The 2018 midterm elections were looking to be a sleepy affair in Massachusetts. With strong incumbents in a deep blue state and the most popular Governor in the nation, any surprises seemed out of the picture. The past couple of months have turned that idea on its head. From retirements to primary challengers, the Massachusetts 2018 ballot has gotten a lot more interesting. More specifically, there are now a number of intergenerational challenges between the fresh, young, and ambitious new faces of the Democratic Party and the veterans in the old guard.
Massachusetts is certainly no stranger to insurgent campaigns, ranging from Maura Healey’s challenge to Warren Tolman or Seth Moulton’s defeat of Rep. John Tierney back in 2014, but the sheer number of challengers in 2018 shows a new paradigm emerging. Lauren Dezenski of Politico has called this series of races a “challenger wave” aimed at capitalizing on the energy in progressive politics and the turmoil of Trump’s presidency.
Here is a summary of races to watch:
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s challenge to incumbent Congressman Mike Capuano is making waves. In just one week she had already raised nearly $100,000 in a race between two popular progressives with similar policy stances. While her initial internal polls were promising, the Councilor still faces steep challenges in taking on an incumbent.
In yet another surprise for an already eventful election year, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley announced he would not seek re-election in the fall. Having served as Boston’s top prosecutor for 16 years, Conley’s resignation has produced a wide-open race for one of the top law enforcement positions in the City of Boston. Former Assistant District Attorney and current State Representative, Evandro Carvalho dropped his State Senate campaign to run for DA, who joins Shannon McAuliffe, with speculation about Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty and attorney Eugene O’Flaherty contemplating runs.
The retirement of long-time Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas at the age of 71 has produced a crowded field of candidates. The fundraising numbers coming from the campaigns have reached more than $4 million so far. The 13 candidates vying for the seat could barely fit on the debate stage together at the first forum held in Lowell. In addition to Mayor Walsh’s former Chief of Staff, candidates include a former intelligence analyst who is vying to become the first transgender Congresswoman, the former US Ambassador to Denmark, and a long-serving State Senator.
The popular Republican Charlie Baker is trying to hold his own in a deep blue state enraged at the policies of his party’s leader. The question of whether the blue wave will catch up to him has intrigued election-watchers around the country. Baker faces three Democratic challengers that have yet to gain state-wide traction, though the race is expected to become more competitive as the primaries begin. Former Newton Mayor and Iraq veteran Setti Warren, Patrick-appointee Jay Gonzalez, and environmental activist Bob Massie all face a fierce contest in a state that has developed strong trends towards moderate Republican governors.
These races are just a handful of the politically impactful contests breaking out across the Commonwealth. Before turning our attention back to the national stage in 2020, we’ll be carefully watching our state for insight on what’s to come.