Dems bypass second place finisher, choose Gannon to oppose O’Connor

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STATE HOUSE — Former state Rep. Paul Gannon, who now lives in Hingham after representing South Boston in the early 1990s, will run against incumbent Republican Sen. Patrick O’Connor this November after the state Democratic Party chose him to be the party’s new nominee.

A special executive committee met Sunday night to choose a replacement for Joan Meschino, who declined the Senate nomination after winning last Thursday’s primary because she has chosen to focus instead on a race for an open House seat.

The ad-hoc committee of local state committee members and Democratic town committee chairs met in Cohasset to discuss the nomination with potential candidates, and chose Gannon over the candidate who finished second in the primary – Brian Cook of Duxbury. Party officials were unable to identify committee members’ names on Monday.

Both Gannon and Cook made their pitches to the group of local Democrats representing a district that includes Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, Cohasset and Weymouth.

The committee recommended Gannon, who mounted a late primary write-in campaign for the Plymouth and Norfolk District seat after running on the ballot in a special election for the same seat earlier this year.

“Candidates met with the committee for over an hour discussing their campaigns and visions for the seat, after which the committee met to deliberate and make a recommendation to the Chairman. The recommendation to the Chairman was that Paul Gannon be the Democratic nominee. The Chairman has made the decision to follow the committee’s recommendation and will appoint Paul Gannon as the Democratic nominee for the November election,” Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Cincotti said in a statement.

Gannon, who served in the House from 1991 to 1995, lost to Meschino in a special election primary this spring to compete in the general election to replace Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund in the Senate. The seat was ultimately won by O’Connor.

Meschino initially sought a rematch against O’Connor this fall, but switched gears to focus on former Rep. Garrett Bradley’s Third Plymouth District seat after Bradley resigned his office. Meschino won a write-in campaign in the Democratic primary for Bradley’s seat, but also won the Senate nomination after her name still appeared on the ballot along with Cook.

Gannon currently serves on the Hingham Board of Selectmen.

The Massachusetts Republican Party criticized the process used by Democrats to replace a candidate who declined the nomination by choosing someone who didn’t even run in the race.

“Coming from the Party that views backroom deals as standard procedure, it’s not surprising that a group of Democrat insiders chose to defy the will of the voters and hand-pick Paul Gannon as their nominee. Voters will see through this political ploy because they know that Sen. O’Connor is the only candidate who cares about earning their support,” MassGOP spokesman Terry MacCormack said in a statement.

Cincotti said the choice of Gannon over Cook was made by people closest to the electorate in the district.

“I would say that Chairman (Thomas) McGee wanted to make sure that this process was really led by people in these communities to choose who would be their nominee. The committee took this responsibility seriously and the candidate that was chosen is the one the folks closest to it feel will best represent the district in the Senate,” Cincotti told the News Service.

Meschino won last Thursday’s Democratic primary with 3,765 votes to Cook’s 2,556, according to unofficial results.

Gannon won almost as many votes as Cook – 2,337 – in the spring special election primary in which he finished behind Meschino.

On Aug. 11, Gannon announced plans to pursue a write-in campaign for the Senate seat after Meschino turned her focus to the House, saying his previous campaign gave him the experience and organization necessary to win.

The News Service checked in with local clerks and the unofficial results from last Thursday’s primary show Gannon finished a distant third behind Cook, 2,556 to 148.

Cook took his hometown of Duxbury with 344 votes to Meschino’s 218, while Gannon received two write-in votes and Bill Clinton got one.

Gannon performed strongest in Hingham – with 111 votes, he was still 364 behind second-place Cook.

Gannon also garnered 16 write-in votes in Scituate and two in Cohasset. Cook received 222 in Scituate and 142 in Cohasset.

Voters in the Weymouth Democratic primary gave Gannon 11 votes, gave 15 to incumbent Republican Patrick O’Connor, and 538 to Cook.

In Hull, Gannon had six votes, while Stephen Burm – actually running a write-in campaign for the House – received 12 write-ins for Senate. Cook got 272 votes in that town.

The Norwell town clerk’s office was not able to identify on Monday who received their six write-ins.

Voters in Marshfield chose only between Meschino and Cook, with not a single write-in vote cast, the town clerk’s office told the New Service. Cook was competitive in Marshfield where he fell just 54 votes behind Meschino.

Cook did not respond to requests for comment.

— Written by Matt Murphy, Sam Doran, and Michael Norton

Copyright State House News Service