Democrats target Republican freshmen

No foes for two-thirds of House incumbents


FRESHMEN HOUSE REPUBLICANS are in the crosshairs this election cycle with the majority of incumbents from both parties facing no opposition and a Democratic majority all but assured before voters cast a single ballot.

Nearly two-thirds of the 147 incumbents running for re-election in the 160-member House of Representatives face no challengers on the ballot on Nov. 6, with 95 incumbents, or 65 percent, running unopposed, according to a News Service analysis of the ballot.

Overall, 61 percent of House seats are uncontested this election, with 52 incumbents facing opposition. The rate of seats being challenged in the House is only slightly higher that of the Senate, where 33 percent of Senate seats are being contested this year.

And even if Republicans won every race in which they are contending, Democrats would still be assured a majority in the House come January; voters in 82 districts will see only a Democrat in their House race early next month.

In 2010, Republicans made significant gains in the House, doubling their ranks and adding 22 new faces to the GOP caucus led by House Minority Leader Brad Jones.

Jones is unopposed next week, but House Speaker Robert DeLeo is among the 37 incumbent House Democrats with a challenger this cycle. DeLeo faces Republican Paul Caruccio of Winthrop.

Twenty-one Republican freshmen are seeking re-election this cycle, the exception being Andover state Rep. Paul Adams whose district was merged with another House Republican, Rep. Jim Lyons, during the redistricting process. Adams elected to challenge Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Andover) instead of facing off against Lyons or moving down the street, which he considered, to run in a new majority-minority district centered in Lawrence.

Though Republicans say they would like to build on the gains made in 2010, the Democratic Party has made a concerted effort to challenge the GOP freshman class.

Of the 32 sitting Republicans seeking re-election to the House, 15 are being challenged this cycle and all are freshman, including, Reps. Randy Hunt (R-East Sandwich); George Ross (R-Attleboro); Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton); Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk); Keiko Orrall (R-Lakeville); Jim Lyons (R-Andover); Nicholas Boldyga (R-Southwick); Steven Levy (R-Marlborough); Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica); Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman); Angelo D’Emilia (R-Bridgewater); Richard Bastien (R-Gardner); Peter Durant (R-Spencer); Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge); and Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton).

Two of those freshmen – Levy and Lyons – carved out a conservative niche for themselves over the past two years, but will have to fend off challenges from the very same incumbents they knocked off two years ago. Barbara L’Italien, who joined Treasurer Steve Grossman’s office after losing to Lyons on 2010, is running again, and Danielle Gregoire is trying to reclaim the seat she lost to Levy.

In total, 116 Democrats are running for re-election with 37, or 32 percent, facing challenges. On the GOP side, 31 House Republicans are vying to keep their seats, challenged at a rate of 48 percent, according to the News Service analysis.

Of the 37 incumbent Democrats with challengers, six are freshman fighting to keep their seats, including Reps. John Lawn (D-Watertown), Denise Andrews (D-Orange), Marcos Devers (D-Lawrence), Michael Finn (D-West Springfield), Rhoda Nyman (D-Hanover), and Carlos Henriquez (D-Dorchester).

A number of vacancies were created over the past year due to departures from the House or announced retirements by longtime lawmakers, leaving 13 open seats, including the districts where incumbent Reps. Demetrius Atsalis, Kevin Aguiar and David Torrisi were defeated in September.

Ten of those open districts are competitive next week, including the 14th Essex District where Democrat Diana DiZoglio, of Methuen, is up against Republican Karin Rhoton, a school committeewoman from North Andover. DiZoglio, a former State House aide for Republican Rep. Paul Adams and chief of staff to the Professional Firefighters Association, defeated Torrisi in the Democratic primary.

Brian Mannel, of Barnstable, defeated Atsalis in the primary in the 2nd Barnstable District, and is now unopposed in the general election. Alan Silvia, of Fall River, finds himself in a similar situation in the 7th Bristol District after defeating Aguiar in his Democratic primary. Barring anything unforeseen, both should join the House in January.

Marjorie Decker, the Democratic primary winner from Cambridge in the 25th Middlesex District, is also running unopposed to the fill the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Alice Wolf.

Voters in the state’s largest county – Middlesex County – and in Essex, Plymouth and Worcester counties are seeing some competition for House seats this cycle with 20 of 37 seats in Middlesex County being contested, including three open seats.

In Essex County, there are also three open seats and competition for seven of the county’s 18 seats in the House.

Meet the Author

Matt Murphy

State House News Service
Plymouth County voters will decide seven of 12 races, including two districts without an incumbent, and Worcester County has nine competitive races out of 18, including a race to fill former Rep. Vincent Pedone’s seat. Seven of 12 races in Hampden County are also contested.

The Cape and Islands, Hampshire County and Suffolk County are among the least competitive geographic regions. Only one of six districts on the Cape, Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard has a competitive race, while there are no contests in Hampshire County and only three of 19 districts in populous Suffolk County have more than one candidate on the ballot.