A city councilor from Holyoke and a State Representative from Westfield will square off in November in a special election to fill a vacant state Senate seat in western Massachusetts. Democrats see it as a chance to add to an already commanding majority on Beacon Hill.
Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh and local party activists held a unity event in a small park in downtown Westfield Wednesday morning to kick off the final 27 days of the campaign. Holyoke City Councilor David Bartley beat Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik in a close Democratic primary on Tuesday. The two greeted each other Wednesday morning with warm smiles and handshakes.
Bartley and Tautznik were separated by just 243 votes in a contest that produced very low voter turnout in the 11 communities that make up the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire State Senate District.
Bartley said he was very humbled by the victory.
The primary campaign was marked by an absence of acrimony and few discernible differences on issues between the two candidates. Bartley said his campaign will focus on the economy, education and the needs of the district’s “blue collar people.”
Bartley will face Republican State Representative Donald Humason on November 5th with the winner serving out the remaining 13 months of former Republican State Senator Michael Knapik’s term. Knapik, who represented the district on Beacon Hill for almost 20 years, resigned in August to take a newly created administrative position at Westfield State University. His departure left Republicans with just three seats in the 40-member Senate.
Even with that kind of dominance, party chairman Walsh said it is important for Democrats to pick up the open seat.
Walsh said the campaign should not focus on political ideology, but on the needs of the district.
Massachusetts Democrats have a get-out-the-vote operation that has demonstrated its power in the last two general elections. Walsh urged the dozen or so party activists gathered in Westfield to get busy connecting up with voters “ face-to-face.”
Humason, who as expected easily won the Republican primary over Michael Franco with more than 80 percent of the vote said he will stress his 11 years of experience as a state representative as he campaigns to move over to the Senate.
Humason said he believes voters will not be swayed by any partisan appeals.
In addition to Westfield, Easthampton, and Holyoke the district includes Agawam, part of the city of Chicopee and the towns of Southampton, Southwick, Granville, Russell, Montgomery and Tolland.