Post-Primary, It's Lame Duck Season In The Massachusetts Legislature

Sep 10, 2018

It's the first full week of lame duck season in Massachusetts. Last week the state saw its primary elections. 

No western Massachusetts incumbents lost. But there were some upsets in the eastern part of the state, including state Rep. Jeff Sanchez, who lost his re-election bid. State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy was paying attention to that race. Did Sanchez see that coming?

Matt Murphy, State House News Service: Yeah, as much as it was a surprise, it was not a surprise. It was certainly a race that was on everybody's radar.

The new Democratic nominee, Nika Elugardo, had been running a very strong campaign in that district that centers in the Jamaica Plain-Mission Hill neighborhoods in Boston. She had been highly critical of Jeff Sanchez's ties to House leadership, which is seen as a little more conservative, centrist-Democrat here on Beacon Hill.

In the closing days of that race, Sanchez was pulling out a lot of his colleagues who are in the district, campaigning door-to-door for him. But with the wave that we saw in Boston -- high voter turnout with some other competitive races, including the 7th Congressional District race, it wasn't enough.

And it's really kind of a shocker to see someone of that stature in the House lose their re-election, especially after Sanchez only had the position of Ways and Means chair for a year before he was ousted. Some people are reading this as a rebuke of House Speaker DeLeo.

But the Speaker points to the fact that of the 16 House Democrats who were facing primary challenges, mostly from the left this cycle, 13 of them won. Democrats largely are expected to return across the state. So he thinks it was a good night, he said, in his words, despite the loss of Sanchez; Byron Rushing, another member of his leadership team from Boston, and Robert Koczera, who hails from New Bedford.

Now that Sanchez is among that list of lame duck lawmakers, what remains for them to do? We’re a couple months past the end of the last formal session, and a couple of months before the next.

It will be interesting to watch, but there are things that need to get done, still. The governor has been talking about the possibility of reviving his housing production bill, which would impose some zoning reform changes to facilitate new housing. That becomes a little more complicated, I think, as does the end-of-year budget.

The legislature broke at the end of July without passing a budget that was filed by Governor Baker to close out spending for fiscal year '18, which included a plan to spend $150 million in surplus money toward school safety. The legislature still must decide how to spend the surplus from the last fiscal year. And now that task will fall in part to Jeff Sanchez, who knows he's not coming back in January.

We now have a better sense of who's going to be filling the five open western Mass. seats in the legislature: four in the House, one in the Senate. Only one has a November opponent. Is there stuff they can be doing now, to prepare?

There are a number of lawmakers who, despite only getting through the primary, know that they're essentially in, without Republican or independent challengers.

They will spend the next few months, I assume, trying to find staff that they can use when they arrive on Beacon Hill trying to catch up on policies and issues, and things that are percolating here on the Hill, and just get acquainted, and also work with, and perhaps talk with, a person who held that seat before them about what they need to know, and how they can prepare.

Your colleague Katie Lannan pointed out in a tweet that the Hampshire County town of Cummington was the only community in the state to vote for both losers in the primaries for governor: Democrat Bob Massie and Republican Scott Lively. The rest of the state wasn't too enamored with those two guys. Will this be the last time that we see them on the ballot?

Yeah, it was a little fascinating to look at those maps. Basically, Jay Gonzalez and Governor Baker ran the board in terms of communities, except for a few of those Berkshire and Hampshire and Franklin County towns, a handful. With Scott Lively, he's run before as independent, and I'm sure he goes back to his pastor duties and his congregation, and the work he does in Springfield.

As for Bob Massie, another person who's now run a couple times statewide, has never really caught on. It would be difficult to see him coming back in any sort of statewide electoral capacity. But he's always had his fingers in a large number of nonprofits, and I doubt we've yet heard the last of Bob Massie. It just might not be for public office.

Keep up here with Beacon Hill In 5.