Thursday, September 16, 2010

Open Seats Dominate Boston Primaries

If there’s anything that makes this year’s primary results from Boston unusual, it’s the number of open seats in the state legislature. Unlike recent mid-term primaries, this year’s had no contests for governor or US senator, so the local results mainly reflected small pockets of competition within a single party. But that was enough to increase the number of people who voted throughout Boston over the figure for September, 2008 by 17.8 percent.

The closest among the contests for an open seat in the House of Representatives was in the 5th Suffolk District (Bowdoin-Geneva, Uphams Corner, Dudley Triangle), where unofficial figures have Carlos Henriquez ahead of Barry Lawton by 41 votes. Though Henriquez received a late endorsement from the district’s most recent incumbent, Marie St. Fleur, the vote pattern looks geographical. Henriquez carried precincts closer to his base in the Dudley Triangle, while Lawton carried precincts near his base in Dorchester’s Ward 15. Also on the ballot were two perennial candidates—Althea Garrison and Roy Owens, who got a combined total of 626 votes. That’s short of Lawton’s figure by only 52 votes.

In the 4th Suffolk District (South Boston/Dorchester), a former aide to State Senator Jack Hart, Nick Collins won with 47.3% of the vote. Leading the other three Democrats was Mark McGonagle, with 35.9 percent. The race has also been viewed as a proxy rematch of last year’s race for mayor, with Collins the favorite of the Michael Flaherty camp. If that raises doubts about Mayor Thomas Menino’s coattails, it has to be noted that Flaherty lives in South Boston and, to no one’s surprise, carried the area last year.

In November, Collins will be faced by a Republican, Patrick Brennan. An accountant living in South Boston, he’s a Worcester native who grew up in New Hampshire. His website says he has been living in the Greater Boston area for six years.

Home base also played a part in the contest for the seat being vacated by Willie Mae Allen, in the 6th Suffolk District (parts of Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roslindale). Russell Holmes won with 32.9% of the vote. He carried precincts closer to his home in Mattapan, along with others along Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester. Karen Payne, who came in second with 22.5% of the vote, carried precincts near her home in Roslindale.

In West Roxbury’s 10th Suffolk District, where Rep. Mike Rush is giving up his seat to run for state senate, the winner was Ed Coppinger, topping a field of six Democrats with 39.6% of the Boston vote, and coming in first in all 15 precincts in the city. A mortgage loan officer involved in youth sports and community service, Coppinger is also the son of former State Representative Fancis X. Coppinger.

In the Democratic race for Walsh’s seat, Rush received 56.2% of the vote from precincts in Boston, where the contest with Michael F. Walsh (no relation to the incumbent), a West Roxbury native from Westwood, also drew 1588 blanks. Results also show Rush trailing in the other parts of the district, in Dedham, Norwood, and Westwood.

In November, Rush will be opposed by a Republican, Brad Williams. A West Roxbury resident who moved in from Norwood, Williams is an investment advisor who’s active in the Republican Party at the ward level.

The closest challenge to a state senate incumbent, against newly-elected Sal DiDomenico, resulted in another loss for Timothy Flaherty. In the Boston vote, Flaherty was ahead with 57.1% of the total. There were also two Democrats on the ballot in the Middlesex & Suffolk District, where Brighton State Senator Steve Tolman got 78.8% of the votes from Boston.

In the 2nd Suffolk District (Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Chinatown, Fenway, Back, Bay South End, Dorchester), State Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz faced a more vigorous challenge from Roxbury attorney Hassan Williams. Chang-Díaz won a clear path to a second term by picking up 70% of the vote.

The 2nd Suffolk race was also a far cry from the close contest two years ago, when the incumbent was Dianne Wilkerson. The primary took place shortly before federal corruption charges were brought against Wilkerson, dashing her plans for a write-in campaign that was announced in expectation of a massive outpouring of support for Barack Obama. In this year’s primary, there were fewer votes cast—a decrease by 4774 votes, with 1087 blanks. As happened two years ago, Chang-Díaz had the advantage outside of Roxbury and Dorchester. Williams carried most of the other precincts, though he managed to lose six precincts in Ward 14 (Dorchester/Mattapan) that were carried two years ago by Wilkerson.

In the city, US Rep. Stephen Lynch from South Boston received 63.2% of the vote, over his Democratic challenger from Milton, Mac D’Alessandro. The challenger’s progressive platform won some precincts, mainly in Jamaica Plain and the Back Bay. In November, Lynch’s Republican opponent will be Vernon Harrison.

Also see segment on BNN News with Gin Dumcius, News Editor of the Dorchester Reporter, and Steve Poftak, Director of Research for the Pioneer Institute.