Browse By

Gomez Could Face Senate Primary Challenge from the City Council…

Gomez Brown

Reunited in Combat? (created with handout photos)

None among the legislative delegation in the Greater Springfield area have announced retirement, but the region could still see a big race. Springfield Senator Adam Gomez won his seat in a primary challenge. Now Springfield City Councilor Malo Brown could be on the verge of launching his own bid against the two-term senator for the Hampden District.

Should this race come to be, it could rival the intensity of Gomez’s successful bid to primary James Welch in 2020. On the one hand, Gomez remains a voracious campaigner now paired with the power of incumbency. Yet, Brown, who represents Ward 4 on the Council, is also an aide to State Rep Bud Williams. That implies there may be wells of support he could tap.

The Secretary of State’s office confirmed both Brown and Gomez have pulled papers for Democratic primary.

The Senate district has changed since Gomez won in 2020. It no longer leaps across the Connecticut River into West Springfield, where Welch lived. It now covers seven-eighths of Springfield and southerly precincts of Chicopee. The only areas of Springfield not in the district are parts of East Forest Park, Forest Park and 16 Acres.

Gomez had two things going for him in 2020. The pandemic had ushered in easy mail and early voting. The looming presidential contest and the titanic primary battle between Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Joe Kennedy, III supercharged turnout further.

Yet, the determining factor may have been preference for the hometown guy. Gomez’s Springfield address on the ballot—and his own positive, widespread reputation in the city—let him capitalize on the other factors in that race. As turnout boomed, he rode a wave that swamped Welch in Chicopee and Westside.

Springfield Senate District

Gomez district, as it is now, in goldenrod. (via

Against Brown, few of these factors would exist. Yet, Gomez still has other assets. He enjoys a massive cash advantage and much higher name recognition. His colleagues from across the state would assist in fundraising and provide other support. In short, Gomez would be the overwhelming favorite.

As of last month, Gomez had $49,236 in the bank. Brown had $8,137.

It was not immediately clear whether Williams is backing his aide. But even a lack of public support would leave the perception of support among politicos in Boston and Springfield if Williams kept Brown on staff. Moreover, if Brown remained an employee of the House of Representatives, he could not raise money for himself.

Brown has won competitive races himself. He twice turned back Jynai McDonald, who had been a prominent activist in the city. Last year, Brown defeated Kareem Kibodya, a former aide to Congressman Richard Neal and policy and advocacy staffer for the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts.

However, expanding out from Ward 4 is another matter entirely. In addition to facing an out of town opponent, Gomez had connections across Springfield and its activist quarters.

The reason for the challenge is also not clear. Brown did not reply to a request for comment about why he was challenging Gomez. Those who have spoken to him about his erstwhile bid have not received a clear answer either. Multiple sources say he pulled them proximate to last week’s battle over the Police Commission ordinance at City Hall last week.

Gomez opposed the proposal to permanently gut the Police Commission’s theretofore unrealized powers. Mayor Domenic Sarno’s had named Lawrence Akers the city’s first Black police leader and demanded the changes so Akers had the same powers as the current top cop. Those powers only exist, however, because the mayor did not fully comply with the Commission ordinance after losing before the Supreme Judicial Court.

Springfield City Council Public Safety Committee

Sarno, in tan jacket, at a subcommittee meeting last week. He gave a bit of ground amid opposition to the changes. But he probably wasn’t thrilled about it. (WMP&I)

The mayor backed down, if slightly, and supported an amendment to make the change only apply to Akers. Gomez concurred with the compromise. However, addressing the Council before it voted, he all but threatened a home rule petition to waive mandatory retirement for Akers at age 65 should the compromise die on the Council floor. During a recess, Brown was visibly upset at Gomez’s warning, insisting it would have failed.

Any schism seems superficial. Brown voted for the compromise. When Gomez was on the Council, both he and Brown supported the suit to enforce the ordinance. But Brown, the son of a cop himself, also gave emotional, if discordant, speeches last Monday backing reform and Akers.

If this is indeed the impetus for this challenge, Sarno might try to take advantage of it. He backed Welch in 2020. Gomez and Sarno have hardly been BFFLs over the years anyway. Yet, openly backing Brown against Gomez would present risks, too.

Sarno has already been cowed, if incrementally, on the Police Commission. Backing a challenge to a popular sitting state senator that face plants could deplete political capital Sarno had earned with reelection last year.

It is certainly possible that Brown could stand down. For now, Gomez is not taking any chances. While he did not respond to a request for comment as of posting, Gomez has taken Brown’s machinations seriously. He has been calling around to officials in Springfield to line up and confirm support.

Outside the mayor’s office, that effort has been going well. Some were floored to hear Brown had pulled papers in the race.