A state Senate seat in western Massachusetts will become vacant at the end of today. Republican Michael Knapik’s surprise decision to resign from the Senate after nearly 20 years opens an opportunity for Democrats to pick up a seat in the chamber where they already hold an overwhelming majority.
State officials have set November 5th as the date for the special election in the Second Hampden and Hampshire Senate District. It will be concurrent with municipal elections in several communities in the district, which could boost turnout but could also keep out candidates already committed to running for local office.
Knapik, of Westfield, announced on Monday that he planned to resign and end a more than two decade career on Beacon Hill to take a newly created job in the administration at Westfield State University. The race to succeed Knapik is wide open in the view of Springfield-based political consultant Tony Cignoli
Area Democrats reportedly plan to meet this weekend to talk strategy for capturing the seat.
Knapik’s departure will leave just three Republicans in the 40 -member Senate. He said he did not vet his decision to resign with colleagues or party officials.
The first candidate to announce a run for the senate seat this week was State Representative Donald Humason, a Republican who has represented Westfield in the House for a decade. He said he’s not running just to try to keep the seat for his party.
Humason said he’ll stress his constituent service more than his voting record.
The only announced Democratic candidate so far is Michael Tautznik, the eight-term mayor of Easthampton, who is not running for re-election and had planned to retire from politics until the Senate seat suddenly opened up.
Tautznik points out that Knapik did not always vote in lockstep with Republicans, such as last month when he was the only Republican vote for the new state budget.
A couple of potential Democratic candidates, Holyoke City Treasurer Jon Lumbra, and Westfield City Councilor Brian Sullivan announced they would not run. Democratic State Representative Aaron Vega of Holyoke, who was just elected to the House last November, said he will make an announcement on Monday about whether he’ll run for Senate.
Candidates face an August 27th deadline to file nomination papers with the signatures of at least 300 registered voters. Primaries, if required, would be held on October 8th
In addition to Westfield, Easthampton and Holyoke, the district includes Agawam and part of the city of Chicopee, and the towns of Southwick, Granville, Russell, Montgomery and Tolland.