Behind a Possible Candaras Exit, Many Dominos Could Fall…
UPDATED 11/28/13 10:26AM: For additional details.
UPDATED 12/4/13 10:47PM: CORRECTION, a previous version of this post said Tim Rooke lived in the 12th Hampden District. His home is not in that district and therefore, unless he moved, he cannot run for the seat.
With the statewide offices in Massachusetts in flux, it only seems fitting that the Greater Springfield area be getting a shakeup as well. While hardly the only seat poised for political tremors this year, Shira Schoenberg broke news yesterday with word Senator Gale Candaras of the 1st Hampden & Hampshire district is eying an office closer to home. The game of musical chairs begins.
Candaras, who succeeded Brian Lees when he retired from the State Senate, has attracted accolades from both local leaders who widely view her as one of the area delegation’s hardest working members. On more than one occasion, she has capped long days at the legislature with a stop at committee and select board meetings in the district no matter the hour.
Candaras’ senate district consists of Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby, Hampden, a little less than half of Chicopee, Longmeadow, Ludlow, about a third of Springfield, and Wilbraham.
Her departure from the Senate would be a blow to the area as she would almost assuredly get a Senate leadership position. Between her relative seniority (only Senator Benjamin Downing matches her seniority in the 413) and the impending Senate Presidency of Amherst’s Stan Rosenberg, Candaras would have her pick of committee assignments and other senate perks, maybe be Majority Leader.
Candaras already ranks fairly high and sits on a number of committees. Indeed, she will likely become for a time the highest ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee after Katherine Clark (almost certainly) wins the race to fill Senator Ed Markey’s seat.
However, with Candaras’ possible move going public, it confirms a rising tide of political chatter that she had been securing support for a different office. However, it could be posturing and Candaras may hang on a bit longer to take advantage of her seniority if only for another term or two.
Were Candaras to move on, however, the field of challengers could be small. Among Democrats, political chatter has for some time put the likeliest aspirant is Rep. Angelo Puppolo and former Springfield city councilor. He sports an insane amount of cash in his campaign account after succeeding Candaras in the House of Representatives’ 12th Hampden district seven years ago. As of the middle part of this year, he had in excess of $200,000 in his campaign account, enough to launch a bid for office higher than Senate, were he of a mind to do so. Needless to say, he is also a prolific fundraiser, which could scare off challengers further.
Some observers say that Puppolo’s cache may not be everything in a senate race and indeed at some point, a state senate candidate could invoke the law of diminishing returns. However, the impact and limits of those diminishing returns only extends as far as a Puppolo primary rival can fundraise at all.
In a statement to WMassP&I, Puppolo said “Once Senator Candaras makes her decision, I will have an announcement as to my future intentions.”
Puppolo would certainly enter the race as the strongest contender because of his cash advantage. Unlike the House, the State Senate’s residency requirements only demand the candidate live in the district on election day, which could expand the field, but likely will not. Those already living there and serving in districts that overlap the Senate district have the biggest chance for success.
At the far north end of the 1st Hampden & Hampshire Senate District in Belchertown is Mary Olberding, the Hampshire County Registrar of Deeds. While her county may not overlap much with the district, she has contacts among many State Dems and could attract the support to launch a serious run. Olberding, in an email to WMassP&I only said she was “very happy” with her job as Resgistrar.
Elsewhere, Ludlow sources say that School Committee member Jake Oliveira could be interested in the race as well. The same sources, which requested anonymity because no decision has been made on Candaras’ part, noted that Ludlow is the largest single town in the district. Also mentioned were Ludlow Select Board member Aaron Saunders, Candaras’ former chief of staff. Former Selectman John DaCruz, who ran in last year’s Clerk of Courts race is also a possibility.
Also in the mix could be Longmeadow Rep. Brian Ashe, who also represents Hampden, Monson and 3/4 of East Longmeadow. Reached for comment, Ashe declined speculate on his actions because Candaras had yet to make a decision. If Candaras’ senate seat opened, then and only then, Ashe said, would he begin weighing a decision with his family, colleagues and constituents.
Among Republicans, the pickings are even slimmer. Although a Republican from Longmeadow or East Longmeadow could probably mount a challenge, they would likely do so without much in the way of name recognition. As important as either of those towns are to the district, each are very small launching pads for a district as sprawling at the 1st Hampden & Hampshire, although Ashe tried in the 2006 Democratic primary. More likely than not, Republicans in those towns would seek to fill either Ashe or Puppolo’s district were either to run.
The seat had been held by Lees for decades and while its constituent municipalities–outside Longmeadow and Springfield–have listed rightward in recent years, only a moderate Republican could claim the seat. As the State GOP gropes for a post-Romney, post-Brown future, its bench of moderates, even among right-leaning communities in Western Mass, is nearly empty.
Of course were either of the above Dem reps to run, those seats would open. From 40,000 feet, it seems unlikely that Ashe and Puppolo, whose districts abut, would both run for Candaras’ seat. From a cash standpoint, that would point to a Puppolo run and therefore an open seat in the 12th Hampden House district.
A vacancy in Ashe’s 2nd Hampden would probably unleash floodgates of Republicans and more than a few Democrats. In the last two cycles in which Ashe has run for reelection, Longmeadow Select Board member Marie Angelides has been the nominee, defeating now-disgraced former East Longmeadow Select Board member Jack Villaimaino. Signs point to her challenging Ashe again, but if the seat were open, more Republicans may run. On the Democratic side, Longmeadow School Committee Chair Michael Clark would be the likeliest to run, but he could face pent up interest in East Longmeadow or even Monson.
At the moment, the 12th Hampden seems the most likely to be open, but also with the least certain future. Until Candaras won the seat in 1996, it had been represented by Republicans. After the most recent redistricting, the district picked up more of Springfield in Democrat friendly areas of Wards 6 & 7, while shrinking its East Longmeadow share to only a quarter of the town. Wilbraham, which is entirely in the district, is the sole Republican stronghold.
Unlike in 2006 when Candaras vacated the seat, there are no clear successors for Puppolo. Some high profile Ward 7 Democrats in Springfield do not live in the district. Those that do, City Councilors Tim Allen, Tom Ashe and Tim Rooke, seem unlikely to seek such a position. Rooke has not run for a larger seat in years and Ashe seems more likely to pursue a local office. Allen has not shown any specific interest in partisan office. Although that could change for any of them. All are Democrats.
Another possibility could be either Justin or Denise Hurst. Justin was just elected an at-large councilor, but Denise, entering her second term as a member of the School Committee could be freer to pursue another office.
Angela Thorpe, who won election to the East Longmeadow Select Board last year and served on the School Committee before that does live in the district. However, her exact political affiliation has not, as of yet, been declared unlike that of Springfield officials.
Rosemarie Mazza-Moriarty, a former Springfield councilor, since relocated to East Longmeadow has sought partisan office before. She closed her OCPF account in 2011 two years after she left the Council. Her exact address could not be confirmed by posting time, but she could conceivably reenter politics and run the Senate seat or a House seat if the one in which she lives is open. A senate run might be more realistic as it includes a key precinct from her base in East Springfield.
Sources in Wilbraham say David Barry, a former Select Board member, could run for an open 12th Hampden. Barry, who lost reelection to the Board in 2010, had endorsed Puppolo in the past. While age need not be a barrier, Barry is in his 70’s.
The current members of the Select Board could be a well of potential candidates. The current chairman, James Thompson is a Democrat and member Robert Boilard, who defeated Barry, is a Republican. Sources in Wilbraham could not confirm the political affiliation of Robert Russell, the third select board member by posting time.
It is worth noting that in 2006 when Candaras jumped into the Senate race she had two challengers in Longmeadow’s Ashe, then a Select Board Member and Mazza-Moriarty. Candaras prevailed by a decent 10 percent. By comparison, Puppolo, despite running for the House seat that represents Ward 7’s most activ and influential precincts, only drew a challenge from then-East Longmeadow Selectman James Driscoll. Puppolo ran away with nearly 85% of the vote. With no obvious, high-profile contenders in an open 12th Hampden, could 2014 be the same story?