Briefings: Ludlow’s Oliveira Blasts off in Open Senate Race…
UPDATED 2/4/22 5:08PM: To reflect that another GOP candidate had filed paperwork last month.
Nearly a month after the seat opened, Ludlow State Rep Jake Oliveira is officially in the race to succeed Longmeadow State Senator Eric Lesser. Oliveira, a freshman Democrat whose House district unfurls, mostly northward from his hometown, is the first official candidate to declare after since Lesser retired to run for lieutenant governor.
Although only in his first House term, Oliveira has held elective office in Ludlow for nearly 20 years. Much of that was as a member of the School Committee. That background and early start—he began meditating on a run when Lesser seriously aired thoughts about going statewide—will be an advantage. Yet, the sprawling district could draw more comers eager to snag the tantalizing seat.
“This community has always been home,” Oliveira said in a release announcing his run. “Like so many people of this district, I grew up in a middle-class household and saw my parents make hard choices while living paycheck to paycheck. We survived by sticking to the values of family, community, and hard work,” he continued.
Oliveira, 35, won his rep seat in 2020 after a tight battle with School Committee colleague James “Chip” Harrington. Both longtime political figures in Ludlow, the race came down the district’s extremities which, in 2020, included Belchertown, Chicopee and Springfield. The Census and redistricting rejiggered Oliveira’s 7th Hampden House district. After this year, the district will be more Democratic, forsaking urban Hampden County for even bluer confines near Amherst and Quabbin Reservoir.
Redistricting also reconfigured Lesser’s seat, now the 1st Hampden & Hampshire district. After becoming the Hampden, Hampshire & Worcester Senate district next year, it will include Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Palmer, South Hadley, Warren, Wilbraham and modest chunks of eastern Chicopee and southern Springfield.
Last month, Oliveira’s House colleague Angelo Puppolo of Springfield declined to seek the seat. That eliminated the only other rep who had expressed any interest the seat. However, potential Democratic contenders could arise from Longmeadow. Select Board member Marc Strange has eyed the seat. Also weighing a bid is Sydney Levin-Epstein, who has worked for US Senators Ed Markey and Jon Ossoff.
Among Republicans, Wilbraham Select Board Chair Robert Boilard has come up. John Harding, an East Longmeadow lawyer, filed paperwork as a Republican last month. He has made no public statements about a campaign, however.
Although Ludlow has declined as a reliable hub for Democrats, it remains a key nodule in the district. His release underscored his and his family’s connection to the town.
Eight years ago, the town split in the primary between Selectman Aaron Saunders and Harrington, then running as a Democrat. So far Oliveira appears likely to avoid that problem. No prominent members from town or its neck of the woods have been mentioned for the seat right recently.
Oliveira observers have indicated he will use his resume to demonstrate he can take the Senate baton from Lesser. On that front, education has been prominent. In his pre-House professional life, he worked for the body that lobbies on behalf of the commonwealth’s nine state universities.
Within a year of graduating from Framingham State, Oliveira had a seat on the Ludlow School Committee. He was active in the Massachusetts Associations of School Committees including that entity’s presidency. Prior to this, he had been elected to Ludlow’s representative town meeting.