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Doors, Campaign, & Politics Open in Hampden Senate…

**This post has been edited for accuracy.**

This post is the third in a series about the Hampden Senate District Primary Election

The Reconfigured Hampden Senate District in Yellow. Click to Enlarge (malegislature.gov)

In the modern political campaign, the announcement almost certainly predates the real campaign.  This happens all the time.  Candidates announce and then little is actually going on.  Elizabeth Warren’s campaign experienced this for months as would-be volunteers waited to pour out onto the streets.  During this time, candidates often raise funds while doing the behind the scene works that used to take place before an announcement.  This seems true in local races albeit on a shorter timeline proportionate to the size of the electorate.

The race for the Democratic nomination for the Hampden Senate district is no different.  Although there were innumerable moves to be made behind the scenes, up until now, the visible signs of the campaign were largely invisible or unnoticed.  The race is starting to gel and its dynamics are becoming much clearer.

On the fundraising front, it is difficult to fully ascertain where each candidate is.  No new campaign finance reports will be due until the end of August.  That leaves only the year-ends from 2011.  Edwards reported about $7,000 in the bank while Welch had about $9,000.  However, the campaign owed several thousand dollars to Welch himself.

Councilors Lysak, Fenton, Edwards & Ferrera at Edwards’s Campaign Office Opening (WMassP&I)

Last week, Edwards opened his campaign office on Boston Road near its intersection with Bay Street and Breckwood Boulevard.  Before his family and a crowd of supporters as diverse as the newly drawn district, Edwards received the support of three of his current Council colleagues and was joined by his former colleague Amaad Rivera.  WMassP&I, however, was not present for Rivera’s remarks, if any, however.

Joining Edwards were Ward 2 Councilor Mike Fenton and Ward 8 Councilor John Lysak, who, notably as a registered Republican may not be able to vote in the September 6 Democratic primary.  Arriving later was at-large Councilor and Council President Jimmy Ferrera.

Fenton praised Edwards’s work on the Council, but emphasized that Springfield does not have a resident member of the State Senate.  Massachusetts’s third largest city has not had a resident representing the city since Linda Melconian retired in 2004.  Lysak called Edwards one of his “close friends” on the Council despite areas of disagreement.  Ferrera, in a successful display of locution said his support for Edwards was not a reflection the incumbent.  “We’re not anti-Welch, but pro-Edwards.”

Councilor Edwards with his wife (right) and daughter.

Edwards in thanking the crowd again emphasized the need for Springfield to have a Springfield resident in at least one of its senate seats.  Ever aware of the region’s (well-earned) inferiority complex regarding Boston, he noted that it was important that the area’s representative show officials in the East that there is a community outside I-95.

Endorsements from some of the Council’s high profile members could be helpful as the race heats up.  However, it is hard to know on which side some of the city’s other minority elected officials will fall.  The son of Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs, who is still reportedly in poor health, was present, perhaps as a representative for his father.  However, campaign sources say that additional endorsements are on the way.

Edwards’s campaign will also be staffed by several figures in Springfield politics including Paul Martin, his campaign manager, Ernesto Cruz, a veteran of Jose Tosado’s mayoral campaign and Jesse Lederman, who rose to prominence during the fight against biomass.

Former W. Springfield Mayor Ed Gibson (second right), one of the many Westsiders at Welch’s Kickoff (W. Springfield Democratic Cmte Facebook Page)

By contrast, Welch appears to have much of the broader establishment lining up behind him.  In photos from the West Springfield Democratic Committee Facebook page, Welch’s kickoff fundraiser looked like a who’s who of Valley Democratic politics.  The senator’s hometown was very prominent at that event and looks just as committed as Springfield to keep one of its own representing it in the state Senate.  Several politicos from Westside attended the fundraiser as well as several other legislators from the area and/or their staffers.  (WMassP&I was unable to attend either candidates’ kickoff in person)

Wherever other political figures are lining up, it has not seemed to affected other races so far.  No incumbent Democratic Representatives whose district overlaps the Hampden Senate district face a primary besides Sean Curran.  The Senate race does not look appear to offer any complications or advantages for Curran or his primary opponent Joseph Fountain.

For the campaigns above the Senate race like the Democratic Primary for the 1st Congressional District and the US Senate race, the risks are even smaller.  Both Edwards and Welch are fully in support of Elizabeth Warren and both have contributed support in various ways to her election.  Likewise, it is unlikely that either State Senate candidate is backing anybody other than Richard Neal for Congress.  Welch is an apparent supporter while Edwards’s argument for election is partly due to his residency in Springfield.  It seems unlikely he could rationally propose an alternative logic for the city’s representative in Congress.

Among Springfield municipal politicians, the risks and rewards vary considerably.    Additionally, parts of all but one ward in the city are in the senate district.  Ward 7 Councilor Tim Allen represents no part of the city in the Hampden District, leaving him in a somewhat enviable position of facing little to no consequences for endorsing either candidate or nobody at all.  Ward 5 Councilor Clodo Concepcion does not live in the district and could conceivably skate by as well.  Lysak, being a Republican, could have also ignored the race, but opted to endorse Edwards having no institutional allegiance whatsoever for Welch.

None of the at-large councilors live in the Hampden district, although, presumably like Ferrera, any could see a value in having a resident state senator.  The others, including the at-large Councilors, will be under pressure to pick a side.

If there is a party with a political disadvantage in all of this it may be Chicopee, which is divvied up into no less than three Senate districts.  Whether Welch or Edwards wins, both Springfield and West Springfield will be heard from both before and after the September 6 primary.  Certainly both candidates will seek votes in those six Chicopee precincts and the winner will go on to represent them.  However, provincialism will not be an option for those voters.  They will have to try to flesh out the difference between the two somewhat similar candidates in a race that may be as much about where one is from as it is about the issues.

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