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Briefings: In 2nd Hampden, A Werder in Edgewise…

Werder up! (via Facebook/Werder campaign)

The Pioneer Valley’s first legislative contest formally began today with a Republican announcing her bid for a Democrat-held seat. Allison Werder, the former President of Masslive, launched her campaign for the 2nd Hampden House District Thursday. The move comes several weeks after opening a campaign account and a coy statement about her intentions.

To win, Werder will need to knock off Brian Ashe, who is seeking a sixth term in the well-to-do district running along the Connecticut border. In a biographical press release, Werder pitched her business background and community activities. However, she enters as an underdog. The prevailing political winds do not favor Republicans now, especially in suburban districts such as hers.

“I believe I have the drive, the professional experience and the commitment to community that will enable me to get things done for Western Mass,” she said in her release.

The 2nd Hampden District includes Hampden, Longmeadow, Monson and three of East Longmeadow’s four precincts.

The Second Hampden House District in dark brown. (via

Although her political boosters have called Werder a moderate or even liberal Republican, she is running in the kind of district abandoning the GOP in droves. Wealthier suburban areas, which recoiled from Donald Trump in 2016, have begun sprinting way. Longmeadow itself, once the paradigm of Republican suburban dominance, has developed a healthy blue color since the millennium began.

Trump did better outside Longmeadow, but still narrowly lost the district because that town overwhelmingly rejected him. Werder is hoping to mimic Governor Charlie Baker—both in tone and success in the district. Yet, Baker’s better performance in the district came in 2014 when there was no incumbent governor to beat. Then-Gov. Deval Patrick, seeking reelection in 2010, held Baker to a near-draw in a since reconfigured 2nd Hampden.

Republicans in the 2nd Hampden want in (again). (WMassP&I)

Although the State House Café’s counter guy outranks most freshman House Republicans, Werder suggests her background in media would bolster her influence. In her release, she discussed initiatives she undertook at Masslive, the online alter-ego of The Republican newspaper. She left the site following a company reorganization.

Masslive and its newsroom are independent of The Republican, but Advance Publications owns both. Working in such a field, she may have cultivated a broader network than the average first-time candidate.

Werder, a Longmeadow resident, will also benefit from Republican yearning to snag the district back. Despite her retirement, former Rep Mary Rogeness has remained active in town politics since her 2008 retirement. Given Longmeadow’s centrality to the district, it’s no accident Ashe’s past opponents live there, hoping to counter its Democratic drift.

However, Ashe is no pushover. After narrowly surviving the 2010 Dempocalypse thanks to since-removed Springfield precincts, he has developed a following across the district. His 2010 opponent, Longmeadow Select Board member Marie Angelides, got trounced when she tried again in 2012.

No free pass in 2018. Rep Brian Ashe in 2012. (WMassP&I)

Nobody challenged Ashe the following two cycles, although Sidney Starks ran an abortive bid for the GOP nod in 2016. His name has come up this year, too. Were he to run, Werder and Starks would face off in the September 4 primary.

Ashe, a former Longmeadow Select Board member, won the seat after Rogeness called it quits. He became the town’s first Democratic rep in nearly forty years, a point of pride for town Dems. That and Longmeadow Senator Eric Lesser’s backing will add to Ashe’s firepower.

Reached via phone, Ashe declined comment on Werder entering the race. However, he confirmed he is seeking reelection and would hold a formal announcement in the coming weeks.

Werder will officially kickoff her campaign February 1 at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow.