Briefings: Now It’s a Primary; Levin-Epstein Enters State Senate Race…
The Democratic primary for an open State Senate district that cuddles the lower Pioneer Valley’s urban core has become a race. Sydney Levin-Epstein, a political advisor, campaign staffer and congressional aide from Longmeadow leapt into the race Tuesday for what will be the Hampden, Hampshire & Worcester Senate district next year. She is the second Democratic candidate, following Ludlow State Rep Jake Oliveira who announced last week.
Before redistricting, the seat was the 1st Hampden & Hampshire district which Longmeadow Democrat Eric Lesser holds. Last month he announced a bid for lieutenant governor. Though the district weathered the region’s population declines better than others, shifts were still necessary. The result is likely a safer Democratic seat and Lesser’s exit quickly prompted interest from Democrats like Levin-Epstein.
“I decided to run for this state senate seat because I want to build Western Mass so people who want to stay can stay,” she said in an interview.
“So many of my peers are either raised here or educated here and then leave,” she continued. Yet, they end up following jobs elsewhere, in cities with overpriced housing. “I don’t think it needs to be that way.”
In a release announcing her bid, Levin-Epstein, 26, echoed themes Lesser first ran on eight years ago. Among them were combating the opioid crisis and rail service from Springfield to Boston. However, East-West rail—or West-East rail, as occidental proponents increasingly call it—has seen a stunning lurch toward reality in recent months.
Levin-Epstein’s pitch could turn on the possibilities rail yields. She cited the potential for the renewable energy and biotech industries in the region, pointing to empty mills that dot the Valley.
“With West-East Rail we have the opportunity to bring a new industry out here,” she said.
After this year’s election, the senate district will include Belchertown, East Longmeadow, Granby, Hampden, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Palmer, South Hadley, Warren, Wilbraham and modest pieces of eastern Chicopee and southern Springfield.
In his announcement last week, Oliveira anchored his bid on ties to the district and his experience. Counting his time in representative town government, Oliveira has two decades of public service. Levin-Epstein appears poised to plug her own roots, noting the small business her family once owned.
“I grew up behind the counter of Jonathan’s Sports World on Route 9 in Hadley, my family’s small business that was forced to close once the big box stores started arriving,” she said in the release. “That is what drives my dedication to economic development and to the families of the 413.”
Oliveira did not immediately respond to an offer to comment.
As for her experience, Levin-Epstein touts her work in the offices of Senator Ed Markey and Congressman Richard Neal. In her release, Levin-Epstein said she worked on transportation and foreign affairs issues. Before working in Washington, she had volunteered for Lesser’s first bid in 2014.
She later worked in a finance role for Markey’s 2020 reelection bid, which turned back Congressman Joseph Kennedy, III’s challenge. After the primary was over, she worked on Jon Ossoff’s successful Senate campaign in Georgia.
After a stint with Jewish Democratic organization, she ran the state senate bid of Revere School Committee member Anthony D’Ambrosio’s. D’Ambrosio had unsuccessfully competed in the special election to replace Joe Boncore. Boston City Council Lydia Edwards won the primary and uncontested general.
“I am not only prepared to serve as a state senator, but I have the experience to do the job,” she told WMP&I.
One disadvantage Epstein faces is a fundraising disparity. As a sitting state rep, Oliveira enters the race with over $20,000 in the bank. Moreover, fundraising for a US Senate battling a Kennedy is not like running for state senate. But Levin-Epstein’s campaign is confident it raise the money to compete, while focusing on grassroots organizing.
So far, Longmeadow Select Board member Marc Strange is the only other high-profile Dem on political chin-scratchers’ radar. Republican John Harding, an East Longmeadow attorney, has filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance. Other GOP candidates may enter, prompting a primary.
The September 6 senate primary could take place amid high turnout. With Governor Charlie Baker retiring, several statewide offices open and Democrats favored to win back the corner office, interest in the primary could be high. That will both raise the bar and the stakes for those seeking to succeed Lesser.