Massachusetts state primaries on Tuesday saw both parties build on the rejection of centrism that defined the previous election cycle and has defined the current one elsewhere in the nation.
On the Democratic side, the upset victory of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley in the Seventh Congressional District, which covers much of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville, over incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano was one of a number of challenger victories that selected progressive Democrats and unseated much of the leadership in the Massachusetts State House.
For Republicans, a victory by centrist incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker was undercut by strong support for his controversial opponent Scott Lively as well as the nomination of a pro-Trump candidate State Rep. Geoff Diehl as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s general election opponent.
The State Senate races were free of any upsets, although Samantha Hammar came close to unseating incumbent Sen. Jason Lewis in the Fifth Middlesex District, which covers the lower portion of Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus. Lewis ultimately held on to his seat with 56 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results published by The New York Times.
In the State House, however, two members of the Democratic leadership who represent the Boston area were unseated by younger and more liberal challengers.
Assistant Majority Leader Byron Rushing, representing the South End of Boston, was beaten by Jon Santiago, whose campaign website bio states he is a former emergency room doctor, as well as a former member of the Peace Corps.
As reported by The Boston Globe, Rushing was the most senior African-American state representative on Beacon Hill, having first been elected to serve the district in 1982.
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jeffrey Sánchez lost to Nika Elugardo, who positioned herself to the incumbent’s left. According to WBUR, Elugardo, who has a background in local and state advocacy groups, criticized Sánchez for failing to follow through on promised progressive reforms, notably the Safe Communities Act, which would have limited local police’s ability to share information with federal immigration officers, and for being more beholden to House Speaker Robert DeLeo than his constituents.
Tufts Progressive Alliance (TPA) praised the ousters of Rushing and Sánchez, and told the Daily in an electronic message that the Massachusetts voters are “hungry for progressive leadership.”
“The victory of Nika Elugardo and Jon Santiago over two high ranking members of the obstructionary conservative State House shows a desire for bold progressive change in the commonwealth,” TPA wrote.
Sánchez’s defeat means the coming legislative session will see a new Ways and Means chairperson in both chambers of the Massachusetts State Legislature. According to WBUR, the Senate Ways and Means Chair was left vacant when its former holder, Karen Spilka, replaced Stan Rosenberg as Senate President.
Vacancies in the leadership of Beacon Hill’s Ways and Means Committees have major ramifications for Tufts as well as the cities of Medford and Somerville. The committees are in charge of managing and writing the budget, which, as seen in the recently-approved 2019 Fiscal Year budget, provides funding to local governments as well as the Department of Higher Education, which oversees, among other things, some financial aid support.
State Sen. Pat Jehlen, who represents the Second Middlesex District, and State Reps. Denise Provost and Christine Barber, who represent the 27th and 34th Middlesex Districts, respectively, all ran unopposed in their primaries, according to the Times’ unofficial results. They received their respective Democratic nominations.
On the congressional level, Ayanna Pressley’s primary victory all but guarantees her ascension to the United States House of Representatives; she will run unopposed in November, according to Ballotpedia.
Incumbent Rep. Katherine Clark retained the Democratic nomination for the Fifth Congressional District, which includes the upper part of the Medford/Somerville campus. She will face Republican John Hugo.
State Rep. Geoff Diehl won the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren in November.
Diehl’s comfortable win — he received over 55 percent of the vote in a three-way primary race, according to unofficial results — is an example of the Massachusetts Republican Party’s swing towards Trump-style candidates. According to WBUR, Diehl was the state chair of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. He echoes much of Trump’s rhetoric as well, with his campaign website emphasizing a “Massachusetts First” agenda and touting his commitment to build a border wall.
In the gubernatorial race, Jay Gonzalez beat out Bob Massie for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Baker’s bid for a second term. According to unofficial results featured on WBUR, Somerville was one of only a handful of towns and cities in Massachusetts where a majority of primary voters selected Massie.
Gonzalez’s campaign bio highlights his experience as the budget chief under former Gov. Deval Patrick, as well as the chief executive officer of CeltiCare Health. In that way, his experience rivals that of Baker, who also has a background in healthcare, being the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, according to his official bio.
In his victory speech, Gonzalez set his sights on Baker, acknowledging that though the governor is popular among Democrats — a May WBUR poll found that Baker had a slight advantage in favorability by Democrats than Republicans, despite his partisan affiliation — Massachusetts needs more Democratic policies to combat the Trump administration.
“Look, I get it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a relief to have a governor who isn’t a crazy, right-wing extremist. With Donald Trump setting the bar so low, nice and not crazy seems pretty good. But it’s not good enough. Not for us. Not for Massachusetts.”
Baker was victorious in the Republican primary held Tuesday night, fending off a candidate far to his right in Scott Lively. Lively positioned himself as the pro-Trump candidate, calling himself “100 percent for Trump” in a speech at the Republican Convention earlier this summer.
Lively was controversial for more than his support of the president. As discussed in his convention interview with WBUR, Lively is a noted homophobe. He published a 1995 book alleging that Nazism was started by homosexuals, and conspired with Ugandan anti-gay activists to deny gay rights in the country.
Despite these well-documented and widely-reported beliefs, Lively received over 27 percent of support at the convention, enough to grant him an appearance on the primary ballot alongside Baker, according to WBUR. In the primary, he received an even larger share of the vote, pulling in 36 percent, over 98,000 votes.
Baker used his victory speech to push his moderate credentials.
“[Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito] and I believe in bipartisanship,” Baker said. “We believe that people in public life can — and should — debate the issues respectfully, and seek common ground whenever possible.”
Tufts Republicans said that Baker was the right choice for Massachusetts. Endorsing the incumbent governor, they said that Baker’s accomplishments during his first term qualified both him and his Lieutenant Governor to remain in their posts.
“We are proud to support Governor Charlie Baker for reelection this year. In their first term, Charlie Baker and Karyn Polito have succeeded in making Massachusetts an economically vibrant state, promoting fiscal responsibility, and making state government leaner and more efficient, all while empowering communities across the Commonwealth. Governor Baker’s standing as the most popular governor in America, one he has held for five consecutive quarters, is a testament to his success and ability to work across the aisle to achieve real results,” Tufts Republicans told the Daily in an email.
Karyn Polito will appear on the ballot as Baker’s running mate, having run unopposed, according to unofficial results. Gonzalez’s running mate will be Quentin Palfrey, a former Department of Commerce official in the Obama Administration, according to WBUR. Palfrey defeated former comedian Jimmy Tingle.
The general election is Nov. 6.
UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that TPA provided comments in an email. It did so via electronic message. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily regrets this error.