5 State Legislative Primary Races To Watch

The gold dome of the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The gold dome of the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

They're often considered "down-ballot" races, overshadowed by statewide and congressional contests that hog most of the attention.

This year, though, there are several state legislative races playing out on primary day — Sept. 4 — that are worth attention.

In total, dozens of candidates will be spending the final days of summer hoping to convince voters to send them to Beacon Hill in January. There are 21 open seats in the House and four in the Senate, and — with a hint of a "throw the bums out" attitude in the air — 15 incumbents are forced to try to fend off primary challenges.

(These competitive races are the minority, though: 113 of the Legislature's 175 sitting lawmakers face no primary nor general election challenge this year.)

A complete list follows, but first, here are five legislative primaries worth noting:

5 Races To Watch

1. Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester Senate District (former Senate President Stan Rosenberg resigns):

Only one name is on the ballot, but this progressive district will see a four-way race to replace Rosenberg, who resigned in disgrace this past spring. Chelsea Kline of Northampton was the only candidate planning to run before Rosenberg bowed out. Since Rosenberg's departure after the filing deadline, three other Democrats announced their candidacies: Ryan O’Donnell, Steven Connor and Jo Comerford, all of Northampton. All four candidates embrace liberal policies, reflecting the district. At a recent debate, the field backed progressive taxation and new revenue sources to fund programs. The winner will be unopposed in November.

2. 15th Suffolk House District: Democratic primary challenge to seven-term incumbent Rep. Jeff Sánchez of Boston by Nika Elugardo of Boston.

Incumbent Rep. Jeff Sánchez, left, and challenger Nika Elugardo (Robin Lubbock/WBUR; courtesy of the campaign)
Incumbent Rep. Jeff Sánchez, left, and challenger Nika Elugardo (Robin Lubbock/WBUR; courtesy of the campaign)

Sánchez saw his profile rise on Beacon Hill during the summer of 2017, when he was chosen by House Speaker Robert DeLeo to become chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. But as he was toiling away this year on the state budget, challenger Elugardo was making headway claiming Sánchez was not progressive enough for the Mission Hill/Jamaica Plain district. Those charges intensified in July when a Senate provision restricting how police and other local and state authorities interact with federal immigration officials failed to become part of the compromise bill, even though Sánchez had sponsored similar legislation. With the budget now behind him, Sánchez is back in the district campaigning and trying to remind voters of his progressive bonafides. The winner of the primary will be unopposed in November.

3. 16th Essex House District (Juana Matias retires):

This is a grudge match between two rival former state reps who are battling it out to succeed the freshman Matias, who is giving up her seat to run for Congress.

Marcos Devers of Lawrence held the seat for three terms before being upset by Matias two years ago. This year, Devers is facing former Rep. and former Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua. Lantigua and Devers have been at odds since they faced each other for the House seat in 2006 and 2008, and again in the mayor’s race in 2009 (Lantigua came out on top all three times). Lantigua reluctantly gave up his House seat after becoming mayor, with Devers succeeding him on Beacon Hill. The animosity increased in 2013 when Devers backed Dan Rivera, who defeated Lantigua as mayor. The winner of the primary will be unopposed in November.

4. 1st Franklin House District (Stephen Kulik retires):

What makes this race interesting is the sheer number of people running. Seven candidates make up the largest legislative primary field this cycle, all hoping to succeed Democrat Kulik of Worthington, who is retiring after 13 terms: Kate Welch Albright-Hanna of Huntington; Natalie Blais of Sunderland; Christine Doktor of Cummington; Jonathan Edwards of Whately; Casey Pease of Worthington; Nathaniel Waring of Sunderland; and Francia Wisnewski of Montague. The candidates met for a debate in August. The winner will be unopposed in November.

5. 5th Barnstable House District: Republican primary challenge to four-term incumbent Rep. Randy Hunt of Sandwich by County Commissioner Ronald Beaty of Barnstable.

Hunt is the only Republican legislator who is facing a primary this cycle. The ultra-conservative Beaty has made a name for himself on Cape Cod as a perennial candidate, having run for and lost several races over the years. He had filed paperwork with the Office for Campaign and Political Finance to challenge Charlie Baker this year for governor, but decided instead to run for the House after Hunt parked in Beaty’s reserved parking space at the Barnstable County Complex. The winner faces Democrat Jack Stanton of Sandwich in November.

Below is a list of all the other legislative primary contests taking place Sept. 4:

State Senate

There are four open seats in the Senate:

1st Essex (Kathleen O'Connor Ives retires): No primary contest to replace the three-term Democrat from Newburyport. Democratic state Rep. Diana DiZoglio of Methuen is the only candidate running for the seat. She faces 20-year-old Republican Alexander Williams of Amesbury in November.

2nd Essex & Middlesex (Barbara L’Italien retires): Three candidates are vying to replace L’Italien, the two-term Democrat from Andover, who's stepping down to run for Congress: Michael Armano of Dracut, Barry Finegold of Andover and Pavel Payano of Lawrence. Finegold is looking to regain the seat he held for two terms from 2011 through 2015. He gave up the Senate seat to make a losing bid for state treasurer in 2014. The winner of the primary will face Joseph Espinola of Dracut in November.

Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester (Stan Rosenberg resigns): See above.

1st Middlesex (Eileen Donaghue retires): Five Democratic candidates are trying to succeed Donaghue, the four-term Democrat who stepped down earlier this year to become city manager in her hometown of Lowell: John Drinkwater, Rodney Elliott, Edward J. Kennedy and William Martin, all of Lowell, and Terry Ryan of Westford.  The winner faces Republican John MacDonald of Lowell in November.

Three incumbent Senate members are facing inter-party challenges this year:

Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden: Democratic primary challenge to freshman incumbent Sen. Adam Hinds of Pittsfield. He faces Thomas Wickham of Lee. Winner will be unopposed in November.

Hampden: Democratic primary challenge to four-term incumbent Sen. James Welch of West Springfield. He faces Amaad Isiah Rivera of Springfield. Winner will be unopposed in November.

5th Middlesex: Democratic primary challenge to three-term incumbent Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester. He faces Samantha Hammar of Melrose. Winner faces Republican Erin Calvo-Bacci of Reading in November.

There are two Democratic Senate primaries where the winner will go on to challenge the Republican incumbent:

Norfolk, Bristol & Middlesex: Three Democrats are squaring off for the right to face four-term Republican incumbent Richard Ross of Wrentham this November:  Kristopher Aleksov of Wayland, Jacqueline Katz of Norfolk and Rebecca Rausch of Needham.

Plymouth & Barnstable: Two Democrats hope to challenge two-term Republican incumbent Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth in the fall: Stephen Palmer and Deborah Rudolf are also both from Plymouth.

Representative In General Court

There are 21 open seats in the House, all but one prompting primaries:

12th Bristol District (Keiko Orrall retires): Just one Republican and one Democrat will face off in November, meaning there are no competitive primaries in the 12th Bristol. The winner hopes to succeed four-term Republican Orrall, who is making a bid for state treasurer. Orrall’s husband Norman Orrall is the sole candidate on the Republican ballot, while Allin Frawley is the only Democrat running.

11th Essex District (Brendan Crighton retires): Three Democrats hope to fill the seat left vacant earlier this year when two-term Lynn Rep. Crighton was elected to the state Senate: Peter Capano, Hong Net and Drew Russo, all of Lynn. The winner will be unopposed in November.

14th Essex District: (Diana DiZoglio retires): As the three-term Rep. DiZoglio gets an unimpeded run to the state Senate, a pair of fellow Democrats are looking to succeed her: Lisa Yarid Ferry of Methuen and Christina Minicucci of North Andover. The winner faces Republican Ryan Losco in November.

16th Essex District (Juanna Matias retires): See above.

1st Franklin District (Stephen Kulik retires): See above.

1st Hampshire District (Peter Kocot dies): Two candidates are squaring off to succeed nine-term Democrat Peter Kocot of Northampton, who died in February:  Lindsay Sabadosa of Northampton faces Diana Szynal of Hatfield. The winner will be unopposed in November.

2nd Hampshire District (John Scibak retires): The Democratic primary to succeed the 8 term Democrat from South Hadley has three candidates:  Daniel Carey of Easthampton, John Hine of South Hadley and Marie McCourt of Granby.  The winner faces Republican Donald Peltier of South Hadley in November.

3rd Hampshire District (Solomon Goldstein-Rose retires): Two Democrats hope to succeed the freshman Goldstein-Rose who, after leaving the Democratic Party and becoming an independent, announced he would not seek re-election following the final day of formal sessions in July. Mindy Domb and Eric Nakajima, both of Amherst, face off against each other. The winner will be unopposed in November.

6th Middlesex District (Chris Walsh dies): No candidate names will appear on the ballot, following the death of four-term Framingham Democrat Walsh on May 2. Four Democrats and one Republican are launching write-in campaigns: Mary Kate Feeney, Maria Robinson, Mike Gatlin and Mark Tilden are vying for the Democratic nomination, and the winner will likely face Republican Tom Blandford of Framingham in November.

14th Middlesex District (Cory Atkins retires): Three Democrats are seeking to succeed 10-term Concord Rep. Atkins: Benjamin Bloomenthal and Tami Gouveia, both of Acton, along with Christian Krueger of Concord are on the ballot. The winner faces Green-Rainbow candidate Daniel Factor in November.

15th Middlesex District (Jay Kaufman retires): Five candidates have entered the Democratic primary to succeed 12-term Rep. Kaufman of Lexington: Michelle Ciccolo, Matthew Cohen, Joe Lahiff, Mary Ann Stewart and William Sweeney, all of Lexington. The winner will be unopposed in November.

19th Middlesex District (James Miceli dies): A crowded field of five Democrats are vying to succeed 21-term Democrat Miceli of Wilmington, who died this past spring: Erika Johnson, Michael McCoy and Judith O’Connell, each of Wilmington, and Mark Kratman and David Robertson, each of Tewksbury. In the Republican primary, two names appear on the ballot, however Erin Buckley of Tewksbury has since withdrawn from the race, leaving Pina Prinzivalli of Tewksbury as the sole candidate. Prinzivalli and the winner of the Democratic primary will face a third unenrolled candidate, Patricia Meuse of Tewksbury, in November.

30th Middlesex District (James Dwyer retires): Four Democrats are vying for the opportunity to succeed five-term Woburn Rep. Dwyer, who has been one of the more conservative members of the House Democratic Caucus: Joseph Demers, Richard Haggerty and Darryn Remilard, all of Woburn, and Anne Landry of Reading are all on the primary ballot. The winner will face Republican Claire Malaguti of Woburn in November.

15th Norfolk District (Frank Smizik retires): Two Democrats face off in the hopes of succeeding nine-term Brookline Democrat Smizik: Rebecca Stone and Tommy Vitolo, both of Brookline. The winner will be unopposed in November.

4th Plymouth District (Jim Cantwell retires): Two Democrats and two Republicans are squaring off to replace the fifth-term Democrat, who resigned earlier this year to take a staff position in the office of U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. In the Democratic primary, Sean Costello of Marshfield faces Patrick Kearney of Scituate. The winner will face the winner of the Republican primary, which features Edward O’Connell of Marshfield and Craig Valdez of Scituate, as well as independent candidate Nathaniel Powell of Marshfield.

7th Plymouth District (Geoff Diehl retires): A pair of primaries pits two candidates against each other in the Democratic primary, and another two candidates in the Republican primary, in the hopes of succeeding four-term Whitman Rep. Diehl, who is giving up his seat to run for U.S. Senate. Democrat Alex Bezanson of Abington launched his bid long before Diehl announced his ambitions. Another Democrat, Kevin Higgins of Whitman, is also running. On the Republican side, Alyson Sullivan of Abington hopes to win the seat that was once held by her father, former U.S. Attorney Michael Sullivan. She faces Greg Eaton of Whitman.

12th Plymouth District (Thomas Calter retires): Two Republicans and one Democrat hope to succeed Calter, a six-term Democrat who stepped down to take the town administrator job in his hometown of Kingston. In the Republican primary, Summer Schmaling of Halifax faces Joseph Truschelli of Plymouth. The winner will face Kathleen LaNatra of Kingston in November.

4th Suffolk District (Nick Collins retires): Two Democrats look to succeed four-term Democrat Collins, who now serves in the state Senate: David Biele and Matthew Rusteika, both of South Boston. The winner will be unopposed in November.

5th Suffolk District (Evandro Carvalho retires): A crowded field of candidates is facing each other to succeed three-term Democratic Rep. Carvalho, who is giving up his seat to run for Suffolk County district attorney: Darrin Howell, Brad Howze, Liz Miranda and Roy Owens, all of Boston are on the ballot. The winner faces independent progressive candidate Althea Garrison in November.

8th Worcester District (Kevin Kuros retires): Four-term Republican Kuros is one of two GOP state reps who are giving up their seat in order to run for the Worcester County register of deeds. Two Republicans, Ryan Chamberland of Blackstone and Michael Soter of Bellingham, are on the ballot to succeed Kuros. The winner of the Republican primary will face either Patrick Malone of Uxbridge or Kevin Tagliaferri of Bellingham, both are facing each other in the Democratic primary.

17th Worcester District (Kate Campanale retires): Two-term Campanale is the other Republican state representative running instead for Worcester County register of deeds. Three Democrats are hoping to flip the seat: Pamela Gemme and Stuart Loosemore of Leicester, and David LeBoeuf of Worcester. The winner faces Republican Paul Fullen of Worcester in November.

Seventeen incumbent House members are facing party challenges this year:

5th Barnstable District: See above.

2nd Bristol District: Democratic primary challenge to freshman incumbent Rep. James Hawkins of Attleboro by Sara Lynn Reynolds of Attleboro. Winner faces Republican Julie Hall in November.

11th Bristol District: Democratic primary challenge to incumbent 15-term Rep. Robert Koczera of New Bedford by Christopher Hendricks of New Bedford. Winner will be unopposed in November.

6th Essex District: Democratic primary challenge to four-term incumbent Rep. Jerald Parisella of Beverly by Euplio “Rick” Marciano of Beverly. Winner faces unenrolled candidate Donato Paglia in November.

9th Hampden District: Democratic primary challenge to two-term incumbent Rep. Jose Tosado of Springfield by Mark Kenyon of Springfield. Winner will be unopposed in November.

3rd Middlesex District: Democratic primary challenge to five-term incumbent Rep. Kate Hogan of Stow by Edward Basile of Bolton. Winner will be unopposed in November.

18th Middlesex District: Democratic primary challenge to two-term incumbent Rep. Rady Mom of Lowell by three candidates: James Leary, Sam Meas and Rithy Uong, all of Lowell. Winner will be unopposed in November

23rd Middlesex District: Democratic primary challenge to six-term incumbent Rep. Sean Garbally of Arlington by Lori Lennon of Arlington. Winner will be unopposed in November.

25th Middlesex District: Democratic primary challenge to three-term incumbent Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge by Lesley Rebecca Phillips of Cambridge. Winner will be unopposed in November.

28th Middlesex District: Democratic primary challenge to two-term incumbent Rep. Joseph McGonagle of Everett by two candidates: Gerly Adrien and Stephen Stat Smith, both of Everett. Winner will be unopposed in November.

36th Middlesex District: Democratic primary challenge to 12-term incumbent Rep. Colleen Garry of Dracut by Sabrina Adena Heisey of Dracut. Winner faces Republican Raymond Leczynski in November.

13th Norfolk District: Democratic primary challenge to four-term incumbent Rep. Denise Garlick of Needham by Theodore Steinberg of Needham. Winner will be unopposed in November.

9th Suffolk DistrictDemocratic primary challenge to 18-term incumbent Rep. Byron Rushing of Boston by two candidates: Suezanne Bruce and Jon Santiago, both of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

11th Suffolk District: Democratic primary challenge to 10-term incumbent Rep. Liz Malia of Boston by two candidates: Charles Clemons Muhammad and Ture Turnbull, both of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

12th Suffolk District: Democratic primary challenge to three-term incumbent Rep. Dan Cullinane of Boston by Jovan Lacet of Boston. Winner will be unopposed in November.

14th Suffolk District: Democratic primary challenge to 22-term incumbent and dean of the House, Rep. Angelo Scaccia of Boston, by four candidates: Segun Idowu, Christopher Obi Nzenwa, Virak Uy and Gretchen Van Ness, all of Boston.  Winner will be unopposed in November.

15th Suffolk District: See above.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Benjamin Bloomenthal's last name. We regret the error.

This article was originally published on August 22, 2018.

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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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