The State Primary Is Thursday. Here Are 7 Races Worth Noting

Massachusetts State House (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Massachusetts State House (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

You may not be aware, but many Massachusetts voters will head to the polls this Thursday (yes, Thursday, that’s not a typo) for the state’s primary election.

The unusual date was chosen by the Legislature last year in order to comply with federal election laws requiring the primary be held early enough so that general election ballots can be mailed out in time to military personnel serving overseas. Tuesday, Sept. 13, would have been too late to make that deadline, and lawmakers felt holding the primary on Tuesday, Sept. 6, was just too close to Labor Day, so they settled on the Thursday date.

Voter turnout will likely be anemic throughout much of the state, since there are very few contested races. On Tuesday, Secretary of State William Galvin predicted turnout of just 8 to 10 percent.

Most of the interesting legislative races are taking place in districts where the incumbent is leaving. There are a handful of freshmen legislators facing primary challenges, since that is often when incumbents are most vulnerable. Most will likely survive the challenge, and may very well never face a challenge again.

More than half of the legislators seeking to return in January will face no opposition this week, nor in the general election on Nov. 8.

That being said, here are seven legislative races this week worth noting:

1. Cape and Islands state Senate race (Sen. Dan Wolf retires) -- district map

Democratic candidates: Julian Cyr of Truro and Sheila Lyons of Wellfleet. (State Rep. Brian Mannal's name will also appear on the Democratic ballot, even though he has since dropped out of the race.) Two Republican candidates: James Crocker Jr. of Barnstable and Anthony Schiavi of Harwich.

The Democratic primary pits two candidates from the Lower Cape, Cyr of Truro and Lyons of Wellfleet. Cyr was director of policy and regulatory affairs in the state Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Environmental Health. Lyons has worked as a social worker, most recently as the director of social service at Pavilion Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. She has also served as a Barnstable County commissioner since 2009, and unsuccessfully ran for the Senate seat in 2010, losing in the primary to the retiring Wolf by a nearly 2 to 1 margin. Cyr and Lyons met Aug. 25 in Yarmouth for a debate.

On the Republican side, Crocker is a licensed real estate broker, construction supervisor and home improvement specialist from Osterville. This is the second time he has run for the seat; he was the Republican nominee when it was open in 2010, but was defeated by Wolf by nearly 15 percentage points. Schiavi is a first-time candidate from Harwich. He’s a retired brigadier general who served in the U.S. Air Force and the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Schiavi has picked up the endorsements of Republican Reps. Tim Whelan and Randy Hunt.

2. Norfolk, Bristol & Plymouth state Senate race (Sen. Brian Joyce retires) -- district map

Two Democratic candidates: Nora Harrington of Milton and Rep. Walter Timilty of Milton. The winner faces Jonathan Lott of the A Better Choice third party.

A classic “insider versus outsider” race has longtime state Rep. Timilty looking to move up to the Senate, against political newcomer and businesswoman Harrington. Both Timilty and Harrington live in Milton, which is the core of the meandering district that stretches from Milton through Randolph and Canton, as far south as a precinct in East Bridgewater.

Timilty’s campaign is stressing experience. He’s held his state rep seat since 1998. He’s picked up several labor endorsements, including the state AFL-CIO, the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Boston Police Patrolman’s Association. Harrington is running to the left of Timilty, and has picked up an endorsement from NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, Planned Parenthood and the National Association of Social Workers. Timilty currently holds the seat that was once held by Sen. Joyce, and is hoping that, like Joyce, voters send him to the upper chamber.

3. Second Middlesex state Senate race -- district map

Democratic primary challenge to six-term incumbent Sen. Patricia Jehlen of Somerville. She faces Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung.

A couple of progressive Democrats battling it out for the seat. It’s Somerville vs. Cambridge, young vs. older, male vs. female. The pair met in a televised debate in July.

The race has also become a proxy battle over lifting the cap of charter schools, with Jehlen opposed to lifting the cap, and Cheung in favor of expanding the number of charter schools, as proposed in the referendum that will be put before voters in November. The group Democrats for Education Reform, which backs the referendum, has spent nearly $100,000 to support Cheung, while the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which opposes lifting the cap, has spent over $75,000 to aid Jehlen’s campaign.

4. Seventh Suffolk state House race (Rep. Gloria Fox retires) -- district map

Three Democratic candidates: Monica Cannon of Boston, Marydith Tuitt of Boston and Chynah Tyler of Boston.

Fox is currently the longest-serving African-American female in the Legislature, having been first elected to the seat in 1986, when she succeeded six-term Rep. Doris Bunte. A woman of color will continue to hold the seat when the Legislature reconvenes in January, as Cannon, Tuitt and Tyler compete to be Fox’s successor.

Cannon is a youth worker and community activist. Tuitt currently serves as Fox’s legislative aide, and Tyler is a former aide to Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz. Tyler has so far raised the most money of the three ($22,017.95), double Cannon’s haul ($11,365.80) and three times Tuitt’s take ($7,715).

Like the Jehlen-Cheung Senate race in Somerville/Cambridge, the 7th Suffolk is seeing an influx of money relating to the charter school battle. The pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform has spent nearly $10,000 in support of Tyler, while the Massachusetts Teachers Association, which opposes lifting the cap on charter schools, has spent over $14,000 in support of Cannon’s candidacy.

5. Third Plymouth state House race (Rep. Garrett Bradley retires) -- district map

Bradley dropped out after nomination papers were due this past spring. His name will be the only one on the ballot.

Write-in campaigns are being waged in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, as well as for the United Independent Party. On the Democratic side, former Hull Selectwoman Joan Meschino abandoned her state Senate bid to run for the suddenly available House seat. Also mounting a write-in campaign is Bradley’s former chief of staff, Stephen Burm, who has the outgoing rep’s endorsement. If Bradley gets the most votes, despite dropping out, he will decline the nomination, and the state Democratic Party will name his replacement to run as the party’s nominee in November. John Brannon and Kristen Arute are running write-in campaigns for the Republican nomination. The winners will likely face Keri Thompson, who is running a write-in campaign for the UIP.

6. Third Hampshire state House race (Rep. Ellen Story retires) -- district map

Six Democratic candidates: Viraphanh Douangmany Cage of Amherst, Solomon Israel Goldstein-Rose of Amherst, Sarah LaCour of Amherst, Bonnie MacCracken of Amherst, Eric Nakajima of Amherst and Lawrence O’Brien of Amherst. Winner will be unopposed in November.

A crowded field to replace Rep. Story, who is stepping down after 26 years. Story’s predecessors in the seat include current Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and former longtime U.S. Rep. John Olver. The primary winner will be unopposed in November.

The district, which includes Amherst, Pelham and part of Granby, is considered one of the most liberal in the state. The candidates' positions on increasing public education funding, making climate change a priority and creating jobs are similar. Cage, Goldstein-Rose and O’Brien have all served on the local school committee, with Cage still serving in that role. Cage is the former western Massachusetts coordinator of the ACLU of Massachusetts. She came to this country as a 6-year old refugee from Laos.  Goldstein-Rose, at 22, is the youngest candidate in the race; he’s a recent graduate of Brown University and was endorsed by Olver. LaCour is the executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District. MacCracken is the owner of a real estate title search business. Nakajima is a self-employed public policy consultant, and O’Brien is a high school history and social studies teacher in Belchertown.

7. Essex County sheriff (Sheriff Frank Cousins retires)

This is the most competitive primary in the state. Six Democrats: William Castro of Methuen, Kevin Coppinger of Lynn, Michael Marks of Lynn, Edward O’Reilly of Wenham, Jerry Robito of Lawrence and Paul Russell Jr. of Andover. The winner will face one of five candidates vying for the Republican nomination: Kenneth Berg of Danvers, Jeffrey Gallo of Haverhill, James Jajuga Jr. of Methuen, Craig Lane of Newburyport and Anne Manning-Martin of Peabody. Two independent candidates, Neil Maciel and Mark Archer, will also be on the ballot in November.

The ultimate winner of this race will begin a six-year term as sheriff, earning $151,709 a year. The Essex County sheriff oversees 1,800 inmates in the House of Correction, supervises 620 employees, and manages an annual budget that is expected to top $70 million next year.

On the Democratic side, the field breaks down into insiders and outsiders from the Sheriff’s Department. Castro is currently a sergeant in the department, while Marks is the superintendent of the House of Correction in Middleton. Robito is a retired deputy superintendent. Looking to come from outside the department are Coppinger, who is chief of police in Lynn (the largest city in the county), defense attorney O’Reilly and former DEA agent Russell.

On the Republican side, Gallo is currently a lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Department, while Lane is a sergeant. From outside the department, Berg is a lieutenant with the MBTA Transit Police, Jajuga is a lieutenant with the Methuen Police Department, and Manning-Martin is a deputy superintendent with the state’s Department of Corrections, serving at the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain.

Below is a list of all the other primary contests taking place Thursday:


Only one competitive primary, the Republican race in the 9th District: Mark Alliergro of Falmouth vs. Thomas O’Malley Jr. of Marshfield. Winner will face three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Keating in November.

State Senate

Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden (Sen. Ben Downing retires) - Three Democratic candidates: Rinaldo Del Gallo of Lenox, Andrea Harrington of Richmond and Adam Hinds of Pittsfield. Winner faces Republican Christine Canning of Lanesborough in November.

First Essex - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives of Newburyport. She faces Adele Martino of Haverhill. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Second Suffolk - Democratic primary challenge to four-term incumbent Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz of Boston. She faces Roy Owens of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Plymouth and Norfolk - Republican primary challenge to freshman incumbent Sen. Sen. Patrick O’Connor of Weymouth. He faces Stephen Gill of Marshfield. The winner will likely face Brian Richard Cook of Duxbury. Cook’s opponent in the Democratic primary, Joan Meschino of Hull, has suspended her Senate campaign to mount a write-in campaign for the open Third Plymouth representative seat, however her name will still appear on the ballot in this Senate race.

Representative in General Court

Second Barnstable District (Rep. Brian Mannal retires) - Two Democratic candidates: Aaron Kanzer of Barnstable faces Margeaux Weber of Barnstable. Winner will face Republican William Crocker of Barnstable.

Barnstable, Dukes & Nantucket District (Rep. Tim Madden retires) - Five Democratic candidates: Dylan Fernandes of Falmouth, Michael Heylin of Falmouth, T. Ewell Hopkins Jr. of Oak Bluffs, Jessica Lambert of Falmouth and Timothy Soverino of Nantucket. Winner faces two independent candidates, Jacob Ferry and Tobias Glidden, in November.

Eleventh Hampden District (Rep. Ben Swan Sr. retires) - Four Democratic candidates: Ken Barnett of Springfield, Larry Lawson of Springfield, Benjamin Swan Jr. of Springfield and Bud Williams of Springfield. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Seventh Middlesex District (Rep. Tom Sannicandro retires) - Three Democratic candidates: Philip Jack of Ashland, Jack Patrick Lewis of Framingham and Brett Walker of Ashland. Winner will face Republican Yolanda Greaves of Ashland and independent Clifford Wilson in November.

Seventh Norfolk District (Rep. Walter Timilty retires) - Seven Democratic candidates: Jason Adams of Randolph, James Burgess Jr. of Randolph, William Driscoll Jr. of Milton, Tony Farrington of Milton, Kerby Roberson of Milton, Denise Swenson of Milton and Michael Zullas of Milton. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Fourth Worcester District (Rep. Dennis Rosa retires) - Two Democratic candidates: Natalie Higgins of Leominster and Richard Marchand of Leominster. Winner faces Republican Thomas Ardinger of Leominster.

Third Berkshire District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield by Michael Bloomberg of Pittsfield. Winner faces independent Christopher Connell in November.

Thirteenth Essex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Theodore Speliotis of Danvers by Robert Croce of Peabody. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Fourteenth Essex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Diana Dizoglio of Methuen by Phyllis Ann Jones of North Andover. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Fifteenth Essex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen by Christopher James Katsoulis of Methuen. Winner faces independent Nicholas Torresi in November.

Sixteenth Essex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Marcos Devers of Lawrence by Juana Matias of Lawrence and Juan Pascual of Lawrence. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Fourth Middlesex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Danielle Gregoire of Marlborough by Michael Ossing of Marlborough. Winner will face Republican Paul Ferro of Marlborough.

Eighteenth Middlesex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Rady Mom of Lowell by Cheth Khim of Lowell and David Ouellette of Lowell. Winner faces Republican Kamara Kay of Lowell.

Twenty-Fifth Middlesex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge by Lesley Rebecca Phillips of Cambridge. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Twenty-Sixth Middlesex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Timothy Toomey Jr. of Cambridge by Mike Connolly of Cambridge. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Twenty-Eighth Middlesex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Joseph McGonagle Jr. of Everett by Gerly Adrien of Everett. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Thirtieth Middlesex District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. James Dwyer of Woburn by John Patrick Devine of Woburn. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Fifth Suffolk District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Evandro Carvalho of Boston by Melinda Stewart of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Eleventh Suffolk District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Elizabeth Malia of Boston by Charles Clemons, Jr. of Boston. Winner faces Stephen Bedell of the New Progressive Leadership party in November.

Twelfth Suffolk District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Dan Cullinane of Boston by Jovan Lacet of Boston and Carlotta Williams of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Fourteenth Suffolk District - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Rep. Angelo Scaccia of Boston by Anthony Solimine of Boston and Virak Uy of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Third Barnstable District - Two Democratic candidates: Michael Blanton of Bourne faces Matthew Patrick of Falmouth. Winner will challenge Republican incumbent Rep. David Vieira of Falmouth.

Ninth Essex District - Two Democratic candidates: Jennifer Migliore of Saugus faces Saritin Rizzuto of Wakefield. Winner faces Republican incumbent Rep. Donald Wong of Saugus.

First Plymouth District - Two Democratic candidates: John Mahoney Jr. of Plymouth and Stephen Michael Palmer of Plymouth. Winner faces Republican incumbent Rep. Mathew Muratore of Plymouth.

Fifth Plymouth District - Two Democratic candidates: Paul Moody Jr. of Hanover and Kara Nyman of Hanover. Winner faces Republican incumbent Rep. David Decoste of Norwell.

Seventeenth Worcester District - Two Democratic candidates: Douglas Belanger of Leicester and Moses Dixon of Worcester. Winner faces Republican incumbent Rep. Kate Campanale of Leicester.

Twelfth Plymouth District - Three Republican candidates: Peter Boncek of Kingston, Michael Cowett of Kingston and Ian Murphy of Halifax. Winner faces Democratic incumbent Rep. Thomas Calter of Kingston.


Dukes County (Sheriff Michael McCormack retires) - Two Democratic candidates, Robert Ogden of West Tisbury and Marc Richard Rivers of Oak Bluffs, are vying to replace McCormack, who has served as the island’s sheriff since 1999. The winner will run unopposed in November.

Hampden County (Sheriff Michael Ashe retires) - Three Democratic candidates: Michael Albano of Longmeadow, Thomas Ashe of Springfield and Nick Cocchi of Ludlow. The name of a fourth candidate, Jack Griffin, will appear on the ballot, but has since withdrawn from the race. The winner will face John Comerford of Palmer in November.

Hampshire County (Sheriff Robert Garvey retires) - Three Democratic candidates: Patrick Cahillane of Northampton, Kavern Lewis of Amherst and Melissa Perry of Northampton. The winner will face Republican David Isakson of South Hadley in November.

Middlesex County - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Sheriff Peter Koutoujian of Waltham by Barry Kelleher of Wilmington. The winner will run unopposed in November.

Suffolk County - Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Sheriff Steven Tompkins of Boston by Alexander Rhalimi of Revere. The winner will run unopposed in November.

Governor’s Council

There are several primaries in the often-overlooked Governor’s Council races. Longtime Democratic incumbent Marilyn Petitto Devaney of Watertown is facing two challengers, as is fellow Democratic incumbent Terrance Kennedy of Lynnfield. Devaney faces Peter Georgiou of Lincoln and William Bishop Humphrey of Newton. Kennedy faces Stephen Borelli and Richard Dimeo, both of Boston. Democratic incumbent Christopher Iannella Jr. faces a single primary opponent, Stephen Flynn of Hull. In western Massachusetts, two Democrats, Mary Hurley of Longmeadow and Jeffrey Morneau of East Longmeadow are vying to replace retiring Councilor Michael Albano. The winner will run unopposed in November.

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Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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