Massachusetts State Senate Special Election: Plymouth & Norfolk

There is a special election today in the Massachusetts State Senate, with Republicans trying to hold one of their 6 seats in that body (compared to 34 Democrats).  The election takes place in what is known as the Plymouth & Norfolk District, because it includes parts of both of those counties, in the southern suburbs of Boston.  Robert Hedlund (R), who held the seat for 20 years and was the Assistant Minority Leader of the MA State Senate, resigned in January after being elected Mayor of Weymouth, which is the largest city in the district.

[There are two other special elections in Massachusetts today, in the 1st Suffolk & Middlesex State Senate District and the 10th Essex State House District.  However, both of those were decided in last month’s special Democratic primaries, as no candidate from any other party filed to run.]

Below are the results from last month’s primaries:

Mass Plym Norf SD 2016 Primary Results

The Democratic nominee is Joan Meschino, who is a former Selectman in the town of Hull.  Patrick O’Connor, current president of the Weymouth Town Council, won the Republican primary.

Mr. O’Connor should greatly benefit from the fact that about one-third of the votes in this district are usually cast in his home area of Weymouth.  The town of Hull, where Ms. Meschino resides, generally casts about 10% of the district’s votes.  Mr. O’Connor also has a financial advantage, according to campaign finance reports covering the period through April 22nd.  The Republican has received and spent about $60,000 on this contest, while the Democratic candidate has raised and spent just over $40,000.

As compared to the rest of the state, the Plymouth & Norfolk State Senate district definitely leans Republican.  Votes here were evenly split in the 2012 Presidential race, even as President Obama easily won statewide, 61%-38%.

Mass Plym Norf SD 2012 Presidential Results

The Republican tendency was also evident in the 2014 executive office races.  Charlie Baker (R) overwhelmingly carried the district while winning the Governor’s race – he was raised in Needham, in Norfolk County.  In the downballot contest for Attorney General, the district supported the GOP candidate by 6% more than the state as a whole.

Mass Plym Norf SD 2014 Atty General Results

However, there were about one-quarter more ballots cast in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, as compared to the Republican one, held on Super Tuesday (March 1st):

Mass Plym Norf SD 2016 Presidential Primary Results

In that primary, Hillary Clinton defeated Bernie Sanders among Democratic voters in the district, 50%-48%.  In the GOP primary, Donald Trump finished 1st among district voters with 47%, John Kasich was 2nd with 21%, and Marco Rubio finished 3rd with 19%.

Although Democratic candidates generally start out as the favorite just about anywhere in Massachusetts, I expect the Republican, Mr. O’Connor, to hold this seat.  His biggest advantage in this race is the support he should receive from representing the largest city in the district.  Ms. Meschino’s home area is much smaller and will likely cast far fewer votes.  Furthermore, whatever support Mr. O’Connor gets from his home area will come at the expense of what would otherwise be Democratic votes, since Weymouth is the most Democratic area in the district and most of the other towns are much more Republican.   (Hull and Weymouth were the only towns which supported President Obama over Mitt Romney in this district in 2012).

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