Two Beacon Hill Democratic Incumbents Ousted in Massachusetts Primary

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By Katie Lannan and Chris Lisinski
State House News Service

Rep. David Nangle of Lowell and Sen. James Welch of West Springfield lost their seats to Democratic primary challengers on Tuesday, in an election that put seven other Democrats who face no declared opposition in November on track to claim open House seats.

Nangle, indicted in February on more than two dozen federal fraud charges to which he has pleaded not guilty, has served in the House for 11 terms and was a member of Speaker Robert DeLeo’s leadership team until stepping down from that post after his arrest.

Lowell’s Vanna Howard, who had worked as an aide to former U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, effectively won the seat by besting Nangle and fellow Democrat Lisa Arnold in the primary, as there will be no other candidate on the ballot in the general election. Howard originally came to Lowell as a refugee from Cambodia and, on her campaign website, listed attributes she hopes to bring to the office: “A voice that is reflective of a diverse community. A passion that comes from caring for people. A commitment that I will respect this office, every day, as a position of trust.”

Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez unseated Welch, according to the Associated Press’ vote tally. Gomez is now “poised to be the first Latinx Senator from Hampden County in history,” according to a tweet from the group Latino Victory.

Gomez is in his third term on the Springfield City Council, and he is involved in leadership positions with a range of community groups including the Hispanic American Library Board of Directors and the Home City Housing Board of Directors, according to his campaign website.

Welch, the Senate chair of the Financial Services Committee, has served in the Senate since 2011. He was previously a state representative and member of the West Springfield City Council.

All 40 incumbent state senators are seeking re-election this year. The only other senators with primary races — Democratic Sens. Patricia Jehlen, Nick Collins, Walter Timilty and Michael Brady — all won.

There are 16 open seats in the House — 15 current House lawmakers opted not to run this year, and the House seat formerly held by Sen. John Velis, who won a special election in May, is vacant.

Of those 16 seats, there are seven districts where no Republican or independent candidate has made the ballot, leaving the Democratic nominee as the presumptive winner, though write-in candidates could also emerge.

Brandy Fluker Oakley and Rob Consalvo prevailed in Democratic contests for a pair of Boston seats, now held by Reps. Dan Cullinane and Angelo Scaccia, respectively.

Fluker Oakley, who ran with the backing of Sen. Nick Collins, Rep. Bill Driscoll and groups including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, has worked as a public defender and public school teacher.

Consalvo, a senior advisor in the superintendent’s office at Boston Public Schools, ran for mayor in 2013 and is a former city councilor.

Patricia Duffy emerged from a three-way primary in Holyoke, beating out fellow Democrats Patrick Beaudry and David Bartley for the seat now held by Aaron Vega. Duffy, Vega’s aide and a former publishing worker and labor leader, thanked Beaudry and Bartley for “a spirited, yet civil campaign.”

Associated Press vote totals showed another legislative aide poised to fill their boss’s seat. Retiring Rep. Lou Kafka’s staff director, Ted Philips, of Sharon, had taken in about 52 percent of the vote in his race against Walpole’s Andrew Flowers, with all precincts reporting.

Rep. Denise Provost’s Somerville seat is on track to go to Erika Uyterhoeven, who won against Catia Sharp. Uyterhoeven, who describes herself as an antitrust economist and a Democratic Socialist, is a founder of the Act on Mass organization that has pushed progressive causes on Beacon Hill and criticized House leadership over transparency issues.

Uyterhoeven’s campaign said more than 13,000 people in the district voted this year, and 8,348 people had voted for her as of 9 p.m. “We made history by saying loud and clear that our love for justice, our love for the right to live our lives with dignity, and our love for everyone to have both a voice and the agency to shape our shared Commonwealth are rights that we all deserve,” Uyterhoeven said in a statement.

Watertown’s Steven Owens, a transportation consultant, topped Town Council President Mark Sideris and David Ciccarelli, according to a tweet from Watertown Democratic Town Committee Chair William Pennington, who posted a screenshot of a videochat group he said was “Celebrating a big @VoteSteveOwens win tonight!”

Hecht and Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian were among those who stood out for Owens on primary day, according to the candidate’s Facebook posts.

In Revere, City Councilor Jessica Giannino is set to claim the seat now held by Rep. RoseLee Vincent. In a Facebook video outside her campaign headquarters, Giannino thanked her supporters and said they had been working since 6 a.m. “Today’s been overwhelming,” she said.

Her opponent, Joseph Gravellese, conceded the 16th Suffolk District race around 8:45 p.m., saying in a Facebook video that he was “humbled” to receive about 2,200 votes but could not surpass Giannino.

“She posted a really impressive total and scored the victory tonight,” Gravellese said. “The number she put up is pretty unprecedented in a Democratic primary, and it speaks to, certainly, the work she put in as a city councilor and as someone who’s been involved for quite some time.”

Later in the night, Gravellese said he consoled Jordan Meehan, who was also unsuccessful in his primary challenge against 34-year veteran Rep. Kevin Honan. “We are proud to have run the nerdiest campaigns in the state, and to have been true to ourselves, even if the results didn’t go our way,” Gravellese tweeted.

Open seats mark rare opportunities for turnover in the state Legislature — 28 of the 40 state senators and 98 of 200 representatives face no official primary or general election challenge this cycle.

Along with Honan, several other incumbent House Democrats appeared to survive primary challenges, including Reps. Jerald Parisella, Frank Moran, Danielle Gregoire, David Linsky, James Murphy, David Rogers, Christine Barber, John Rogers, Mark Cusack, Paul Donato and Daniel Ryan, as did Republican Rep. Nicholas Boldyga. Some races had not been officially called by midnight.

Some unsuccessful candidates had highlighted transparency on Beacon Hill as a campaign issue.

Anna Callahan, a challenger in the 34th Middlesex District, on her campaign website criticized Rep. Barber’s votes against rules packages that in part would have required leaders to offer representatives more time to review bills and more advance notice ahead of votes. Callahan also knocked House leadership in her campaign mailers.

In the 17th Essex District, challenger Marianela Rivera said in a concession statement that her campaign against Rep. Frank Moran helped raise awareness about “the transparency issue” on Beacon Hill. “We didn’t win the seat, but we brought more people to the table,” Rivera said.

Democrats, with 36 seats in the Senate and 127 in the House, hold supermajorities in both chambers.

Secretary of State William Galvin on Monday projected that upwards of 1.2 million voters could cast primary ballots, with the bulk of those coming via mail in an unusual election year where typical primary night gatherings were in many cases replaced by Zoom calls, social media posts and small outdoor events.

Lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker expanded access to mail-in voting and in-person early voting for the 2020 elections to give voters more options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional health precautions were also taken at polling places Tuesday.

Sen. Barry Finegold, an Andover Democrat who is running uncontested, said in a Tuesday night NECN interview that poll workers were the “unsung heroes” of the day. He said he planned to meet later in the week with his co-chair Rep. John Lawn — whose primary race against Alison Leary was too close to call at midnight — and Secretary Galvin to see if any changes to voting procedures need to be made before the Nov. 3 general election.

Finegold said he expects “some tweaks” though classified the overall process as a success.

In other primaries, Republican Steve Xiarhos claimed victory over Tom Keyes in the race for the open Cape Cod seat now held by Rep. Randy Hunt, Orlando Ramos won the Democratic contest in Springfield now held by Rep. Jose Tosado, Northborough Democrat Meghan Kilcoyne came out on top in the Democratic primary to succeed Rep. Harold Naughton, and Kelly Pease won the Republican primary for the vacant House seat last held by Sen. Velis.