Bernie backing means little in middle-of-the-road Winthrop 

IT TURNS OUT Bernie Sanders has little sway with voters in Winthrop and Revere when it comes to choosing their next representative. The same goes for former US housing secretary Julian Castro. And, for that matter, an impressive cast of local liberal politicos from surrounding areas. 

Despite a set of high-profile endorsements unusual for a lowly state legislative race, union organizer Juan Jaramillo fell short in yesterday’s special election Democratic primary for the seat vacated by longtime House speaker Robert DeLeo. Instead, former Winthrop town council and school member Jeff Turco emerged victorious in the four-way primary, beating Jaramillo by about 300 votes. 

Turco got 1,706 votes to Jaramillo’s 1,413, according to an unofficial tally posted Tuesday night by Politico’s Stephanie Murray. 

Progressive activists hoped that an all-out push for Jaramillo, a Revere resident and immigrant from Colombia, might send a loud message to Beacon Hill, where minority representation lags and a more full-throated left-leaning agenda often gets pushed aside by moderate House leaders. Instead, it looks like the next rep from the 19th Suffolk District, which includes all of Winthrop and about half of Revere, will be a pro-life attorney who says he voted for Donald Trump in 2016 before switching sides to support Joe Biden in the 2020 race. 

Winthrop resident Alicia DelVento finished third, less than 200 votes behind Jaramillo, while Valentino Capobianco, who was hit last week with charges of sexual misconduct that prompted Joe Kennedy and Attorney General Maura Healey to pull back endorsements of him, finished a distant fourth. 

Turco will be heavily favored to capture the seat when he faces a Republican and independent candidate in the March 30 general election

Special elections have been criticized for favoring political insiders or those who can more quickly assemble and fund a campaign operation. Turco outraised his rivals. 

Special elections also tend to draw much lower turnout than regularly scheduled elections, something seen yesterday with 4,704 people voting. Turnout was almost 50 percent higher in last September’s Democratic primary. In that race, DeLeo was running unopposed, but the same ballot featured the high-profile US Senate showdown between Ed Markey and Joe Kennedy. 

Some immediately saw the primary result as another strong case for ranked-choice voting, which Massachusetts residents rejected on last November’s ballot. Under the system, voters rank their choices, with the second-choice votes of those finishing last redistributed to other candidates until one crosses the 50 percent threshold. 

There were echoes in the rep race of last September’s Democratic primary for the congressional seat Kennedy was vacating. The more moderate Democrat, Jake Auchincloss, prevailed against a large field of more liberal candidates who split the progressive vote. 

Auchincloss was just the latest in a long string of Massachusetts politicos going back decades who have landed in Congress after winning a small share of the vote in huge primary fields. He garnered a little over 22 percent of the vote in a nine-way race, similar to the share won previously by Lori Trahan, Mike Capuano, and Ed Markey on their way to winning open House seats. 

By that comparison, Turco’s 36 percent practically qualifies as a shellacking of the field. Indeed, as much as he may have benefited by being the only candidate with more conservative credentials, it also may be that the district simply wanted a more “middle-of-the-road Democrat,” as Turco told the Boston Herald last night. “We’re not Somerville and we’re not Cambridge.”  

In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Winthrop, but it was far from the 2-1 blowout she enjoyed statewide, with the Democratic nominee winning 55 percent of the town’s vote to Trump’s 41 percent. In 2020, when Turco says he flipped from Trump and voted for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, some of his neighbors seem to have made a similar calculation, with the margin in Winthrop increasing to 61-37 for the Democratic nominee over Trump.

To the chagrin of liberals, DeLeo often advanced a fairly centrist agenda during his long reign as House speaker. But it reflected a district that also seems to stand firmly in the middle when it comes to the state’s political bearings. When Charlie Baker eked out a narrow win over Martha Coakley to capture the governor’s office in 2014, he did the same in the 19th Suffolk District, beating her there by 13 votes

MICHAEL JONAS

FROM COMMONWEALTH

The Baker administration, in what could be a precursor of what will happen in the private sector, is planning to have half the state’s workforce, or about 20,000 people, work a hybrid schedule — partly at work and partly at home.

Shira Schoenberg catches up with new House Majority Leader Claire Cronin of Easton, the first woman to ever hold the House’s No. 2 leadership position.

Senate President Karen Spilka presses Gov. Charlie Baker to get teachers vaccinated this month so children can return to school.

Opinion: Andrew King, who serves on the board of the teachers union-backed Citizens for Public Schools, calls for scrapping the standardized MCAS test this spring.

 

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

BEACON HILL

Lawmakers hear their first pitches for more money from the state’s constitutional officers. (Salem News)

Leaders of the new Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity lay out their priorities for the legislative session. (Eagle-Tribune)

Rep. Sarah Peake files legislation to restrict access to license plate reader data, particularly on the Bourne and Sagamore bridges. (Cape Cod Times)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and Harvard president Lawrence Bacow say mayors will play a pivotal role in shaping 21st century America. Their op-ed ran in conjunction with the announcement of a new $150 million Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard Universities, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. (Boston Globe)

Boston City Councilor Andrea Campbell is pushing for more information about the possible involvement of a Boston police officer in the January 6 riots at the US Capitol. (Boston Globe

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

The Globe raises questions about the Baker administration’s distribution of almost 300 leftover vaccines to civilians at a site administering shots to first responders that was not open to the general public. 

Scientists say a surge of deadly COVID cases in Brazil could be a warning to the rest of the world about the danger that lies ahead from the spread of coronavirus variants. (New York Times

Boston neighborhoods with the highest COVID-19 rates have the lowest vaccination rates. (Boston Globe

Joyce Ferriabough Bolling lauds leaders in the Boston area minority community who are helping promote vaccination efforts there. (Boston Herald

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Biden says the US will produce enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May and urges prioritization of teachers. (NPR)

The Senate votes 84-15 to confirm Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary. (NPR) But the White House withdrew Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget. (Washington Post

The US Supreme Court is reviewing state laws that restrict voting. (NPR)

ELECTIONS

Gina-Louise Sciarra, the president of the Northampton City Council, announces a run for mayor. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

House Republicans ask Speaker Ron Mariano to take a closer look at vote-by-mail before approving a permanent expansion. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Danvers manufacturer Millipore Sigma is hiring 400 people to help the company make a product called “single-use assemblies,” which are used in manufacturing COVID vaccines. (Salem News)

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg says online alcohol sales have soared during the pandemic. (Associated Press)

The Baker administration supports a legislative fix so that federal Paycheck Protection Program grants, and grants from a similar state program, are not taxable. (MassLive)

EDUCATION

Becker College in Worcester is in danger of closing permanently. (Telegram & Gazette)

The Worcester City Council narrowly backs a resolution to remove police officers from inside Worcester schools. (Telegram & Gazette)

Amid public outcry, Mount Holyoke College rescinds its plans to close the on-campus Gorse Children’s Center. (MassLive)

The war of words continues between the Fall River city council and school committee over the district’s superintendent. (Herald News)  

ARTS/CULTURE

A second panel from American artist Jacob Lawrence’s series “Struggle: From the History of the American People,” hidden from public view since 1960, has been located, according to the Peabody Essex Museum. (Associated Press)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

MIT spinoff Commonwealth Fusion Systems says it intends to build a 47-acre research and manufacturing facility in Devens to bring fusion power to market. (WBUR) Edward Murphy reported on the race to fusion last year. (CommonWealth)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

The Middlesex Jail and House of Correction in Billerica opens a pre-release center for women from the state prison system who are nearing release. (MetroWest Daily News)

A Clinton man is convicted of using his plumbing business as a front for a large-scale illegal marijuana grow. (MassLive)

A state trooper is found not guilty of assault in a 2018 Dorchester bar fight. (Patriot Ledger)

A Fall River police officer at the center of a $34 million civil lawsuit in the shooting death of a young man may be being investigated by the FBI for use of excessive force in a separate incident involving the treatment of a prisoner at police headquarters. (South Coast Today)

MEDIA

The parent company of the Toronto Star says it wants to jump into online gaming in Ontario to help support its news operations. (Toronto Star)