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Gomez Steps into Senate Race and toward Primary Battle with Welch…

For-Ward 1 to the Senate?  Councilor Gomez in 2016. (WMassP&I)

On Friday, nomination papers for state offices became available, prompting an early salvo of pols’ intentions. For example, despite an investigation into his husband, Amherst Senator Stanley Rosenberg picked up nomination papers last week. However, that was not the only Senate news.

Springfield Ward 1 Councilor Adam Gomez has announced he will challenge West Springfield Senator James Welch in the Democratic primary. In a Facebook post Friday night, Gomez said he had pulled papers for the Hampden Senate District.

“After strong consideration and speaking with my supporters, friends, and family I decided to make a strong decision for Springfield,” he wrote on his campaign page. “I pulled my papers as a democratic candidate for Hampden District for State Senator!”

The Hampden Senate District includes West Springfield, Wards 2, 3 and 4 in Chicopee and 2/3 of Springfield. This includes Chicopee Center and parts of Chicopee Falls and Springfield’s most urban and diverse neighborhoods.

The Hampden Senate District (

The district was explicitly constructed as a minority-majority seat to capture largely Latino areas like Gomez’s Ward 1 and black populations clustered around Mason Square and the Hill neighborhoods.

“I just feel that the time has come. Springfield needs a little representation in Beacon Hill,” he said in an interview. “Sometimes there is nothing wrong with a change in how things are going. There’s nothing wrong with a breath of fresh air.”

Some politicos reacted with surprise, but others knew Gomez was mulling a bid before the 2017 election. Gomez confirmed his contemplation went back a few months. A challenge to Welch was not unexpected. Other prominent Latino names tossed about include former Springfield Ward 6 Councilor Amaad Rivera.

Reached via phone, Rivera, now an aide to US Senator Ed Markey, confirmed he was actively exploring a candidacy, but had no further comment at this time.

Sen. James Welch in 2017 (via Twitter/@MassDMH)

Whether Welch can be beaten is less clear. A political mainstay in Westside where he has served as a town councilor and state rep, he has established a beachhead among Springfield’s old political guard.

“I respect anyone who decides to run for office, and wish Adam the best of luck,” Welch told The Republican. He also said he would be making his reelection official in the coming weeks.

Gomez’s move also implicates City Council political dynamics. Gomez is an ally of Springfield City Council President Orlando Ramos whose reelection as president involved prevailing over the city’s Irish, mostly male bro-ocracy. However, Ramos’ day job is Welch’s district director.

Ramos may not be the only councilor conflicted. Normally, incumbent protection would augur in Welch’s favor and some councilors have reasons to support his reelection. Yet Springfield councilors have been partial to their colleagues running for other offices, including state senate.

Moreover, Welch cannot take whiter Springfield precincts for granted. Geographic roots divide otherwise seemingly monolithic ethnic communities, like the area’s American Hibernia. The part with ties to Springfield may be keen to electing the first resident state senator since Linda Melconian’s retirement in 2004.

A potentially divided community? (WMassP&I)

Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards challenged Welch in 2012 when the new district lines took effect. Edwards won Springfield, but Welch swamped him in Westside and Chicopee. However, Edwards’s near-fatal double knee injury weeks before the primary hobbled his campaign. Even accounting for that, Springfield challenger to Welch face daunting odds and promotions from 36 Court Street are rare.

Gomez took down Zaida Luna, the inaugural holder of Ward 1’s restored district seat, in 2015. Since joining the Council, he has developed a clear progressive identity while wielding his social media to develop a town square around his accounts. The murder of Jafet Robles thrust Gomez into a position of community consoler for the city’s activists. He was unopposed in last year’s election.

To win the Hampden Senate seat, Gomez—or any other Springfield-based challenger—would need to bolster city turnout and squeeze votes from precincts Welch won in 2012. Presumably, a Latino candidate would do better in some precincts where Edwards struggled. That won’t be enough.

Speaking to WMassP&I, Gomez mentioned the city’s threadbare turnout, which is particularly anemic in wards like his. He suggested that Millennials like himself had tuned out because pols were not speaking to their issues.

This all assumes Gomez remains the lone challenger. Multiple Springfield challengers might foreclose victory for anyone but Welch.

Plotting the path forward. (WMassP&I)

Though Gomez may raise grassroots armies, he will face fundraising challenges. As an incumbent senator, Welch will have easy access to copious fundraising, which will fund mail and possibly television.  Welch’s colleagues, including Rosenberg and acting Senate President Harriett Chandler, may come out to campaign for him.

“Financially we know it is going to be a struggle,” Gomez said. Instead, he promised to rely on door-knocking and phone calls to counter any fundraising deficits. “We want this campaign to be the political revolution in Western Massachusetts.”

That can only help, but the path to victory may more closely resemble a Rubik’s cube than an uprising.