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Here Are The Contested Legislative Races In Massachusetts

The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 1 year old.

While it's shaping up to be a "wave election" nationally this fall, changes in the makeup of the Massachusetts Legislature are unlikely. Shifts in the majority blue state Legislature happen at a glacial pace, and this cycle is poised to extend that trend.

All 200 legislative seats are, in theory, up for grabs. House and Senate members must win their elections on Nov. 3 to be seated in the 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which convenes Jan. 6, 2021. But, as has been the case in countless past cycles, most are being given a free pass as theirs are the only name on the ballot for their respective seats.

Many incumbents have amassed huge campaign war chests that can outright intimidate potential opponents from even getting into a race in the first place. Other districts are so overwhelmingly Democratic, or, in a few cases, Republican, that state parties are loathe to spend scarce campaign funds on what is likely to be a lost cause.

Of the 160 House seats, 118 (74%) face no opposition. Most are incumbents, but eight will be incoming freshmen Democrats who won their respective primaries in September but face no Republican challenge to the seat. They come from predominantly Democratic districts where there have been few Republican challenges in past years. The makeup of the House currently stands 127 Democrats, 31 Republicans, one unenrolled and one vacancy.

Of the 40 Senate seats, 32 (80%) face no opposition. The makeup of the Senate currently stands at 36 Democrats and four Republicans.

All of this year’s contested races are listed below, with links to the various candidate’s websites. You can find out who your legislators are here.

Contested Mass. House Of Rep. Races:

8 Open House Seats

Races for open seats are always worth watching. They are like the “jump ball” of elections. There are eight open seats in the House (and none in the Senate). Six are currently occupied by Democrats and two by Republicans. It'll be interesting to see if the Republicans can hold on to those seats, or if they will see their ranks in the House shrink even more.

Five special elections earlier this year could give the GOP reason to be concerned. Democrats won all five races, including Senate districts on Cape Cod and Western Massachusetts and one House district in Taunton that had been vacated by Republicans. Republicans are hoping for a second bite at the apple in those three flipped districts as the three Republicans who fell short in the special elections are running against the winners again this fall. (More on that later in this post.)

Here is who is running for the open House seats:

5th Barnstable District

Five-term Republican Randy Hunt, of Sandwich, is retiring.

14th Bristol District

Eleven-term Republican Betty Poirier, of North Attleborough, is retiring.

13th Essex District

Sixteen-term Democrat Ted Speliotis, of Peabody, is retiring.

4th Hampden District

Four-term Democrat John Velis, of Westfield, gave up his seat to run for Senate.


7th Hampden District

Seventeen-term Democrat Tom Petrolati, of Ludlow, is retiring.

9th Hampden District

Three-term Democrat Jose Tosado, of Springfield, is retiring.

3rd Worcester District

Three-term Democrat Stephan Hay, of Fitchburg, is retiring.

12th Worcester District

Thirteen-term Democrat Harold Naughton, of Clinton, is retiring.

House Incumbents Facing Challenges

Of the 160 House seats, 118 (74%) face no opposition. As far as the 42 contested House seats are concerned, 19 are Democratic incumbents facing a challenge — most from a Republican, but a handful are facing third party opposition. Nearly half of the House Republican incumbents face a challenge this fall, including House Republican Leader Brad Jones, of North Reading. Jones has been in the legislature since 1994, but has run unopposed in all but five cycles. He last faced a challenge 12 years ago. The challenge this year may be indicative of how Democrats are emboldened by the current political climate. Still, the power of incumbency has proven very difficult to beat.

19 Democratic Incumbents Facing Challenges

3rd Bristol District

This is a rematch of 2020 Special Election, in which Doherty beat Dooner 57% to 43%.

8th Bristol District

6th Essex District

18th Essex District

11th Hampden District

4th Middlesex District

9th Middlesex District

13th Middlesex District

19th Middlesex District

31st Middlesex District

37th Middlesex District

This is a rematch of 2020 Special Election, in which Sena beat Clark 74% to 26%.

3rd Norfolk District

4th Norfolk District

5th Norfolk District

4th Plymouth District

6th Plymouth District

12th Plymouth District

2nd Worcester District

4th Worcester District

14 Republican Incumbents Facing Challenges

1st Barnstable District

2nd Barnstable District

1st Bristol District

1st Essex District

2nd Essex District

3rd Hampden District

1st Middlesex District

20th Middlesex District

22nd Middlesex District

9th Norfolk District

This is a rematch of 2018 race, in which Dooley beat Hamlin 59% to 41%.

1st Plymouth District

5th Plymouth District

5th Worcester District

7th Worcester District

This is a rematch of the 2014, 2016 and 2018 races, in which Frost beat Dotson each time with more than 65% of the vote.

1 Independent House Incumbent Facing A Challenge

2nd Franklin District

Contested Mass. State Senate Races:

The Senate chamber in the Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Senate chamber in the Massachusetts State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Of the 40 Senate seats, 32 (80%) face no opposition including 30 Democratic incumbents and incoming freshman Adam Gomez, of Springfield, who ousted five-term incumbent Sen. James Welch in the Democratic primary. Three of the Senate’s four Republicans are facing challenges from Democrats. Unlike his counterpart in the House, Senate Republican Leader Bruce Tarr, of Gloucester, is unopposed this fall. The 13-term senator last faced a Democratic opponent in 2004, when George W. Bush was running for re-election to the White House and then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was the Democratic standard-bearer.

3 Republican Senators Facing Challenges

Plymouth & Norfolk Senate District

Worcester & Middlesex Senate District

Worcester & Norfolk Senate District

5 Democratic Senators Facing Challenges

Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire & Middlesex Senate District

This is a rematch of 2018 race, in which Gobi beat Hall 55% to 45%.

Norfolk, Bristol & Middlesex Senate District 

Plymouth & Barnstable Senate District 

This is a rematch of 2020 special election, in which Moran beat McMahon 56% to 54%.

Second Hampden & Hampshire District

This is a rematch of 2020 special election, in which Velis beat Cain 64% to 36%.

Norfolk & Plymouth District

This is a rematch of 2018 race, in which Keenan beat Mendez 76% to 24%.

Our Election Guides:

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




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