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:
Five-term Republican Randy Hunt, of Sandwich, is retiring.
Eleven-term Republican Betty Poirier, of North Attleborough, is retiring.
Sixteen-term Democrat Ted Speliotis, of Peabody, is retiring.
Four-term Democrat John Velis, of Westfield, gave up his seat to run for Senate.
Seventeen-term Democrat Tom Petrolati, of Ludlow, is retiring.
Three-term Democrat Jose Tosado, of Springfield, is retiring.
Three-term Democrat Stephan Hay, of Fitchburg, is retiring.
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
This is a rematch of 2020 Special Election, in which Doherty beat Dooner 57% to 43%.
This is a rematch of 2020 Special Election, in which Sena beat Clark 74% to 26%.
14 Republican Incumbents Facing Challenges
This is a rematch of 2018 race, in which Dooley beat Hamlin 59% to 41%.
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
Contested Mass. State Senate Races:
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
5 Democratic Senators Facing Challenges
This is a rematch of 2018 race, in which Gobi beat Hall 55% to 45%.
This is a rematch of 2020 special election, in which Moran beat McMahon 56% to 54%.
This is a rematch of 2020 special election, in which Velis beat Cain 64% to 36%.
This is a rematch of 2018 race, in which Keenan beat Mendez 76% to 24%.