Dems pick up three seats on Beacon Hill

Nguyen defeats Rep. Lyons, Rausch upsets Sen. Ross

This story was updated at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and the numbers stating the makeup of the House were corrected.

REPUBLICAN GOV. CHARLIE BAKER won a landslide reelection victory on Tuesday, but he had few coattails on Beacon Hill as his party ended up losing a couple seats in the Legislature.

Rep. James Lyons Jr., a conservative firebrand from Andover for the last eight years, lost his seat to Democratic newcomer Tram Nguyen in a high-spending race that attracted national attention. Over in the Senate, Democrat Rebecca Rausch of Needham ousted Sen. Richard Ross of Wrentham, who won the seat in 2010 when Scott Brown departed for the US Senate.

The victory of Democrat David LeBoeuf of Worcester also moved a vacant seat that had been occupied by a Republican into the Democratic column. The Republicans narrowly avoided losing another seat that had been occupied by a Republican when Michael Soter of Bellingham defeated 22-year-old Patrick Malone by an estimated 500 votes; Malone conceded early Wednesday morning.

As the dust cleared, it seemed as if the party affiliations of most of the other seats in the Legislature were unlikely to change, although a few races were still too close to call. Barring major changes, the election will leave the Senate with 34 Democrats and six Republicans and 11 women and 29 men. The House, meanwhile, had 127 Democrats, 32 Republicans, and one independent. The gender makeup of the House was 44 women and 116 men.

In the barn behind his house in Andover, Lyons told supporters at about 8:45 p.m. that he was behind Nguyen by about 900 votes and it was unlikely he would be able to close the gap. He conceded a short time later.

Lyons estimated Nguyen spent between $200,000 and $250,000 on the race while he spent about $150,000, including $51,000 he received from the Massachusetts Republican Party. Nguyen disputed Lyons’ claim about her spending, but campaign finance records indicate she had raised nearly $200,000.

Rep. James Lyons informs his supporters he’s trailing Tram Nguyen. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

Lyons said Nguyen had the backing of every major Democrat in the state, former president Barack Obama, most unions, and Planned Parenthood. “It’s tough for almost anybody to overcome,” he said, indicating that the Democratic political establishment was determined to eliminate a politician who bucked the Beacon Hill culture of going along to get along.

“I think that’s what this election was about. I think the perception – not the perception but the reality – is that someone who decided not to go along – that became something that the power structure wanted to make sure wasn’t going to continue,” he said.

Democrat Tram Nguyen and her husband. (Photo by Bruce Mohl)

Nguyen, a 31-year-old lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services, said the main reason she ran for the House seat was Lyons’s lone-wolf style, which often left him alienated from both Democrats and Republicans.

“For the last eight years, the people of this district haven’t been represented because they’ve had someone at the State House who cannot work collaboratively and build coalitions with others,” she said in an interview at the Hokkaido restaurant in North Andover. “My biggest goal is to make sure I have relationships with other legislators, including the speaker. That way you can make positive change that people actually care about.”

Rausch, an attorney, defeated two other Democrats in the primary and then stunned Ross, who refused to debate her. The seat has long been in Republican hands except for the period from 1993 to 2004 when it was occupied by Cheryl Jacques. The issues page on Rausch’s website suggests she will fit in well in the liberal Senate.

Sen. Richard Ross lost to Needham Democrat Rebecca Rausch.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The small gain by Democrats on Beacon Hill is unlikely to change the political dynamic. Craig Altemose, senior advisor to the environmental advocacy group 350 Massachusetts A Better Future, said party affiliations don’t matter much on the climate change issue that matters to him. He said the more liberal Senate takes climate change far more seriously than the House under Speaker Robert DeLeo.

“It is more important that the House becomes more democratic than Democratic,” he said. “If representatives were free to pursue the interests of their constituents, then we would see much faster and stronger progress, as that is what the people of the Commonwealth both want and deserve. But instead, most representatives seem captured by a Speaker who in turn seems captured by the utilities, meaning the utilities are calling the shots at the end of the day.”