The district’s two Springfield precincts saved Ashe.
Redistricting snipped away the 2nd Hampden’s Springfield extremities, replaced by another precinct in East Longmeadow, seemingly leaving Ashe vulnerable. Angelides tried again, easily beating the self-immolating, scandal-tarred Villamaino in the GOP primary. She had name recognition as a Select Board member and, while few thought she could win Longmeadow, she might pick up votes there.
As predicted, there were far more Scott Brown-Ashe voters than Elizabeth Warren-Angelides voters and indeed Ashe won all four towns as well, getting more votes than Brown or Obama. She lost once more.
All of this is, to some extent, in the background of the sleepy town election here. A preliminary for the remaining one year left on a seat for the School Committee was a snoozer with Michelle Grodsky, the interim appointed member, coming in a strong first ahead of Heather Laporte. Matthew Brackman came in third. Grodsky and Laporte will face off June 3.
In the end, the town elections this year tell us little in and of themselves. However, the lack of competitiveness there may point to Clark’s influence. Clark had found common ground with some of the Select Board, if not a majority of it. Tellingly, Angelides, was one of the members who supported a compromise and she has no opponent this year. Last year Mark Barowsky, who opposed a compromise with Clark’s committee, lost his seat to Alex Grant. Mark Gold, who sided with Clark, won reelection.
Likewise, Clark and three of his fellow Committee members, Elizabeth Gaffney Bone and John Fitzgerald, have no opponents this year, watching with no doubt some relief as three and now two candidates battle over a fraction of a term. Both Select Board and School Committee terms are three years.
There is less to chew on, other than political intrigue maybe, with the town election. The rep seat is different. Not having a rep contest may allow parties to focus on the senate race (the only down ballot race on Longmeadow ballots with both parties represented). However, this probably redounds to the benefit of Democrats who need to strategize volunteer deployment less as compared to 2012.
Consequently, it leaves the town GOP’s tent at Long Meddowe Days in a bit of an awkward position. Whatever role Longmeadow’s Republicans hope to have in the state senate or gubernatorial races, it is not particularly flattering or comforting to Debra Boronski and Charlie Baker that the local party is not on top of things in its backyard.