Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman Says His Party Will Flip Brad Hill’s Seat

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A high-ranking GOP member of the Massachusetts Legislature will soon step down, creating an open seat in a left-leaning district — and one that Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Gus Bickford thinks his party will flip.

State Representative Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) will step down from his post as Assistant Minority Leader of the Massachusetts House of Representatives to take a spot on the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. His last day in office will be Wednesday, September 15, 2021, he told State House News Service.

Hill’s leaving will trigger a special election in the district; the election will likely take place about four months after he steps down. 

It’s a post Hill has held since 1999. He often ran unopposed. From 2010 to 2020, Hill only had one Democratic opponent when running for re-election in the Fourth Essex District:  Allison Gustavson, a Democrat from Manchester-by-the-Sea. He won re-election running in 2018 running against her, getting 56 percent of the vote to her 44 percent.

With Hill out of the picture, Democrats sound confident they will take the seat back.

“This opening is another opportunity for the Democratic Party to flip another seat from red to blue,” Massachusetts Democratic Party chairman Gus Bickford told NewBostonPost in an email statement Friday, August 20. “The Mass Democratic Party has flipped nine seats in recent years, and we look forward to making this the tenth.”

The Massachusetts Republican Party, contacted by NewBostonPost on Friday, commented on Hill’s forthcoming resignation but not on the forthcoming special election.

“Since 1999, residents of Massachusetts’ 4th Essex District have been well-served under Rep. Hill’s leadership. Rep. Hill has been a steady Republican voice of common sense on Beacon Hill for decades, and on behalf of the Massachusetts Republican Party, I want to congratulate him for a job well done and wish him the best of luck as he transitions to this new position,” MassGOP chairman Jim Lyons said in an email statement.

While the longtime incumbent was able to keep winning the district, it is one that has been less friendly to Republicans in recent years. President Joe Biden won Hill’s district by nearly 30 points in the November 2020 presidential election.

The district includes every precinct in the towns of Hamilton, Ipswich, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rowley, Topsfield, and Wenham. Biden won every one of those towns in the election. He got 18,750 of the 29,968 votes cast in the race (62.6 percent) while Trump got 9,890 (33.0 percent), according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

It also went to the Democratic nominee for president in 2016:  Hillary Clinton.

Clinton won every town in the district except Rowley. She got 14,966 of the 27,828 votes cast in the race (53.8 percent) while Trump got 9,592 (34.5 percent). Clinton’s margin of victory was smaller than Biden’s but she defeated Trump by more than 19 points.

And in 2018 when former state representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman) ran for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Warren, the district went Democrat once again. However, the race was more competitive.

Warren got 12,667 of the 24,130 votes cast (52.5 percent) while Diehl got 10,020 (41.5 percent), a margin of 11 points.

There have been several special elections for the Massachusetts Legislature in recent years. In seats previously held by Republicans, the Democratic Party has used these elections to grow their supermajority in the legislature.

The MassGOP went from six state Senate seats in 2019 to three as of the start of 2021. Two of those seats they lost were the result of Democratic gains in special elections. 

In 2019, Don Humason (a Republican) was elected mayor of Westfield and Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth (also a Republican) took a job at Bridgewater State University. Humason represented the Second Hampden and Hampshire District while deMacedo represented the Plymouth & Barnstable District.

Democrats ran then-state representative John Velis, also of Westfield, in the special election to fill the seat. He went against John Cain, a businessman from Southwick who had never held elected office. Velis won the special election 64.2 percent to 35.8 percent. Meanwhile, then-Falmouth selectman Susan Moran, a Democrat, won the special election in the Plymouth & Barnstable District over Republican Jay McMahon, a member of the Republican State Committee and the party’s 2018 nominee for state Attorney General. Moran won the special election 56.2 percent to 43.7 percent.

Additionally, the Republicans lost a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ Third Bristol District last year in a special election, held after Shaunna O’Connell (a Republican) was elected mayor of Taunton.

The Democratic Party ran Taunton school committee member Carol Doherty, who previously served as president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union. The Republicans ran Kelly Dooner, also of Taunton, who had never held elected office. Doherty won the election 57 percent to 42.8 percent.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives currently has 129 Democrats, 30 Republicans, and one unenrolled member who caucuses with the Democrats.


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