Races Around the State: Merrimack Valley

John McKenna

Part I — Out West

Part II — Worcester County

In the third installment of our look at the local electoral landscape, we ride the NH border as we look at the Merrimack Valley, spanning northern Essex and Middlesex counties, and including the cities of Lawrence, Lowell, Haverill, and Chelmsford. This rather purple area of Massachusetts sent four Republicans to Beacon Hill in 2010, and three are running unopposed, including Minority House Whip Brad Hill. Will he get more representatives for his vote counts? Let’s take a look:

Continued after the Break

Congressional Races

The race that most of the residents in the Valley will be concerned with seems to be the race between Nikki Tsongas and Jon Golnik, a rematch from two years ago. Golnik grabbed 42% of the vote in 2010, and may be in contention again this year. He will be facing a primary challenge from Tom Weaver, which could strengthen the ticket if the primary gets airtime. It will be tougher to unseat Tsongas than in 2010, but it still could be a very competitive race.

State Senate Races

Second Essex and Middlesex: Barry Feingold cruised to his first term as State Senator, replacing retiring Democrat Susan Tucker. Republicans will try to make it difficult for him by putting up Paul Adams, a freshman representative who was districted out of his seat, and chose not to go head-to-head against fellow Republican Jim Lyons. Another GOP primary candidate is Alex Vispoli. Adams has not reported any finances yet, and will take a lot to unseat a well-stocked Feingold, but he does have regional name recognition, so he could give Finegold a good fight.

Finances: Adam: N/A, Feingold: $95,865.40

First Essex: State Senator Stephen Baddour also decided not to seek re-election this year, in a district that has the potential to go red if Richard Tisei can unseat John Tierney in his Congressional race. Both parties have primaries in this Haverhill-area district, a city that went for Charlie Baker in 2010. For the Republicans, it’s between Sam Meas and Shaun Toohey. For the Democrats, it’s between Kathleen A O’Connor Ives and Bill Manzi III. So far, only Manzi has reported any finances, but this could be a real race and a genuine pickup opportunity for Republicans, who only have four State Senators to their credit.

Finances: Meas: N/A, Toohey: N/A, Ives: N/A, Manzi: $230.17

Second Essex: Democrat Frederick Berry has decided not to seek re-election in 2012, leaving a four-man primary to determine the party’s nominee. So far, the frontrunners are John Slattery, Mary-Ellen Manning, and Joan Lovely, who all have reported impressive finances. Berry’s opponent in 2010, Richard Jolitz, is trying again, but has no balance in his account, and could only garner 30% of the vote. This appears to be the kind of race where the Democratic primary winner should be the new State Senator.

Finances: Jolitz: $0, Lovely: $4,212.99, Manning: $7,828.23, Slattery: $14,517.41

First Middlesex: Eileen Donoghue will be running to grab a second-term after defeating Republican Jim Buba in 2010 to replace retiring Democrat Steven Panagiotakos. Buba is going at it again after grabbing 33.9% of the vote in 2010, but it will be a challenging race for him, maybe due to the rather blue nature of this Lowell-area district.

Finances: Buba: $112.95, Donoghue: $8,835.03

State House Races

Second Essex: This is one of the few vacant seats this fall, as incumbent Democrat Harriet Stanley decided not to seek re-election after a narrow 695 vote escape last year against Republican Robert Finneran. Therefore, the Democratic primary has emerged into a three-way race. Barry Fogel is the only Democrat to report any campaign finances thus far, so he appears to be the frontrunner. The GOP also has a primary between Robert Cronin and Lenny Mirra, as well as Gary Fowler of Georgetown. Cronin currently leads in the money race for both parties, but given the close call last year, and its somewhat Republican nature, this could be a good chance to flip a seat for the Republicans.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 36.8%, Baker (R): 54.7%

Finances: Cronin: $1812.90, Mirra: N/A, Fowler: N/A, Fogel: $1210.66

Fourteenth Essex: David Torrisi was another Democrat that came off an uncontested election in 2008, only to find himself winning two years later in a squeaker. Torrisi defeated Republican Kevin Begley by a mere 621 votes in 2010, and now faces a formidable challenger in Karin Rhoton, who has been able to raise a healthy campaign report to back up her challenge. Torrisi is also facing a primary challenge in Diana DiZoglioThis was also a district that Charlie Baker carried with 51% of the vote, so this is a definite race to watch.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 39.9%, Baker (R): 51.4%

Finances: Rhoton: $2575, DiZoglio: N/A, Torrisi: $26,037.83

Eighteenth Essex: Who’s up for a rematch? Because that is exactly what the folks of this district are getting. In 2010, longtime incumbent Barbara L’Italien was defeated by Republican Jim Lyons, but is going to try to take her seat back in 2012. It’s a worthwhile risk, because she won by over 3,700 votes in 2008, a good year thanks to Barack Obama’s presence on the ticket. This could be a real bellwether, because it will test the strength of down-ballot Republicans during a Presidential year. It might even help us determine who will win the US Senate race.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 37.5%, Baker (R): 55.4%

Finances: Lyons: $14,583.66, L’Italien: $3,562.18

Second Middlesex: James Arciero came out of 2010 with an uncontested victory, which seems to be more due to the GOP not having a candidate than his actual strength. In 2008, Arciero won with only 49.5% of the vote, a 1,446 vote margin. What was peculiar was that there were 1,696 voters that voted “Blank”, which could’ve altered the election if they went for one candidate or the other. Republicans will be sending Westford selectman Valerie Wormell up to challenge Arciero, to see if there are enough voters willing to pull the level for the Republicans rather than vote “Blank”. Wormell hasn’t filed any finance reports as of yet.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 39.9%, Baker (R): 52.6%

Finances: Wormell: N/A, Arciero: $19,845.03

Fourteenth Middlesex: Democrat Cory Atkins has cruised to victory in the last two election cycles against independent candidates. Republicans will put up Michael Benn to run against Atkins this time, hoping that the party machine will give Benn the resources to make this competitive. Atkins, though, is helped by the fact that Governor Patrick cruised to victory in this district in 2010, which means GOP resources may be few and far between for Benn.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 54.9%, Baker (R): 40.1%

Finances: Benn: N/A, Atkins: $21,040.19

Seventeenth Middlesex: Democratic incumbent David Nangle ran unopposed in 2008 and 2010, and this district went for Governor Patrick in 2010. Michael Burke will run on the Republican side, but it will take a lot to defeat Nangle in this Lowell-based district that will probably go blue in 2012.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 47%, Baker (R): 43%

Finances: Burke: N/A, Nangel: $5,131.29

Nineteenth Middlesex: Democrat James Miceli easily dispatched of his opponent in 2010, even though Baker carried it as well. This could make this district competitive if Tewksbury selectman Douglas Sears gets enough funds to make Miceli sweat, but it will be difficult against an incumbent who won with over 60% of the vote in 2010.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 33.5%, Baker (R): 55.5%

Finances: Sears: $387.86, Miceli: $3180.03

Thirty-Sixth Middlesex: Can Cathy Richardson avenge her mother? That will be the storyline for this Dracut Republican, who will try to unseat Colleen Garry, who defeated her mother, Sheila Richardson in 1994 to get the seat. She is definitely the best financed Republican, but will still have to fend off George Boag in the primary, who lost to Gerry in 2010 by 2,726 votes. Gerry may be vulnerable in a district that gave Charlie Baker 57.3% of the vote, so this will be a race to keep an eye on.

2010 Governor’s Race: Patrick (D): 31.1%, Baker (R): 57.3%

Finances: Boag: $150.01, Richardson: $2,574.09, Garry: $16,702.04

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