Mass. State Senate Race Gets Write-In Candidates

May 7, 2018

Updated at 9:18 a.m. on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Northampton City Council President Ryan O'Donnell and the area's veterans' services director, Steven Connor, on Monday launched write-in bids for the Massachusetts state Senate seat formerly held by Stan Rosenberg.

Rosenberg's departure from the Senate last week -- following harsh criticism in an ethics report -- came just days after the candidate filing deadline. As a result, only Democrat Chelsea Kline's name will appear on the ballot.

But O'Donnell, who was first elected to Northampton's City Council in 2013, hopes to win the September 4th Democratic primary as a write-in candidate.

"I don't discount the political and logistical challenges of it, but not having a contested election -- I think -- carries democratic problems that are far more serious," O'Donnell said in an interview. "And I'm willing to step forward and try, because I think there's a lot at stake here for all of us."

Reached by phone on Monday, Kline said she was at work, had to go to a meeting and could not immediately comment on O'Donnell's candidacy. In an interview last week, though, she said she welcomed competition.

"Anyone who's thinking about running, 'Come on in. The water's fine,'" Kline said on Friday. "I will be running a very strong campaign no matter what. I will be talking to voters. I will be out at events and communities. So I'm energized and I'm ready to go, no matter what."

Both O'Donnell and Connor previously announced runs for the state House seat left vacant by the death in February of Rep. Peter Kocot. But they are abandoning those efforts to run for the Senate.

"There’s no question that Senator Rosenberg has been a great advocate for our communities for decades," Connor said in a statement. "He leaves big shoes to fill. His support for people living on the margins has been strong and consistent, and it is this support that I intend to sustain."

Connor is director of Central Hampshire Veterans' Services, which works with vets in a portion of the Senate district -- Amherst, Northampton and Pelham -- as well as in hilltowns outside the district -- Chesterfield, Cummington and Williamsburg. 

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz had been pushing for an extension of the filing deadline to allow more candidates to appear on the ballot for the Senate seat. Senate President Harriette Chandler's office last week threw cold water on that idea. After speaking with Chandler himself on Sunday, Narkewicz said he "respectfully accept[s]" her decision. 

Advice for a write-in candidate

State Representative John Scibak of South Hadley, who's retiring after this term, got elected in 2002 after winning the Democratic primary as a write-in.

"The first challenge is making sure that people know you are, in fact, a candidate and are running," Scibak said Monday. "And the second one is that people know how to vote for you. It varies from community to community in terms of how those voting machines work."