GOP leader balks at special election date

Spilka: Replace deMacedo on same day as presidential primary


SENATE DEMOCRATS hit a speed bump Monday as they tried to schedule a special election on the date of the presidential primary to fill a seat just vacated by a Republican.

At the tail end of a long, lightly attended session, the Senate surfaced an order from President Karen Spilka scheduling the general election to pick Vinny deMacedo’s successor on March 3. Minority Leader Bruce Tarr objected, forcing Democratic leadership to send the order to the Rules Committee.

Tarr’s move temporarily blocked the effort to line up a state Senate election in a purple district with a presidential primary date that will likely see significant Democratic turnout.

Tarr said after the session that he wanted to “make sure it’s the right date,” but he declined to elaborate on his concerns with March 3.

“There are a lot of issues around picking what the right date is, and we’ll be having conversations about that between now and tomorrow,” he said when asked if he was worried that high Democratic turnout in a presidential election could shift the balance of the state legislative race.

Before deMacedo, former Senate President Therese Murray, a Democrat, held the Senate seat.

Tarr did not say whether he planned to continue objecting when the proposal resurfaces.

“We’ll go one step at a time until we get the right day, and we’ll be in conversation with all the parties until we do,” Tarr said.

A two-decade veteran of Beacon Hill, deMacedo announced this fall that he was resigning the Plymouth and Barnstable Senate district he has held since 2015 to take a job at Bridgewater State University. He officially departed on Saturday.

Under legislative rules, Spilka had 20 days from deMacedo’s resignation to choose a date for the general election to fill deMacedo’s seat and get the decision ratified by the Senate.

“We’re having conversations and hopeful we can move on selecting a date quickly,” a Spilka spokesperson said in a statement to the News Service on Monday.

Tarr was one of only a handful of senators in the chamber Monday, and his objection to the order requires the Rules Committee to get involved and draft a report recommending whether to adopt Spilka’s proposal. That report could come at any time, and the Senate is planning to return to session at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Meet the Author

Chris Lisinski

Reporter, State House News Service
Coinciding with the presidential primary could make matters easier for cities and towns, who would not have to pay for two separate elections, but could also see higher Democratic turnout than in an unattached special race.

The primary election would fall four weeks ahead of the general election, which would be Feb. 4 under Spilka’s proposal.