Carey Exits for County Bid, Prompting the 413’s First Legislative Race of 2024…
The first legislative race of 2024 in Western Massachusetts began Saturday. Easthampton State Rep Daniel Carey’s announced he would not seek a fourth term. A lifelong native of the city, Carey will instead seek the open Clerk of Courts position for Hampshire County. A former assistant district attorney and longtime councilor, his Clerk bid marks a return to more local office for the 39 year-old.
The race to succeed Carey could attract a large field. A group of three towns and part of a fourth, the district hosted one of the many open Upper Valley races in 2018. Carey was able to consolidate his hometown and convincingly defeat opponents from the other side of the river. Whether that happens again could steer the outcome of the new House race.
“By formally announcing my candidacy for Hampshire County Clerk of Courts on February 17th, I hope to give all those interested in running for State Representative for the 2nd Hampshire District sufficient time to organize their campaigns and make their cases to the voters of the district,” Carey said in a statement his campaign released.
As of posting time, one candidate, Easthampton Town Council President Homar Gomez, has confirmed a bid for rep.
The nature of the field and the contest could depend on whether anybody can keep their hometown to themselves. Carey’s district, the 2nd Hampshire, consists of Easthampton, Hadley, South Hadley, and Precinct 2 in Granby. Easthampton’s jog to the Connecticut River connects it to the towns to the east, giving the district its bridge-like shape as it hops over Holyoke.
When then-Rep John Scibak retired in 2018, there was some intrigue about whether his town South Hadley would keep it. Both Easthampton and South Hadley have been Democratic leaning towns for some time. Yet, the former has even bluer, amid broader transformations, since Scibak’s first election in 2002. Carey’s connections in town and support from his boss, Northwest District Attorney David Sullivan—also of Easthampton—magnified his Easthampton vote bloc going into the 2018 primary.
As an overly Democratic district in the 413’s college belt, winning the September primary is all but tantamount to election.
In 2024, a similar if not identical situation could play out. Easthampton watchers say Gomez’s interest had been an open secret as Carey’s exit came into view. Although he only represents Precinct 2 in the city, Gomez secured the council presidency with little public fuss. Such a foundation could mirror what Carey had and deter and/or limit other Easthampton candidates.
Gomez sees this as a natural step in his support for the community.
“To me, the community is always first and as a state rep that is always going to be my priority,” he said in a message to WMP&I.
Another question will be who, if anyone, emerges in other towns. While South Hadley alone may not be the base it once was, a candidate from there could draw on ties to Granby and Hadley. So far, it is not clear who would emerge, though. The South Hadley Democratic Town Committee has put resources into electing town officials. That may not mean anybody is already in line to run for rep.
The committee had not responded to a request for comment as of posting time.
As for Carey’s next move, it became possible after the incumbent, Harry Jekanowski formally said Friday he would not seek another six-year term. As his kickoff a month away, Carey’s announcement Saturday implies he sincerely wants would-be successors to have time to organize. Nevertheless, it is still a bit of a power move.
“I hope to build on the accomplishments of Harry and his staff as the Hampshire County Superior Court prepares for the second half of the 21st century,” Carey said in his statement.
Carey’s planned departure had been working its way through Hampshire County rumor mills for some time. Yet, that it would happen at all is hardly a total shock. Since taking office in 2019, Carey has married and the couple had a child in August.
Others observed that winning the Clerk of Courts post would be a return to his roots serving more locally. While his work as a rep has earned plaudits, much of his career has been in and around Easthampton.
“The majority of Dan’s public service has been local: school committee, city council, working in the DA’s office,” Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said. “The move makes a lot of sense with his family life, but certainly where his focus has been with his public service.”
Still, LaChapelle returned to how Carey’s retirement from the House leaves a gap in the delegation.
“I’m really interested to see who’s going to enter that race to replace him,” she added.