Midterms in Massachusetts Yield Mostly Déjà Vu on All Levels…
EAST LONGMEADOW—Results in Massachusetts produced few surprises even as less than stellar results came in for Democrats nationwide. The election changed almost nothing in terms of partisan control in Massachusetts. However, a host of transformations lie before the region.
The only competitive races in the Lower Pioneer Valley ended with Democratic victories. Former Democratic State Rep Cheryl Coakley-Rivera fended off Republican Marie Angelides, a Longmeadow Select Board member. Meanwhile, Longmeadow State Rep Brian Ashe, a Democrat fended off Republican Allison Werder, Republicans, despite last minute intervention from Governor Charlie Baker.
While Baker was unsuccessful in his bid, he routed his Democratic rival Jay Gonzalez. But at the same time, Democrat Elizabeth Warren easily won reelection to the US Senate. While Baker does not seem to have dragged along many Republicans with him to Boston, Warren will be returning to a diminished Senate minority.
Although Democrats took Senate losses on the chin, major networks project the party will seize the House. That set up the congressman representing Western Massachusetts to chair two of the House’s most important committees.
Springfield’s Richard Neal seems primed to chair Ways & Means Committee, which oversees tax policy and programs like Social Security. McGovern, whose district stretches from Greenfield to his hometown Worcester, would chair Rules, a committee that touches anything that goes to the House floor.
The weakened Democratic caucus in the Senate will be more impactful in terms of Republicans’ project to reshape American courts. However, seizure of the House all but assures Republicans will be unable to take another whack at Obamacare.
Democrats are also expected to begin investigations into the Trump administration over the next two years. That could include on Neal’s committee, which has the right to subpoena Donald Trump’s taxes. However, it’s not clear how quickly Neal will act on that. The former Springfield mayor may focus on protecting Social Security and Medicare. He has has also expressed an interest in reassessing the trillion dollar plus tax cuts the GOP passed last year. Neal is scheduled to address the media Wednesday afternoon.
Inside the state, the status quo election appeared to outwardly change little. Democrats retain supermajorities they have largely not used. But a brand new delegation from Hampshire and Franklin counties will be going to Boston.
Jo Comerford of Northampton is headed to the Senate after being unopposed in the general election. New reps Natalie Blais of Sunderland, Mindy Domb of Amherst and Lindsey Sabadosa of Northampton, all unopposed in their generals, will join Comerford. Easthampton Town Councilor Daniel Carey has also won his race against a perennial Republican.
But the only hotly contested race in region was in the 2nd Hampden. A string of suburbs along the Connecticut border, the district includes Hampden, Longmeadow, Monson and three-quarters of East Longmeadow.
Ashe, the incumbent, overcame an energetic bid from Werder. However her efforts came up short. The race’s results echoed those from Angelides’ challenges to Ashe. East Longmeadow’s swing toward Democratic legislators follows a pattern from two years ago. Senator Eric Lesser unexpectedly won it during his reelection romp in 2016.
“Honestly, it was refreshing to know that all the work that I’ve done over the past 10 years as a state rep as well as the hard work that me and my team did really resonated with the voters,” Ashe said during an interview at his victory party at Fazio’s here in East Longmeadow.
Around 10 pm, word came that that Werder had called to conceded. This was before Hampden and Monson were even in. Longmeadow gave Ashe a 1200 vote lead and was he was expected to do well in Monson despite its red hue. East Longmeadow’s results cut off Werder’s path to victory. After Ashe declared victory, Monson also came in strongly for him.
In brief remarks he thanked his staff, family, major political patrons as well as his father who passed away earlier this year.
The results appear to mirror national trends of wealthy suburbs rejecting the GOP wholesale—save Baker. Moreover, Ashe, a ten-year incumbent, had built up enough of a rapport with voters to withstand the tens of thousands of dollars Werder and the state GOP aimed at Ashe.
“I was cautiously optimistic, but I felt really good,” Ashe said of going into Election Day.
Those close to both campaigns concede that Werder outworked Ashe for much of the spring and summer. However, after the primary, things changed. Ashe’s campaign manager Ryan Dunn, a UMass student, and Michael Clark, a former Longmeadow School Committee member executed a field plan that carried the day.
In his remarks, Ashe thanked Clark and Dunn. Ashe made special note of Senator Lesser—who had held signs for Ashe’s first Select Boord race 18 years ago—and Hampden Sheriff Nick Cocchi with whom Ashe had worked at the county jail.
As for the next session, Ashe anticipated more work on opioids. He also hopes to look at how best to use any bounty forthcoming from the state’s casinos. Beyond that, the reelected rep said he would have to wait and see what happens to committee assignments in the next session.
Later in the evening, Ashe was joined by Governor’s Councilor Mary Hurley who had also backed his reelection. She won her race against perennial candidate Mike Franco, who ran as an independent this year, by a wide margin.