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Brown Senate Challenge Officially Launches as Gomez Readies His Troops…

UPDATED: 4/30/24 12:21PM: To include date for Gomez’s kickoff.

Malo Brown

Ready to launch. (WMP&I)

SPRINGFIELD—Ward 4 City Councilor Malo Brown kicked off his bid for State Senate Thursday with a low-key gathering downtown with supporters. The event was the first public event the three-term councilor had undertaken since he began collecting signatures in March. However, he said little about how he would differentiate himself from the incumbent he is challenging, Senator Adam Gomez. 

Brown’s brother, DeJuan, a community activist in the city, emceed the speaking portion of the event. Speaking from the raised stage inside Noir, a nightclub across from CityStage, Brown himself discussed his background and thanked those who attended. He also jabbed politicians generally, ostensibly an oblique reference to his opponent. 

“Sometimes I go to sleep at night disappointed because I feel that politicians are at a point—we’re nothing. We’re a joke,” he said. “Who do we truly help? How many pictures are we going to take?” 

There were politicians in attendance, however. Among them was Thomas Ashe, the city’s parks and buildings director and, until recently, the mayor’s chief of staff. Ashe had won election to the City Council five times. Yet, the way Brown addressed Ashe implied he was representing his boss, Mayor Domenic Sarno, who was waylaid at a School Committee meeting that night. 

Among the 20 to 30 attendees were 2023 City Council candidates Nicole Coakley, Michael Lee and Willie Naylor, all of whom spoke. Coakley and Lee had run in the 2022 special election for Ward 5 as well. Former Ward 8 City Councilor John Lysak also stopped by. 

The district, officially the Hampden Senate district, 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. 

Springfield Senate District

The Hampden district, in goldenrod. (via

The primary is September 3. Republicans are unlikely to seriously contest the arch-Democratic seat. 

The race is still in its infancy, but right now most factors are lining up behind Gomez. He enters the race with huge political and financial advantages. In addition to an 8-to-1 edge in cash on hand as of March 31, Gomez is likely to have significant political support among officials and organizations both statewide and in the district. 

Brown appeared to acknowledge Gomez’s advantages by alluding to the Old Testament story of Gideon. In it, God ordered the Judges-era figure to reduce his large army to only the 300 who would lap up water “as a dog laps.” 

“So, by time it was done, Gideon had a small army,” Brown recalled. “God said He wanted to be able to show that it was impressive and give Him the glory.” 

Brown did not continue the story, but the smaller army used subterfuge to scare off the enemy force.  

Adam Gomez

Senator Gomez addressing the City Council in February. (via YouTube/Focus Springfield)

Gomez is not turning and running thus far. He began organizing his campaign shortly after Brown’s challenge manifested. Last weekend, the senator held volunteer events in anticipation of his summer outreach efforts. He recently announced his own kickoff for May 16 at Dewey’s.

Sarno has not made any public declaration of support for Brown. Sarno and Gomez have faced off on numerous issues, most recently over the mayor’s move to gut the Police Commission. The mayor did secure the changes for the superintendency of Lawrence Akers, but these revisions to the Police Commission ordinance will lapse after Akers retires pursuant to a compromise Gomez and other legislators insisted upon.  

They had leverage because Akers’s appointment requires home rule legislation to ensure he can serve beyond his 65th birthday in December. The senator’s willingness to publicly threaten that age waiver may have been a precipitating factor in Brown’s decision to run. 

Another absence was Brown’s boss, State Representative Bud Williams. Williams had effectively telegraphed his support by not taking Brown off the House payroll after the latter filed for Senate. This broke a longstanding—if not ironclad—Beacon Hill taboo against letting staff challenge incumbents in either chamber. However, Williams’ visage and testimonial on Brown’s campaign literature suggests the rep approves. Williams is also facing a primary challenge this year.

Gomez barely came up in Brown’s remarks other than the latter’s assertion that the senator had never supported Brown’s campaigns for Council. Brown did suggest that some politicians run as a certain ethnic persuasion, but again did not name names. 

“I’m not going in it as a Black, as a white, as a Puerto Rican. I’m going in as a ‘we,’” he said.  

Malo Brown Senate kickoff

Staging… (WMP&I)

Malo Brown Senate kickoff

…and setting the scene. (WMP&I)

Brown has been an effective campaigner. He won his Council seat after the late E. Henry Twiggs retired in 2019 and has beat back two challenges since. However, in those reelection campaigns, it was Brown who had the benefit of incumbency.  

Against Gomez, who himself took down an incumbent in 2020, the script is flipped. Many longtime allies of Brown’s are also longtime allies of Gomez’s. That group of Chicopee and Springfield luminaries appears to be sticking with the senator according to campaign sources. 

Nevertheless, Brown assured he was not going negative, the aforementioned allusions notwithstanding. 

“I have nothing bad to say about my opponent, but I would just say I’m coming. Team Brown is coming,” he said.