The Democratic primary for Scott Brown’s former Massachusetts State Senate seat is just 13 days away, on Tuesday, April 13th.
Two strong candidates are facing off for the nomination.
-Needham Town Meeting member Dr. Peter Smulowitz
-Needham, Dover and Medfield State Representative Lida Harkins
Over the last few months, the race for the Democratic nomination, which many had expected to be a cakewalk for Harkins, has turned into an almost toss-up due to unexpectedly strong fundraising by Smulowitz and the strong grassroots campaign he has put together. Harkins still has to be considered the slight favorite though, because of her 21 years of service as State Representative to the largest voting town in the District.
So far, Smulowitz has been courting progressive voters and independents (who can vote in the D primary in MA) with his message as a left-leaning, reform-minded outsider who can take on the culture of corruption that permeates Beacon Hill.
Harkins, for her part, has been wooing the traditional Democratic constituencies like organized labor, and has gained a number of high-profile endorsements from unions and women’s groups.
The biggest issues thus far in the campaign have been the candidate’s differing positions on the issue of bringing legalized gambling to Massachusetts in the form of numerous resort-style casinos (Harkins is in favor, Smulowitz opposes), and Harkins’ history as a member of the House leadership on Beacon Hill where three consecutive speakers have been indicted on Federal charges.
Waiting in the wings for whoever emerges from the Democratic primary is State Rep. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham.
Ross has to be seen as the favorite in this Republican-leaning District, although the fact that Scott Brown’s predecessor as State Senator was a liberal, openly lesbian Democrat has to give the Democrats some hope.
Campaign finance reports must be filed with the State by the end of business on April 5th (Monday), so at that time we will have a little more information available to see which campaigns are humming along and which are sputtering.
Regardless of who wins the Democratic Primary here, expect to see the State Parties and perhaps even national organizations get involved here. This seat has a symbolic value for both parties that can’t be underestimated.