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Briefings: A Senate Run with a Little Help from My Friends…

Councilor Tim Allen with colleagues Fenton, Shea, Rooke & Ashe (WMassP&I)

SPRINGFIELD—The day before his hearing to object to the qualifications of one of his opponents, Ward 7 Councilor Timothy Allen secured some political reinforcements in his quest to matriculate from the City Council to the State Senate.

Allen, representing the ward that includes the city’s vote-rich East Forest Park and Outer Belt neighborhoods, has been a councilor since 2009 when ward representation was reintroduced after a 50 year hiatus. As a result, most councilors began their tenures at the same time he did. Indeed most ward councilors are also backing his bid to replace outgoing State Senator Gale Candaras.

The District consists of about a third of Chicopee and Springfield as well as Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow and Wilbraham. Anywhere from 1 to 4 precincts within Wards 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and all of Ward 7 in Springfield are in the district.

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

James “Chip” Harrington, a Ludlow School Committee member, Thomas Lachiusa, a Longmeadow Democratic committee member, Eric Lesser, a former White House aide, and Aaron Saunders a Ludlow Selectman are also running against Allen in the Democratic primary. The only Republican in the race is Debra Boronski, who served part of a term on the East Longmeadow Select Board. Michael Franco is running as an independent under the American First party banner.

Allen had previously secured the backing of Ward 2 Councilor and Council President Michael Fenton and Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards, who himself is seeking the 10th Hampden House seat. Last Thursday brought the formal endorsement of at-large councilors Thomas Ashe and Tim Rooke and Ward 6 Councilor Ken Shea. In a press release, Allen also claimed the endorsement of Ward 1 Councilor Zaida Luna, and Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs. The release also mentioned at-large Councilor Bud Williams, but his position on the race is unclear.

Each of the councilors present Thursday offered their own reasons for backing their colleague. Fenton, perhaps Allen’s most crucial ally over their concurrent four year tenures, called Allen a friend, but also emphasized the interest in Springfield having a resident state senator, ten years after Linda Melconian retired in 2004.

Council President Fenton was at Allen's February announcement.  (WMassP&I)

Council President Fenton was at Allen’s February announcement. (WMassP&I)

Ashe praised Allen’s steadfast support for pawnshop reform, which has become an (increasingly successful) crusade for the at-large councilor, who was also  first elected to the council the same year as Allen.

Shea, offering a hint of where Allen may focus his erstwhile undefined issues platform, said Allen had long been active in education. Allen is a college professor, but Shea, a former School Committee member, implied the focus would be on primary and secondary education. Allen echoed Shea, confirming education would be part of his platform. Finally, Rooke vouched for Allen’s preparedness and “tenacious” on matters before the City Council.

As with any endorsements, there is the obligatory note that their impact can vary wildly and political scientists have questioned how they affect election.

The support from colleagues, while of varying value as many live outside the district, is a much needed boost for Allen, especially as  his opponents began to traipse into his backyard. Harrington has been said to be canvassing in Springfield and Saunders has locked up the support of some city politicos. Lesser, meanwhile, scored the endorsement of one of Allen’s newest colleagues, at-large Councilor Justin Hurst, as well as Denise Hurst, an at-large school committee member.

Other colleagues are staying of the race. Ward 8 Councilor Orlando Ramos, elected along with Hurst last year, is staying neutral in the primary. He told WMassP&I he expected to work with whoever the Democratic nominee is.

At-large Councilor Kateri Walsh has not made a public position, although her husband, Daniel, a former Veteran director for the city, joined a group of vets endorsing Harrington earlier this month. Anecdotally, Daniel Walsh is said to have appreciated Harrington’s support for his wife’s bid for Congress 22 years ago and that, in part, led to him backing the Ludlow Democrat’s bid.

Ward 5 Clodo Concepcion has appeared at events with candidates, but thus far has not formally backed anyone. No other school committee members have staked a public position on the race. Mayor Domenic Sarno and the city’s delegation to Boston have not opined on the race either.

Although the race marches on, it is in something of a holding pattern while the outcome of Allen challenge to Lesser’s eligibility for the ballot is settle. The hearing was held last Friday and a decision must be issued this week.