GOP, Dems on move in Mass.
Nomination papers are available
BOSTON — With nomination papers available as of yesterday for those who want to run for the state Legislature in November, Republicans are plotting ways to pick up more seats and Democrats are hatching plans to defend their handling of jobs, local funding and the safety net.
Republicans scored big in 2010, picking up 16 House seats including a handful in Central Massachusetts with the tea party movement driving many of their campaigns.
Democrats, however, continue dominating the House and Senate and many expect a big turnout for the presidential election and believe having President Barack Obama at the top of the ticket will produce strong returns for Democrats lower down the ballot.
In Worcester, a competitive contest is expected in the race to fill the open seat vacated last month by Vincent A. Pedone, and there are no indications so far that any of the region’s Senate incumbents will not seek re-election.
State Rep. Richard Bastien, R-Gardner, was among the first lawmakers to get nomination papers that became available at city and town halls starting yesterday.
“I actually pulled my nomination papers this morning at 8:30,” Mr. Bastien said of his plans to begin right away gathering nomination signatures. “I want to run again.”
He acknowledged Democrats may get an edge from high turnout for the presidential election, but he believes the GOP can still pick up more seats in Central Massachusetts this year.
“I think in Massachusetts any presidential year makes it a difficult election for Republicans,” he said. “Many people who only vote in presidential years tend to vote Democrat. Countering that is the possibility that trends established in 2010 could continue.”
Mr. Bastien commented that, “I think some parts of the state are trending redder or bluer.” He said in Central Massachusetts some voters may feel disconnected from Democratic policy-making in Boston.
“They can’t afford a new cigarette tax or higher fares,” he said, noting the MBTA is currently planning to increase commuter rail fares from Fitchburg to Boston from $7.75 to $11.25 for a one-way ticket. “That’s seven dollars a day.”
But Democrats also have reason to be hopeful, said Rep. James J. O’Day, D-West Boylston, who didn’t hesitate when asked about his plans. “Of course I’m running,” he said.
Because the economy has not fully recovered, Mr. O’Day said safety net issues and job creation efforts are at the forefront in this year’s campaigns.
“I think we still have folks that are hurting both from foreclosures and a lack of jobs,” he said, noting that the pressure is on the Legislature to do more in the coming months to increase jobs and protect seniors.
“Government has a responsibility to make sure that we can still protect those that need some assistance,” he said. “For those that think small government is the answer, that means our roads aren’t going to be as well maintained, our schools aren’t going to be as well maintained, our streets aren’t going to be as safe without police protection and we aren’t going to have enough firefighters.”
“There has been a concerted effort to keep our quality of life level in the commonwealth,” Mr. O’Day said, even though many needy, seniors and unemployed are still in jeopardy from a bad, albeit improving, economy.
Another lawmaker deciding to run again is Rep. George N. Peterson Jr., R-Grafton, who will be signing on for his 15th campaign for elective office, which includes two campaigns for town planning board, two for selectman, and his 11th campaign for his current seat, which he won in 1994 after losing his first bid in 1992.
He said it is never a given that he would seek re-election. “I think about it and what is going on and I want to continue to increase our numbers in the House; We have a lot of work to do,” he said of the GOP mission.
While Republicans lost all the statewide and congressional races two years ago, they fared much better in legislative races, increasing their numbers from 16 to 32.
Mr. Peterson said he expects all the Central Massachusetts Republicans in the House to seek re-election. Beyond that, he said, “Looking at the map there are a lot of seats we could be competitive in, but it really depends on who comes forward as candidates.”
He said they will take credit for restoring $65 million in local aid in the current budget and providing a check on Democrats who control the House. “We do a lot of work and we are very effective. The more we have in numbers the more our Democratic colleagues pay attention,” he said.
At this point he expects ex-Gov. Mitt Romney will face Mr. Obama at the top of the ticket and that the presidential race and the Scott Brown/Elizabeth Warren U.S. Senate contests will dominate campaign advertising.
While Democrats have high hopes for Warren’s campaign, Mr. Peterson said he expects Mr. Brown’s race will energize Republicans and draw out many GOP voters in the fall, dampening any big draw for Democrats from the presidential race. He also theorized that Democrats will not be eager to challenge Republicans incumbents for fear of stirring up intense local Republican campaigns.
Still, Mr. Peterson said, those seeking legislative seats will have trouble being heard over the millions expected in advertising in the senate and presidential contests.
“With all the money for ads for the U.S. Senate race and presidential race I don’t know how we can even be heard over that din,” he said. “They will spend a billion on the presidential campaign and $50 million to $60 million on the U.S. Senate race. That’s a mailing every other day and a tremendous amount of television.” Voters, he said, are not looking for more government. “Most people are looking for smaller government. I think there is a move in a very wide section of the population that is a lot more conservative than in past years,” he said.
By John J. Monahan TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF