Marblehead rep candidate scores victory against old-boy network
Narrowly edges 26-year-old who was endorsed by Markey
JENNY ARMINI narrowly edged Tristan Smith Tuesday night in the Democratic primary race for the House seat representing Marblehead, Swampscott, and part of Lynn – a victory that was all the more sweet given Smith’s support by the old-boy Democratic establishment in Massachusetts.
Smith, the 26-year-old son of Jim Smith, one of the state’s top lobbyists and a former state representative himself, won the endorsement of US Sen. Ed Markey and former congressmen Barney Frank and John Tierney. It was an unusual display of high-profile backers in a race for an office where candidates often tout their support from civic group leaders and municipal officials, not sitting US senators or former members of Congress. Meanwhile, Smith’s campaign account, filled with donations from lobbyists and Beacon Hill players, topped $100,000.
Yet Armini, 53, who raised a respectable $66,652, won by 308 votes. She credited her victory to a strong grassroots effort that drew on her 17 years in the district working as a speech writer and raising two children there. “I think people trusted I had their best interests at heart,” she said – but Markey’s endorsement of Smith in a strong, six-person Democratic field still rankles.
“Tristan has a bright future, but it was premature of a sitting US senator to endorse him based on very limited professional and life experience,” Armini said. “Who endorses whom is not as important as it used to be, especially when the candidate’s experience is not as great as the other candidates in the race.”
In addition to Armini, four other Democrats entered the race: Diann Slavit Bayliss, an immigration and family law attorney; Theresa Tauro, an administrator for Marblehead’s harbormaster; Douglas Thompson, a health care executive; and Polly Titcomb, an attorney and small business owner. Armini, Baylis, and Tauro are from Marblehead, while Smith, Thompson, and Titcomb are from Swampscott.
The final unofficial tally had Armini with 27.6 percent of the vote, Smith with 23.9 percent, Thompson with 18.5 percent, Titcomb with 11.6 percent, Tauro with 11.5 percent, and Baylis with 6.7 percent.
With no Republican on the ballot, Armini is virtually assured of taking the House seat in the November election.
Combined, all six candidates raised a total of $343,000 in campaign funds through the end of August, with Thompson raising the most ($105,389), followed by Smith ($101,573), Armini ($66,652), Titcomb ($31,208), Tauro ($21,645), and Baylis ($16,541). According to campaign finance records, Thompson loaned or donated $41,000 to his campaign, Smith loaned his campaign $14,000, and Armini loaned her campaign $5,000.
Markey has waded into legislative Democratic primaries previously – backing Lydia Edwards in a special primary election for state Senate late last year. In that race, he endorsed the veteran Boston city councilor instead of her opponent, 25-year-old Anthony D’Ambrosio, who had served one term on the Revere School Committee and was trading heavily on his family connections in the district.
In the race for Ehrlich’s seat, Smith also drew heavily on his family connections. Jim Smith, a well-regarded lobbyist on Beacon Hill, said he was proud of the campaign his son ran. He acknowledged many people he knew contributed to the campaign, but he said his son worked hard to gain their support. “The fact that I know a lot of people doesn’t reflect negatively on Tristan,” he said.
Markey, a friend of the Smith family who met Tristan Smith on several occasions, provided his endorsement, although the senator issued a statement just before Tuesday’s primary saying he was backing Smith because he was the candidate “who will get things done.”
The four women candidates in the race, once they learned of Markey’s endorsement, signed a joint statement written by Titcomb.“Endorsements are inherent in campaigning,” the statement said. “They become problematic when they surpass the professional relationship with an elected official (current or former) and evolve into a generational loyalty to one another’s family that is maintained, if only in part, by significant financial contributions. However well-meaning, endorsements such as Sen. Markey’s perpetuate the representational inequality in our political landscape and highlight the structural failures of our electoral process.”
The statement pointed out that the Legislature is dominated by men, mostly white men, and women are underrepresented “due to pervasive cultural and discriminatory practices that have historically inhibited women and other marginalized groups from running for office.” The statement said “money in politics and progressive values simply cannot coexist.”