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Healey Barrels toward Gov’s Office Amid Wild, Rainy Primary That Had Its Shocks…

Maura Healey

Healey, now officially the nominee. (still via Facebook/Healey campaign)

LUDLOW—In what may be the least climactic open Democratic gubernatorial primary in half a century, on Tuesday Attorney General Maura Healey became her party’s nominee to succeed outgoing GOP Governor Charlie Baker. All of Healey’s opponents had dropped out well before the primary, though Boston Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz’s name remained on the ballot.

Statewide races had local salience as well. Longmeadow Senator Eric Lesser tried and failed to become the first Western Mass resident to win the lieutenant governor’s nomination in decades. Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll bewitched voters, becoming number two on Healey’s ticket. Lesser’s exit from the Senate prompted a race for his seat. That contest ended with Ludlow State Rep Jake Oliveira claiming the Democratic nod.

“I am so proud to be able to stand before you tonight as your Democratic nominee for governor of Massachusetts,” Healey said at her victory party in Boston.

Her general election opponent will be Geoff Diehl, a Trumptastic former state rep. With little money and few resources, he will struggle to halt Healey’s march toward history. Should she triumph, Healey will become the first women and the first openly gay person elected governor of Massachusetts.

If, as is likely, Healey wins in November, she will do what each of her three immediate predecessors could not—win the governor’s office as a sitting attorney general. Although he overcame primary opponent Chris Doughty’s self-funding, Diehl will struggle to match Healey on the cheap in this arch-Democratic state.

Other state outcomes were about as expected. Driscoll had long led in LG polling. Former Boston City Councilor and now-Democratic AG candidate Andrea Campbell outperformed polls, but had been leading. Incumbent Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin cruised to victory over Boston NAACP head Tanisha Sullivan. The auditor’s race was a tight, hard-fought race nearly from go, but Methuen Senator Diana Dizoglio claimed victory in the end.

Lesser conceded the LG’s race at about 10pm at Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow. It was the same place he declared victory in his first State Senate race in 2014. Moments before he called Driscoll to congratulate her.

“She has my full support and I know she is going to make a fantastic lieutenant governor,” he said. Lesser noted he also spoke with Acton Rep Tami Gouveia who placed behind him in the final LG results.

Eric Lesser

Lesser after voting on that rainy primary day. (via Twitter/@EricLesser)

Lesser took note of the incredible strength he had in the 413, including more than three-quarters of the vote in Springfield. Turning to his supporters, he continued, “I want you all to know, how profoundly grateful I am for everything you put into my campaign.”

After a dusty dry August, rain returned with a vengeance on Tuesday. Given the lack of a contested gubernatorial primary, the weather did not help the meh turnout.

Many local outcomes hardly shocked. Oliveira’s win over former congressional aide Sydney Levin-Epstein of Longmeadow in the Democratic primary for Lesser’s seat tracked momentum he had built in recent weeks. The district, which will become the Hampden, Hampshire & Worcester district next year, arcs through Springfield’s suburbs up to South Hadley with an appendage into Palmer and Warren.

While the outcome matched some early predictions, given Oliveira’s years of service, the direction of race was not consistent. In the months after his and Levin-Epstein’s announcements, she seized the initiative on fundraising and barnstormed the district. Oliveira adjusted and capitalized on his strengths and backing from institutional players such as unions and environmental groups.

In an interview at his low-key but festive victory party at the Portuguese club’s here, Oliveira thanked voters. However, he also expressed appreciation for Levin-Epstein’s concession call that he received about an hour before.

“I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by the support that we received in all corners of the district,” he said. “I’m also overwhelmed by the call that I got from Sydney Levin-Epstein. She was so gracious on the call, she had a lot to add into this race.”

Oliveira Saunders

The view of the primary from Ludlow with Oliveira & Saunders, the respective Democratic candidates for the town’s Senate and House districts. (WMP&I)

He said he looked forward to having further conversations with her about the issues and how to keep the seat in Democratic hands. Oliveira faced Granby businessman Bill Johnson in November.

Asked what issue he learned was on voters’ minds the most as he campaigned, he pointed to an escalating crisis in mental health. Adolescent beds, specifically, are in short supply or nonexistent as around here.

“We need to do a better job on that,” he said. “I really wasn’t talking about but now I’m talking about every step of the way, because that is something that’s impacting people and their families so personally.”

There was no primary for Oliveira’s seat. Aaron Saunders became the 7th Hampden nomination without a contest and will face Republican James “Chip” Harrington in November.

Incumbent sheriffs in Berkshire and Hampshire counties beat back primary challenges. Second Berkshire State Rep Paul Mark thumped Huff Templeton to claim the Democratic nomination for the region’s state senate seat. The seat was open after Adam Hinds retired to seek the lieutenant governor nomination, though he did not advance from the convention in June.

Up in the northern part of the Berkshire, State Rep John Barrett, III dispatched a challenge from Paula Kingsbury-Evans. Back in Springfield, State Rep Bud Williams held off Jynai McDonald, who has run for city council several times. Still, she received 1014 votes to the incumbent’s 1797, a surprisingly strong showing given her minimal fundraising.

However, Western Massachusetts also offered some of the evening’s biggest shocks. In the Chicopee-centric 8th Hampden House race, Shirley Arriaga upset Ward 1 Councilor Joel McAuliffe in the primary. Arriaga benefited from a late endorsement from outgoing Rep Joseph Wagner, but McAuliffe may have suffered from blowback from some contentious city issues.

Shortly after 8:30PM, McAuliffe appeared at his primary night party at Munich Haus, benighted by a downtown power outage, to concede.

Another shock result was in the Governor’s Council race. Springfield Ward 2 City Councilor Michael Fenton lost to North Adams School Committee member Tara Jacobs. The 8th Council district, which covers nearly all of Western Mass, veered toward Jacobs as she did well in her home county and the Upper Valley. Meanwhile, Fenton, a lawyer, and attorneys Shawn Allyn and Jeff Morneau split Hampden County—and arguably, the bar—assisting Jacobs’s path to victory.

She will face Republican John Comerford in the general election.