Massachusetts Candidates of Color Seize Open Legislative Seats

Many of the presumptive newcomers to seats in the overwhelmingly white Legislature are people of color

A voter fills out a ballot for the Massachusetts primary election at a polling station in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Sept. 6, 2022.
Steven Senne/AP

Veteran Rep. Marcos Devers of Lawrence appeared to tumble to the second defeat of his state representative career on Tuesday, an otherwise successful primary election day for incumbents during which voters also effectively guaranteed the winners for nine open seats.

Vote tallies were not available in the Sixteenth Essex District as midnight approached, but the Valley Patriot reported and several sources confirmed to the News Service that Devers lost his reelection bid to Francisco Paulino of Methuen, a former Lawrence School Committee member and tax associate.

Most other sitting representatives and senators who faced primary challengers were on track to win Tuesday, according to unofficial vote counts, announcements from groups that endorsed the incumbents or local media outlets.

Devers is poised to join what is likely a short list of elected officials who have been tossed from the same office not once, but twice.

Previously a structural engineer and teacher, Devers ran a few unsuccessful campaigns before winning his first election to the House's 16th Essex District in 2010. He won again in 2012 and 2014, lost the 2016 primary to former Rep. Juana Matias, and then voters picked him to return to office in 2018 when Matias ran for Congress.

The Associated Press called the race for Campbell at about 9:45 p.m., when she had about 47% of the vote to opponent Shannon Liss-Riordan's 36.5%.

He currently serves as the House vice chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation and the House vice chair of the Redistricting Committee.

The 2022 cycle saw more turnover in the Legislature than two years ago, the result of a range of factors including the allure of statewide offices on the ballot every four years and creation of new incumbent-free districts in the decennial redistricting process.

Five Senate districts and 19 House races have open races this year, enough to guarantee that roughly one in every eight lawmakers sworn in for the 2022-2023 term will be new.

Two of those Senate races and seven of those House races feature only Democrats on the ballot, meaning the results are effectively sealed with Tuesday's primary barring an unlikely successful write-in campaign.

Many of the presumptive newcomers to seats in the overwhelmingly white Legislature are people of color. That includes Rep. Liz Miranda, who is set to join the Senate after winning one of the most closely watched primary elections of the cycle.

NBC10 Boston political reporter Alison King takes a look at a few of Tuesday's primary races in Massachusetts.

Miranda beat out fellow Rep. Nika Elugardo, former Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, Rev. Miniard Culpepper and former teacher and corrections officer James Grant to represent the district, which at more than 75 percent has the highest share of residents of color in the Senate.

"So proud to be handing the 2nd Suffolk reins to my sister in service, and in heart, @LizForBoston!" Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz tweeted in celebration of Miranda's win.

The race pitted two sitting representatives against one another and also served as something of a referendum on Wilkerson's political comeback. She represented a version of the Boston-area Senate district for 15 years, then resigned while facing federal fraud charges for allegedly accepting $23,500 in bribes to help steer licenses and state land to developers and businesses. After serving time in prison, Wilkerson reemerged in recent years as a community activist, working with groups such as the Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition.

The other new senator voters picked Tuesday is Lawrence City Councilor Pavel Payano, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which endorsed him. Final results were not available in that race, but Payano retweeted several messages congratulating him on victory.

Payano won a primary to represent an incumbent-free, majority-minority district that includes Lawrence, Methuen and parts of Haverhill. He is also a former School Committee member who worked as an aide to former Congresswoman Niki Tsongas before joining the Social Innovation Forum in 2020.

Voters also opted against sending former Rep. William Lantigua -- who unsuccessfully ran against Devers twice -- back to Beacon Hill.

Instead, they chose Lawrence City Councilor Estela Reyes to the newly created Fourth Essex House district in a tight race, according to the Eagle-Tribune.

After winning the Republican primary, Trump-backed Geoff Diehl will face Democrat Maura Healey in the race for governor in Massachusetts.

In the most crowded field of the 200 legislative contests, speechwriter Jenny Armini of Marblehead topped a six-way primary for the Eighth Essex District representing the North Shore.

Armini helped launch grassroots political organization ElectBlue, which worked to elect Democrats to Congress, following President Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Former Rep. Lori Ehrlich previously represented the district until she resigned in January for a job with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ehrlich said in a congratulatory Facebook post that she believes Armini will serve "with honesty and integrity."

Also on the North Shore, Manny Cruz emerged victorious over two other candidates in a race to represent the Seventh Essex House district, which consists entirely of Salem.

Cruz is a member of Salem's School Committee and a former Beacon Hill aide who worked for Rep. Paul Tucker, the district's current representative, as well as former Rep. Juana Matias.

"We are sending a proud son of Salem, and a champion of our values to Beacon Hill," Cruz wrote on Twitter.

Voters in Boston chose community organizer Sam Montaño in a three-way primary for the Fifteenth Suffolk House seat, a reshaped, majority-minority district stretching from Mission Hill to Forest Hills.

Montaño, who is a member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council, previously served in City Year and worked at a women's shelter. The presumptive state rep had earned the support of several prominent local figures including Chang-Díaz as well as the endorsement of the Boston Globe's editorial board.

Democrat Maura Healey and Republican Geoff Diehl will face off in the Massachusetts governor's race.

West of Boston, Priscila Sousa topped the race for the incumbent-free, majority-minority Sixth Middlesex House seat.

Sousa, an immigrant from Brazil, works in the solar industry and chairs the Framingham School Committee.

Another Brazilian immigrant, Brockton's Rita Mendes, emerged victorious in the Eleventh Plymouth District, which is also a mostly nonwhite House district redrawn with no incumbent.

Mendes, a Brockton City Councilor, topped fellow City Councilor Shirley Rita in a showdown for the House seat. She also works as an attorney and real estate agent.

Former Methuen City Councilor Ryan Hamilton was the only Democrat or Republican to pull papers for the Fifteenth Middlesex District, giving him the easiest path to the Legislature of the candidates effectively confirmed in the primary.

Copyright State House News Service
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