Jo Comerford Prevails As Write-In Candidate In Massachusetts Legislative Dem Primary

Sep 5, 2018

Jo Comerford, a write-in candidate, has won the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts Senate district covering the upper Pioneer valley. There’s been nothing typical about this race from the start.

This wasn’t your garden variety state Senate campaign.

It began when long-time senator Stan Rosenberg resigned in May, following a scathing ethics report released after his husband was charged with sexual assault.

The resignation came two days after the filing deadline for new candidates.

Only one, Chelsea Kline, had filed in time to get her name on the ballot.

Three other candidates, Steve Connor, Jo Comerford and Ryan O’Donnell scrambled to alert voters on how to write their names in.

Comerford’s campaign even mailed out stickers with her name, only later to ask voters not to use them.

Lilly Lombard holds a "Write Jo" sign urging voters to write in Jo Comerford's name on the primary election ballot in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Credit Nancy Eve Cohen / NEPR

“That has the potential to gum up polling counting machines,” said campaign worker Lilly Lombard.

As it turned out writing in names wasn’t the biggest problem. Knowing which seat candidates were running for was, says Joanne Mackiewicz, 63, who voted in Northampton.

“It was very confusing. I didn’t know where I was supposed to write in Jo’s name or anyone,” she said. Confusing because the ballot uses the very formal title “Senator in General Court.”

And poll workers aren’t supposed to help, according to Lynn Sibley, the town Clerk in Whately.

“We aren't supposed to lead the voter in any way. You know, telling them which race the write-ins are running under would be leading them,” Sibley said.

But in the end, many voters figured it out -- and turnout in some communities was huge for a primary. And the candidates -- even those who lost -- say they’re still committed.

Chelsea Kline, left, with Charles W. O'Dowd III, center, and others during an election night party.
Credit JERREY ROBERTS / Daily Hampshire Gazette /

Surrounded by her campaign workers last night Chelsea Kline says she’s called to do social justice work.

“I’m supposed to be looking out for vulnerable people for sure, and I don’t know exactly what that will look like next,” Kline said.

At a nearby bar, election results rolled in, Comerford stood with her supporters. Until recently, she was campaign director for -- and is used to pushing powerful people from the outside.

“Our organizing has transcended an election, transcended me as a candidate, it has become a movement for change,” said Comerford. After this unusual campaign season, Comerford is now well on her way to Beacon Hill.

She has no Republican opponent in the November election.

Take a look at NEPR's Massachusetts Primary Election Results 2018.