Voters in November will choose the first new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in eight years, and the first new auditor since President Barack Obama's first term. On the road to those big decisions, they will narrow the fields in Tuesday's primary election.
The primary will make clear whether Geoff Diehl or Chris Doughty and their chosen running-mates, respectively Leah Cole Allen and Kate Campanale, will lead the GOP's bid to hang onto the corner office following Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito's departure in January. Maura Healey, the current attorney general, faces a clear path to the top of the Democratic ticket after her opponent in the primary, Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, stopped campaigning in June.
Everyone who pulls a Democratic ballot on Tuesday will have key decisions to make in other statewide offices, too -- which of the three lieutenant governor candidates should join Healey on the November ticket, whether to give the secretary of state an eighth term or hand the office to a newcomer, and who should emerge from the pointed auditor and attorney general races that have been filled with jabs.
(See Massachusetts primary election results here after polls close at 8 p.m.)
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This cycle is also the first under the latest round of decennial redistricting, putting new districts on the map designed to maximize the chances for voters to choose people of color to represent them. All 200 seats in the state Legislature are up for grabs, and by the time the votes are counted in the primary, we'll know nine new lawmakers who are set to join the House and Senate.
Everyone hoping to win an election will compete with perhaps the most potent opponent, one with a long track record of tossing obstacles in front of candidates: familiarity. When mail-in ballots were already flying and the start of in-person early voting was days away, Don't Know/Never Heard Of remained a popular choice in polls, a sign that candidates have not been making strong connections and many voters are opting to turn their volume down when it comes to politics.
Here are highlights to watch in Tuesday's elections:
With not much in the way of officeholders, Massachusetts Republicans do not have much more to lose in this year's elections, although they are at risk of losing the most important position they control: the governor's office. Democrats hold four of six constitutional offices, every seat in the Congressional delegation, and super-majorities in the Massachusetts House and Senate.
The question that will be answered Tuesday is whether voters will pick a former state rep and Trump supporter in Geoff Diehl or a political novice in businessman Chris Doughty to try to extend the party's grip on the corner office. Over the past 40 years, voters in Massachusetts have elected two Democrats for governor (Dukakis in 1982 and 1986, and Deval Patrick in 2006 and 2010) and four Republicans (William Weld in 1990 and 1994, Paul Cellucci in 1998, Mitt Romney in 2002, and Charlie Baker in 2014 and 2018).
Weld, Cellucci and Baker hail from the same moderate wing of the party that leaned to the left of national Republicans and won traction in Massachusetts with the help of independent voters. Romney's star power carried him to victory in 2002.
Voters are getting a different look with Diehl and Doughty, and the winner of Tuesday's primary will begin as an underdog against Democrat Maura Healey. Massachusetts voters have shown they like having a Republican governor to serve as a check on the Democrats in the Legislature.
The state GOP has shifted to the right in recent years, and Diehl appears to be counting on that base to propel him to the general election, while Doughty's camp has portrayed him as someone who can win in November if voters don't sideline him next Tuesday. With so few registered Republicans in the state, the GOP candidates and their unofficial running-mates Leah Cole Allen (Diehl) and Kate Campanale (Doughty) are hoping to draw support from unenrolled voters. The challenge there is that independent voters can choose a Republican or Democrat ballot in the primary, and the Democrats have more competition on their ticket, including multi-candidate fields for lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor.
Democrats and unenrolled voters who pull Democrat ballots for the primaries have plenty of decisions to make.
While there is no real contest for governor on the Democratic side, there are intraparty contests for four of the other five constitutional offices this year. The lieutenant governor's race between Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton and Sen. Eric Lesser of Longmeadow has really been a contest to be Maura Healey's running mate since Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz bowed out of the gubernatorial race in June.
The lieutenant governor's job is mostly undefined and can be shaped by each officeholder and administration. Driscoll has highlighted her executive experience running Salem for five terms, Lesser touts his Western Mass. roots and White House work experience as assets to being an LG who can work across all of state government, and Gouveia has said she is "really just focused on being a different kind of lieutenant governor" who addresses the most pressing issues in Bay Staters' lives.
None of the three candidates, all of whom hold elected office currently, are well known by voters statewide but Driscoll has led the race in most public polling. If Gouveia or Lesser prevails, it would be the first time in 20 years that anyone with experience in the Legislature is part of the Democratic ticket (2002, Shannon O'Brien) and the first time since 1998 that a sitting member of the Legislature is on the ticket (Sen. Warren Tolman).
Former Boston City Council President Andrea Campbell has Healey's endorsement to succeed her as attorney general and has held a slight lead in polling over Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor attorney and one-time U.S. Senate candidate. Quentin Palfrey, the party's 2018 lieutenant governor nominee, dropped out of the contest after early voting had begun and backed Campbell. During the primary, Campbell's opponents zeroed in on her donor list to paint her as influenced by special interests. Liss-Riordan holds herself out as the only practicing attorney in the race to be the state's top lawyer, but the others have turned the high fees she charges to represent workers in class action suits against her.
The race for auditor is also an open contest, with former Patrick administration transportation official Chris Dempsey and Sen. Diana DiZoglio battling to replace retiring Auditor Suzanne Bump. Bump endorsed Dempsey, who helped lead the grassroots movement to prevent the Olympics from coming to Boston in 2024. DiZoglio served three terms in the House before winning election to the Senate in 2018 and has been an independent voice throughout her time on Beacon Hill.
The only incumbent constitutional officer facing a primary challenge this year is Secretary of State William Galvin, who is seeking his eighth four-year term as the secretary of state and could surpass former Secretary Frederic Cook's record 28-year tenure in the post if he wins this September and November. But the Democratic Party convention backed Tanisha Sullivan, an attorney and life sciences executive who serves as president of the Boston branch of the NAACP.
Sullivan has focused on the role of the secretary of state and whether the longtime incumbent is the right person to lead the office at a time when so many of its functions -- elections administration, voter registration and more -- have taken on new weight in the wake of Donald Trump's presidency and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection. Galvin, who has lost at the party convention but then prevailed in the party primary three times previously, has pitched himself as a reliable and effective administrator who now holds a senior position among elections officials nationally.
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It will be an uneventful primary day for Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who has no Democratic or Republican opposition as she seeks a third term in office.
Sitting lawmakers facing primaries
The political fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade and throw a woman's right to an abortion into question is expected to be a recurring theme this election cycle, and its first ripples could show up in Beacon Hill primaries.
Two incumbent Democrats -- Rep. Paul Donato of Medford and Sen. Walter Timility of Milton -- face primary challenges from opponents who have made reproductive rights central to their campaigns and have earned endorsements from the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts. Nichole Mossalam, a Malden activist and nonprofit leader who took about 45 percent of the vote against Donato in the 2020 Democratic primary, and Kathleen Crogan-Camara, a Randolph nurse, said the incumbents' positions on abortion and reproductive rights generally are not in line with the majority of their districts.
In 2020, Donato and Timilty both voted against the so-called ROE Act, which enshrined abortion rights in state law, allowed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy in some cases, and lowered the age from 18 to 16 at which an individual could receive an abortion without parental or judicial consent. Both then supported legislation this session creating new legal protections for patients and providers in the wake of the federal overturning of Roe v. Wade.
"In a district that is so heavily blue, and who overwhelmingly supports a woman's right to choose, this is not effective representation. Elected officials need to demonstrate their commitment to the rights of their constituents. We currently do not have that," Mossalam said on her website.
Crogan-Camara has focused on Timilty's voting record around abortion and LGBTQ issues (Timilty voted in 2007 in favor of allowing a proposed Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman to advance to the voters), and said that her "opponent's stances on those topics are completely out of step with our district, and they are a pure manifestation of what I believe is harmful about the status quo."
Expected Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey has endorsed Donato in his race despite having different positions on reproductive rights, potentially an indication of how establishment figures feel about the challenge that a longtime member of House leadership faces.
Healey's also endorsed another member of House leadership who faces a Democratic challenger -- Rep. Sarah Peake of Provincetown. To keep her seat in the House, Peake will have to best Jack Stanton, a 30-year-old commercial lobsterman and organizer who is pitching himself as the "fresh perspective" and "new vision" that the district needs. There's already been friction in that race as the newcomer Stanton contends that the incumbent Peake "declines to be transparent" with constituents by meeting only in one joint radio appearance.
Raul Fernandez, a former vice chair of the Brookline Select Board, is making a similar case as he runs a primary campaign against Rep. Tommy Vitolo, also of Brookline. Fernandez points to his work to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Brookline -- "he saw it pass Town Meeting and die amid legislative inaction on Beacon Hill, like thousands of progressive bills and home rule petitions every session" -- and said he was frustrated to see "just how few State Representatives were in the fight with him" when he went to Beacon Hill to fight for local tenant protection options with Elugardo and Rep. Mike Connolly.
While Fernandez has used the plodding pace of the Legislature's work against Vitolo, the incumbent scored a big win this summer when the governor signed legislation that allows 10 communities to ban fossil fuels as part of new construction or major renovations. Vitolo said the idea for legislation to allow Brookline to ban fossil fuel from new construction started on his porch and has touted the 10-town demonstration project as evidence that playing the legislative game can yield statewide results.
Four representatives have primary contests as they look to move across the State House and assume a seat in the Massachusetts Senate. Only three will be able to prevail, though, since Reps. Nika Elugardo and Liz Miranda are both running in a five-candidate field for the Boston Senate seat that Sonia Chang-Diaz is relinquishing. Elugardo is used to primary contests; she won her seat in the House in 2018 by defeating Ways and Means Chairman Jeffery Sanchez in a Democratic primary. Rep. Paul Mark of Becket (formerly of Peru) faces small business manager and community activist Huff Templeton of Williamstown in the Democratic primary for the seat that Sen. Adam Hinds is vacating, and Rep. Jake Oliveira of Ludlow faces a challenge from Sydney Levin-Epstein of Longmeadow, who has worked for U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, in the Democratic primary for the seat that Sen. Eric Lesser is giving up.
Republican Rep. Shawn Dooley has no opponent as he seeks to make the jump to the Mass. Senate and is on track to cruise into a general election match-up against Democrat Sen. Becca Rausch. Rep. Paul Tucker of Salem faces James O'Shea of Middleton in the Democratic primary contest for Essex County district attorney, and Rep. Tim Whelan has no Republican opponent as he looks to make the leap from Mass. House to being sheriff of Barnstable County.
First election following latest redistricting
The decennial redistricting process wrapped up months ago, and voters will now get their first chance to cast ballots in reshaped House, Senate, Governor's Council and Congressional districts that will be in place for the next decade. All four maps changed, with the most substantial revisions hitting state legislative districts.
Unlike in New York, where Congressman Jerry Nadler topped a hard-fought Democratic primary against fellow Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for a reshaped Manhattan district, Massachusetts incumbents will not be pitted against each other in primary election bids to retain their seats. Democrats leaned into resignations to avoid showdowns between sitting lawmakers.
In the House, four new districts would have paired up two incumbents, but in each case a lawmaker opted against seeking reelection (Rep. Elizabeth Malia), got a job in the Biden administration (Rep. Claire Cronin and Rep. Maria Robinson), or chose to run for the Senate (Rep. Paul Mark and Rep. Nika Elugardo), avoiding the need to face off against a colleague.
Both state legislative maps also create new majority-minority districts aimed at boosting the opportunity for non-white candidates to win seats in the overwhelmingly white Legislature. Majority-minority districts in the House jumped from 20 under the 2011 redistricting process to 33, and the number in the Senate increased from three to five.
One of those two new Senate districts, the incumbent-free First Essex District covering Lawrence, Methuen and parts of Haverhill, features all candidates of color on the ballot. Democrat Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Everett, who is white, is seeking reelection to the other new majority minority district and is the only candidate on the ballot.
Nine new lawmakers will likely be chosen in primary
The Legislature is guaranteed to welcome at least two dozen new lawmakers when the next term begins in January because five Senate districts and 19 House districts feature open races with no incumbent. A chunk of those will be effectively decided in the primary: in seven House districts and two Senate districts, no Republican or independent candidates qualified for the ballot, meaning whoever tops the Democratic primary will waltz into office unless they fall to an unlikely write-in campaign.
Second Suffolk - Senate: This race fits our technical definition of an open seat decided in the primary -- none of the five candidates currently represent the Boston-based Senate district, and all of them are Democrats -- but it might not wind up with voters electing a brand-new face to the Legislature. That's because two of the candidates, Liz Miranda and Nika Elugardo, are sitting state representatives hoping to jump to the other chamber and one, Dianne Wilkerson, held a Senate seat for 15 years. Wilkerson represented the Second Suffolk district in the Senate from 1993 to 2008, when she resigned while facing federal charges alleging she accepted $23,500 in bribes to help steer licenses and state land to developers and businesses. She pleaded guilty and served several years in prison, then reemerged in recent years as a community activist with groups such as the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition. Both Miranda and Elugardo joined the House in 2018 and are in their second terms. They are joined on the ballot by Rev. Miniard Culpepper, a former Housing and Urban Development official and community leader, and James Grant, a former teacher and corrections officer. More than 75 percent of residents in the district, currently represented by departing Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz, are people of color, the highest rate in any of the 40 Senate districts. All five candidates are also people of color.
First Essex - Senate: Three first-time candidates -- Pavel Payano of Lawrence, Doris Rodriguez of Lawrence and Eunice Delice Zeigler -- are on the ballot to represent the First Essex District in the Senate, currently held by auditor candidate Sen. Diana DiZoglio. The district was redrawn substantially in the latest round of redistricting as an incumbent-free, majority-minority district covering Lawrence, Methuen and some downtown Haverhill neighborhoods. Payano, a Lawrence city councilor and former School Committee member, previously worked as an aide to former Congresswoman Niki Tsongas and he joined the Social Innovation Forum as director of community mobilization in 2020. Zeigler is also a city councilor in her hometown, Methuen, and she also works as director of advancement for the YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts. Rodriguez is a Suffolk University Law School graduate who has worked as a compliance officer for the city of Lawrence, as a law librarian for the Massachusetts Trial Court and for the Internal Revenue Service, according to the Eagle-Tribune.
Fourth Essex - House: Another Beacon Hill comeback could unfold in this brand-new district representing parts of Lawrence and Methuen, an incumbent-free district where about two-thirds of the population is Hispanic. Former Rep. William Lantigua, who served four terms in the House before resigning in 2010 to become mayor of Lawrence, is one of three Democrats on the ballot alongside James McCarty of Methuen and Estela Reyes of Lawrence. Lantigua spent four years as Lawrence mayor, and since then he has waged two fairly close but unsuccessful races against incumbent Rep. Marcos Devers. Reyes is in her fifth term as a Lawrence city councilor, first elected to the panel in 2012, and her campaign says she played a key role in advocacy for gas safety legislation in the wake of the September 2018 natural gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley. McCarty is also a city councilor in Methuen, first elected in 2018, and he became its chair in 2020 -- the youngest person to do so, McCarty said -- during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seventh Essex - House: Gene Collins, Manny Cruz and Domingo Dominguez are hoping to become the next state rep from Salem in a bid to succeed Rep. Paul Tucker, who is running for Essex County district attorney. Dominguez is a three-term Salem City Councilor who spent 15 years as a small business owner and three years as a teacher before running for office. Cruz is also a local official, serving as a member of Salem's School Committee, who has also worked as an aide on Beacon Hill to Tucker and former Rep. Juana Matias. Collins said in public interviews he worked during his career with the former Massachusetts Turnpike Authority overseeing contracts for minority candidates.
Eighth Essex - House: The most crowded legislative race this cycle, six Democrats are on the ballot hoping to win election to a North Shore district. They are Jenny Armini of Marblehead, a speechwriter who helped launch grassroots Democratic activism group ElectBlue; Diann Slavit Baylis of Marblehead, an immigration attorney and gun control activist; Tristan Smith of Swampscott, who worked as a coach and teacher before graduating Suffolk University Law School in May; Terri Tauro of Marblehead, a labor leader with the Marblehead Municipal Employees Union IUE-CWA Local 81776; Doug Thompson of Swampscott, a health care executive who served as the chief financial officer for the state's Medicaid program under Gov. Deval Patrick; and Polly Titcomb of Swampscott, an attorney and former Select Board chair. Rep. Lori Ehrlich represented the district until she resigned on Jan. 31 for a job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Eleventh Plymouth - House: It'll be a Brockton City Council showdown when Shirley Rita Asack and Rita Mendes face off in the race for a seat representing parts of central and northern Brockton, newly redrawn in the latest redistricting cycle as an incumbent-free, majority-minority district. Both Democrats are immigrants -- Asack came to the U.S. from Lebanon when she was seven, and Mendes moved here from Brazil when she was 12 -- who currently serve on the City Council. Asack, who also owns a flower shop, focused on her City Council tenure on her campaign website, describing work to expand Brockton's Council on Aging, hire police and fire officials, and expand diversity and inclusion programs in Brockton Public Schools. Mendes, an attorney and real estate agent, touted efforts to reduce class sizes and improve local roads and bridges while pledging if elected to focus on "increased traffic patrols to reverse the recent increases in fatal car accidents."
Sixth Middlesex - House: Another new incumbent-free, majority-minority district covering parts of Framingham, this race features three Democrats: Dhruba Sen, Margareth Shepard and Priscila Sousa. Sen is a software developer and longtime activist who served as a neighborhood team leader in President Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and his campaign says he has also organized protests against federal immigration enforcement activity in state courts. Shepard served two terms of the Framingham City Council, which she says made her the first Brazilian-American city councilor in Massachusetts, and she touts endorsements from several sitting lawmakers and organized labor groups including the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Sousa, also an immigrant from Brazil, is in her second term on the Framingham School Committee and currently serves as its chair. She works in the solar industry.
Fifteenth Suffolk - House: Roxanne Longoria, Mary Ann Nelson, Sam Montaño and Richard Fierro will compete to represent this reshaped majority-minority Boston district stretching from Mission Hill southward through Jamaica Plain to Forest Hills. Longoria worked for the city of Boston for more than three years before she launched her campaign, including a year and a half as director of youth homelessness initiatives. She pitched herself as a "progressive voice," with criminal justice reform, affordable housing and free transit among her priorities. Nelson has served as executive director of the Mission Hill Health Movement Inc., a community group that helps manage chronic illness and increase access to healthy food, since 2016. Montaño is a community organizer who has focused on affordable housing, equity and climate resistance issues. Fierro is a Northeastern University graduate student who previously worked as an administrative assistant in the governor's operations office.
Fifteenth Essex - House: Here's another technicality: the Fifteenth Essex District today represented by retiring Rep. Linda Dean Campbell is an open seat with no Republican or independent candidates on the ballot, but voters don't exactly have much of a choice to make in the primary. Democrat Ryan Hamilton, a former Methuen City Councilor, is the only person whose name will appear on a ballot this election season for the House district covering parts of Methuen and Haverhill. Hamilton also worked in Congresswoman Lori Trahan's office and for Methuen Mayor Neil Perry, according to the Eagle-Tribune.
Candidate forums involving the Governor's Council often open with an explanation of what, exactly, the council does. Voters historically pay less attention to the elected eight-member panel, which has the largest political districts in the state and has final say over whether a governor's judicial nominees actually get to sit on the bench.
Two contests are heating up this cycle. Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney of Watertown, a 23-year veteran of the council (though she isn't its longest-serving member), faces competition in the Democratic primary from Mara Dolan of Concord, a former public defender, campaign operative, and communications aide to ex-Senate President Stanley Rosenberg. The two traded accusations in a recent cable access debate, with Devaney alleging that Dolan was running a "smear" campaign against her, and Dolan claiming that Devaney's assertion was itself a smear.
Devaney has said on several occasions that she is not "Miss Congeniality" on the council, where she drew the ire of her colleagues this spring after successfully fighting to reopen public broadcasts of their meetings in partnership with groups like the ACLU. Dolan has recently attacked Devaney's vote in support of Superior Court Judge Claudine Cloutier, confirmed by the council 5-3 in July, whom Dolan cast as "anti-choice."
Meanwhile, at the other end of the state, Democrats will winnow the field of candidates to succeed retiring Governor's Councilor Mary Hurley, a former Springfield mayor and judge. The huge district spans the urban Springfield area to the rural hilltowns of the Berkshires.
Two of the four Democrats in the race have Springfield ties -- attorney Jeff Morneau of East Longmeadow, a partner at a Springfield law firm who ran in 2016 when the seat was last up for grabs and lost to Hurley by a margin of around 16 percent, and Springfield City Councilor Mike Fenton, who has drawn financial support from Hurley.
Shawn Allyn of Agawam, partner at a Holyoke law firm, and North Adams School Committee member Tara Jacobs round out the Democrats' options in western Massachusetts. Fenton, who already had a campaign account open for his city council role before jumping into the race, led the pack with nearly $68,000 in his coffers at the end of July. Morneau and Allyn weren't far behind at $63,000 and $57,000, respectively. Jacobs, who touts herself as "the only non-lawyer" in the race and also the only Berkshire County resident, had around $3,700. The winner of the District 8 Democratic primary will face Republican John Comerford of Palmer in November.