Five keys to the primary election

Several themes could play major roles in some of the races

NEWCOMERS OR INCUMBENTS? Several races feature contests between incumbents with seniority and power versus newcomers who represent change. In most of the cases, the change isn’t about ideology but simply about someone new, usually someone younger. The marquee matchup in this regard is between US Rep. Michael Capuano, 66, and Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, 44. One of Pressley’s fliers says “change can’t wait” and announces “it’s time for a new lens, a new approach, a new voice.” Fellow Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim, 34, is running a similar campaign against incumbent Secretary of State William Galvin, 67. In the Legislature, the dynamic is also at work in the race between incumbent Rep. Byron Rushing, 76, and Jonathan Santiago, an emergency room doctor at Boston Medical Center. “This is not an ideological fight,” Rushing told the Bay State Banner. “This is a fight that seems to be about a generation of progressives who feel it’s their time.”

President Trump. Donald Trump’s shadow looms over every race across the country, even here in deep blue Massachusetts. Geoff Diehl is hoping that Trump supporters in Massachusetts will propel him to victory in the Republican primary for US Senate and into a one-on-one matchup against US Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Beth Lindstrom, a Charlie Baker Republican, is hoping to draw enough moderate Republicans and independents to edge Diehl. Baker faces his own challenge from the right in conservative pastor Scott Lively. No one is expecting Lively to win, but a respectable showing would demonstrate Trump’s clout in Massachusetts.

The DeLeo dilemma – House Speaker Robert DeLeo isn’t facing an opponent in either the primary or the general election, but many candidates seem to be running against him and his top-down style of leadership. Nika Elugardo has tried to portray Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, as someone willing to sacrifice his progressive values when DeLeo demands it. Sanchez says that’s not the case, but acknowledges that his job as Ways and Means chair often requires him to find consensus rather than simply vote his conscience. Many other campaigns revolve in part around DeLeo’s leadership style, including the Rushing-Santiago race and the battle between Rep. Denise Garlick of Needham and her 24-year-old challenger Ted Steinberg. A political action committee controlled by DeLeo handed out eight contributions of $500 each to eight reps in August. The list of recipients included Rushing, Elizabeth Malia of Boston, and Rady Mom of Lowell. Mom, who is facing three challengers, also got a personal visit from DeLeo.

DA day – The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts has made the case that district attorneys wield enormous power in the criminal justice system and DA elections should not be treated lightly by voters. Races for three DA positions in Berkshire, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties received a lot of attention this year, and now it’s up to the voters to decide what kind of law enforcement system they want. In each race, there is a candidate with a traditional DA’s background facing challengers bent on reform. In the Berkshire County Democratic primary, Paul Caccaviello is running against Andrea Harrington and Judith Knight. In Middlesex County, it’s incumbent Marian Ryan against Donna Patalano. And in Suffolk County, Greg Henning is facing off against Evandro Carvalho, Rachael Rollins, Linda Champion, and Shannon McAuliffe.

Turnout – A low turnout tends to favor incumbents, and many fear an election on the day after Labor Day will not attract many voters. In Berkshire County, the race for district attorney may boost turnout. Galvin made no predictions, but said absentee ballots have been returned at impressive levels. In 2014, when there was a spirited Democratic primary for governor, turnout was 17.04 percent statewide. In 2016, with no statewide races, primary turnout was 8.84 percent.

Newspaper endorsements – Let’s take them one by one:

Republican primary for governor: Globe and Herald both back Baker.

Democratic primary for governor: Globe backs Jay Gonzalez; Herald supports Bob Massie.

Republican primary for US Senate: Globe backs Lindstrom; Herald backs Diehl.

Democratic primary for 7th Congressional District: Globe and Herald back Pressley.

Democratic primary for 3d Congressional District: Globe, Herald, and Lowell Sun back Lori Trahan.

Democratic primary for secretary of state: Globe and Lowell Sun back Galvin, Herald backs Zakim.

Democratic primary for Suffolk County DA: Globe backs Rachael Rollins; Herald backs Greg Henning.

Democratic primary for Middlesex County DA: Globe and Lowell Sun back Donna Patalano. [An earlier version of this story indicated the Herald also backed Patalano, but the Herald did not endorse in the race.]

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.

Democratic primary for Berkshire County DA: Berkshire Eagle backs Paul Caccaviello.

Rep. Sanchez vs. Elugardo: Globe backs Jeff Sanchez.