GOP Adviser Not Happy That Unusually High Falmouth Turnout Helped Put Cape Democrat Over the Top in State Senate Election

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State Senator-elect Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) lost four of the six towns in the Plymouth & Barnstable District special election this week, but she took the town with the biggest turnout by a wide margin — her own.

And that made all the difference.

The way that happened doesn’t sit well with an adviser of her opponent, Jay McMahon, a Republican and a lawyer from Bourne who also ran for state Attorney General against Maura Healey in 2018.

District-wide, Moran, a member of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen, took 55 percent of the vote to McMahon’s 45 percent. In all, Moran got 10,788 votes while McMahon got 8,897 — a difference of 1,891 votes.

But in the five other towns of the district (Bourne, Sandwich, Plymouth, Kingston, and Pembroke), as a subtotal McMahon got 384 votes more than Moran did.

Moran’s margin of victory came from her hometown of Falmouth, which had a 26.2 percent voter turnout — 6 percentage points higher than the next highest town, which is a difference in percentage points of nearly 30 percent.

Why the difference?

It’s at least partly because the special Senate election was rescheduled to take place on the same day as Falmouth’s annual town election, which featured local races for selectmen and school committee plus an operating budget override of Proposition 2 1/2 to add eight firefighters to the town’s fire department.

On Thursday, March 19, the leaders of the state Legislature, Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) and House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop), announced that they planned to have legislators postpone the two special state Senate elections in the state originally scheduled for March 31. Spilka issued a press release on March 19 announcing the forthcoming postponement but not mentioning a new date. DeLeo did likewise.

On Monday, March 23 — eight days before the special Senate elections were supposed to take place — state legislators voted to scrap March 31 and replace it with May 19.

That same day, the state House and Senate also approved a bill allowing towns to postpone their annual town election date because of the coronavirus emergency.

In April, Sandwich selectmen postponed their annual town election 12 days — from May 7 to May 19, to coincide with the special Senate election. Sandwich is the other town Moran carried, although by a lesser amount (1,679 to 1,422, or 54 to 46 percent) than in Falmouth.

Holly Robichaud, a consultant on McMahon’s campaign, claims the election scheduling was done to help Moran. She focuses on Falmouth and the state Senate’s leader.

“The Falmouth Board of Selectmen went out of their way to rig the election for their fellow board member,” she told New Boston Post in an email message on Wednesday. “If the election had been held on March 31st Jay would have won, but Moran’s donor, Karen Spilka, changed the date and then the rules on town elections. In a fair fight, Jay would have won last night.  Falmouth has deprived the other towns and I believe that this will haunt the legitimacy of Moran’s election.”

By “donor,” Robichaud is referring to a March 11 fund-raising event for Moran co-hosted by Spilka, state Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro), former Senate President Therese Murray, and Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Gus Bickford. The event took place at Carrie Nation Restaurant and Cocktail Pub on Beacon Street in Boston.

Moran could not be reached for comment. McMahon also could not be reached.

Megan English Braga, chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen, dismissed Robichaud’s charge, noting that Falmouth’s annual town election date is longstanding and was not moved.

“This was an election set in accordance with our charter that long precedes Mr. McMahon’s run. Perhaps it’s just such a lack of understanding about Falmouth that cost him the race here,” Braga said in an email message to New Boston Post.

The Falmouth town charter states that its town elections will occur on the third Tuesday of May each year — which this year was Tuesday, May 19.

But did Democratic leaders on Beacon Hill have Falmouth’s annual town election date in mind when they set a new special Senate election date?

David Guarino, a spokesman for Spilka, said substance won the election for the Democrats.

“Democrats are winning elections like this one because we are fighting to take the country back from the wrong-headed, hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and his minions,” Guarino said in an email message to New Boston Post. “Turning a previously red seat blue proves that point. A safe and fair election was held and Susan Moran won. She will be a fantastic addition to the Senate majority and we’re pleased her positive campaign won over scare tactics and fear-mongering.”

Moran got 4,436 votes in Falmouth to McMahon’s 2,161, a margin of 2,275.

Falmouth’s total number of voters in the special Senate election (6,609) was about 40 percent higher than the total number of voters in Plymouth, which has almost twice the population.

Falmouth is a Democratic-tilting town, and Moran had already won townwide in Falmouth for local office, so it makes sense that Moran would carry Falmouth. The question is whether it would have been by so many votes if the special Senate election hadn’t coincided with the annual town election and if the annual town election didn’t feature an operating budget override of Proposition 2 1/2, which often draws interest.

On Monday, March 23, several hours after the House and Senate set May 19 as the new special Senate election date, all five members of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen voted to put the operating budget override on the May 19 annual town election ballot.

Four of the members of the board are registered Democrats (Megan English Braga, Douglas Jones, Susan Moran, and Samuel Patterson), according to the Falmouth Town Clerk’s office. The other member, Douglas Brown, is registered as unenrolled.

Outside of Falmouth, turnout varied in the Plymouth & Barnstable Senate district race, but it was substantially lower, according to data provided to New Boston Post by Town Clerk offices in each respective community.

Sandwich had 3,110 votes cast out of the 16,027 registered voters in town, a 19.4 percent voter turnout.

Bourne, McMahon’s hometown, had 2,906 voters of its approximately 14,400 come out to vote, a 20.2 percent rate.

The turnout rate was far lower off-Cape. Plymouth had a 12.4 percent turnout (5,587 of 45,028 registered voters). Kingston was even lower:  12.3 percent (1,222 of 9,912 eligible voters).  And Pembroke had the lowest turnout of all:  8.6 percent (1,177 people out of 13,640 registered voters).

The four towns that McMahon won did not have annual town elections on the same date.

When she is sworn in, Moran will occupy a state Senate seat previously held by Plymouth Republican Vinny deMacedo, who resigned in November to take a job at Bridgewater State University.

The seat next comes up in the September 2020 primary and the November 2020 general election.