Browse By

Westfield Councilor Files in Western Mass Swing District, Taking on Incumbent GOP…

Bridget Matthews-Kane

A Whip City Council to the General Court story? (via Facebook/Matthews-Kane official)

Western Massachusetts has seen two legislators retire this cycle. Another two have confirmed primary challenges. All four seats are uber-Democratic. Indeed, few of the region’s incumbents face much risk in the general election. But now, one of the region’s true swing seats, anchored in Westfield, a swing community itself, will have a contest. 

City Councilor Bridget Matthews-Kane, a Democrat, will run against Republican Rep Kelly Pease. The three-term councilor filed with the Office of Campaign & Political Finance for the 4th Hampden district this week. Pease, elected in 2020, succeeded now-Senator John Velis, a Democrat. Since then, however, the district has shifted to include Southampton, possible presenting opportunity for Democrats. 

“I feel like Westfield and Southampton need really strong representation in Boston,” Matthews-Kane said. 

Confirming her plans in an interview, she said she has delivered results as a councilor by focusing on the most common issues Whip City residents raise with her.  

“I plan to bring that formula for success to Boston,” Matthews-Kane said. 

Matthews-Kane joined the Council in 2020, winning the seat for Ward 3 without opposition on the ballot. Her ward covers half of downtown and runs west along the Westfield River to Stanley Park, adjacent to, but not encompassing Westfield State University. 

Pease did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. 

According to the Secretary of State’s office, Pease is certified for the ballot. Matthews-Kane has pulled papers, but has not returned them as of this morning. 

For several redistricting cycles, Westfield—along with similarly sized Holyoke—had a state rep district all to itself. The 4th Hampden encompassed Westfield and Westfield alone. However, as population growth in the 413 lagged the state, both cities’ districts had to reach outside their borders to fill a full House district. 

4th Hampden

The current 4th Hampden district reaching Southampton-ward from an impinged Westfield. (via

In the 4th Hampden’s case, this was something of a two-step. The district ceded two Westfield precincts to the 6th Hampden District, which West Springfield’s Michael Finn represents. Meanwhile, the 4th gained all of Southampton. This could ever-so-slightly tilt the district in Democrats favor. 

For years, Westfield’s state rep district was a white whale for Democrats. A succession of wildly popular Republicans held the seat until Don Humason vacated it to run for State Senate. Velis, striking moderate to conservative notes, won the House seat with a vigorous campaign, a local focus and a background in the JAG office of the Army Reserve. The third was quite helpful in a city with an air base. 

On paper, the district should have been gettable for Democrats. It voted for both parties for Governor, although Governor Maura Healey narrowly lost it. The city had been reliably Democratic in presidential elections since Ronald Reagan, save 2016. It swung back to Democrats in 2020, choosing President Joe Biden that year.  

However, 2020 was also the year Velis went to the Senate after a COVID-delayed special election. Velis had been favored to win the special and Republicans began filing for his rep seat before the shroud of the coronavirus even fell. Democrats would not field a candidate until June, well into the pandemic. Pease overcame Westfield at-large councilor Dan Allie in the primary and easily won the rep seat. 

Pease faced no opposition in 2022, the first year with the new maps. Against Matthews-Kane, he will face a different landscape. Southampton has become bright blue in elections. Biden won the town by 10 points, much wider than his under-two-point win in Westfield. It is difficult to make a direct comparison due to how the legislature drew maps for the 2020 cycle. Yet, the Westfield precincts no longer in the 4th Hampden contributed to Biden’s Westfield margin. 

Given Southampton’s small size, the shifts may be a wash.  

Kelly Pease

Pease in the well of the State House circa 2022. The state GOP will not want to lose his seat and tumble deeper into the well of irrelevance. (via Facebook/Pease official & Mass legislature feed)

Republicans eager to crawl out of irrelevance in the legislature can ill-afford to lose ground. Indeed, the party now has only 25 of 140 House seats. The race could also become a test for Mass GOP chair Amy Carnevale to prove the party’s strength in all corners of Massachusetts. 

Still, many Southampton Democrats will be eager to win back the district. Before 2022, Northampton Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, one of legislature’s most progressive members, had represented the town. A former select board member, Maureen Groden, had pulled papers per the Secretary’s office. Town sources say she changed in her mind, perhaps in part because of Matthews-Kane’s run.  

In short, Matthews-Kane cannot rely on redistricting to propel her to Beacon Hill. It does not seem she plans to. Pending a formal campaign announcement, the Ward 3 Councilor said her campaign will begin soliciting Southampton and Westfield voters for their priorities. 

“I’m really curious what I’m going to hear at the doors. That’s really what I’ve done as a city councilor,” she said. 

Matthews-Kane said that while running for Council, she learned voters had grown concerned about speeding. She cited work on a complete streets program. Complete streets are plans that make streets accessible for all users, not just motorists. A year-long process to reduce the speed limit in Westfield recently came to fruition. In reports last year, Mayor Michael McCabe credited Matthews-Kane with raising the issue. 

Notably, the Democrat will not enter the race with squat in the bank. A campaign finance report she filed with the Westfield City Clerk—Whip City Council candidates do not file with the state—shows Matthews-Kane ended 2023 with $5,766 in her account. She can transfer this to her OCPF account. 

At the end of March, Pease had $8,403. However, that includes a $5,000 self-donation he lent himself. In other words, this race will begin with a smaller gap between incumbent and challenger than usual.