New England Region Roundup

Massachusetts Narratives Set Stage for Tight Senate Race

Posted November 10, 2011 at 1:40pm





Gov. Dan Malloy (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 7
2008 Presidential Vote:
Obama 61%/McCain 38%


Open Seat: Joe Lieberman (I) is retiring

Outlook: Likely Democratic

Wounds are still raw from the 2010 Republican primary between former Rep. Rob Simmons and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon, who won the nomination. McMahon is running again, and Simmons is backing former Rep. Christopher Shays (R). Prepare for a brutal, personal primary between the two.

McMahon spent $47 million of her own fortune last cycle and already has a similar operation for this campaign.

Shays deliberated hard before launching his bid and gives off a sense of fearlessness when it comes to facing McMahon’s deep pockets.

The Democratic frontrunner is Rep. Christopher Murphy, who has demonstrated the most financial muscle. Other Democrats running are EMILY’s List-backed former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and state Rep. William Tong.

“If I win the primary, I believe I can win the general,” a confident Shays recently told Roll Call.

National Democrats say they don’t believe that’s true, and it’s not clear that top GOP strategists are convinced either. Republicans give no indication at this point that they will make a serious play for Lieberman’s seat, which is favored to return to the Democratic column.


The new lines have not been finalized in Connecticut, but it is widely believed that there will not be major changes to the Congressional map. All eyes are on the seat Rep. Christopher Murphy (D) is vacating to run for Senate — the 5th.

Both sides are stacked with candidates.

The Democratic field has three major contenders. The most prominent is state Speaker Chris Donovan, who also sits on the state’s redistricting panel. Despite his name identification, his fellow Democrats are beating him when it comes to cash on hand.

Former state Rep. Elizabeth Esty has support from EMILY’s List and has done well in fundraising. But it is Kent resident Dan Roberti who has the most money in the bank. Roberti has a unique advantage in that his father is a former Member of the Connecticut House and is now a connected lobbyist.

Republicans are also lining up to run for the seat. State Sen. Andrew Roraback made a splash when he entered the race in late October. Businesswoman Lisa Wilson-Foley is also raising eyebrows with strong fundraising and a willingness to loan her campaign $100,000. Others in the Republican field include veteran Justin Bernier, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010, and real estate developer Mark Greenberg.

Depending on what happens in redistricting, the only other race that might bear watching is the 4th district, where Rep. Jim Himes (D) is seeking a third term. But at this point, the 5th district is the only race drawing any attention.


Gov. Paul LePage (R)

2012 Electoral Votes: 4
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 58%/McCain 40%


Incumbent: Olympia Snowe (R)

3rd term (74 percent) | Outlook: Safe Republican

Snowe’s biggest concern this cycle was shaping up to be the primary. But LePage, who has tea party backing, endorsed her early and neutralized that threat soon after the midterms. Longtime family ties between the two and her efforts to help his 2010 race for governor solidified the bond.

Snowe had $3.2 million in cash on hand at the end of September, far outpacing her rivals on both sides of the aisle.

As for the general election, Snowe has a history of racking up large spreads against Democrats. She has never won a Senate race with less than 60 percent of the vote. National Democrats are not looking for this to be the year to take her on.


2nd district | Incumbent: Mike Michaud (D)

5th Term (55 percent) | Outlook: Likely Democratic

State Senate President Kevin Raye (R) has announced an exploratory committee to challenge Michaud. If he runs, it would be a rematch from 2002. Michaud won that race with 52 percent of the vote, but it was his closest Congressional race to date.

The new lines are almost identical to those of the past decade. Of the two Maine districts, the 2nd is the more competitive. Michaud should win, but it’s a race that might be worth watching as it develops next year.


Gov. Deval Patrick (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 11
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 62%/McCain 36%


Incumbent: Scott Brown (R)

1st term (52 percent) | Outlook: Tossup

Brown, a Republican who voted with his party 78 percent of the time in 2010, must convince more than half of voters in this strongly Democratic state that he deserves a full term. After an upset victory in a 2010 special election, Brown comes to this race not only with the advantages of incumbency and almost $11 million in the bank but also with the bonus of being charismatic and a naturally gifted campaigner. And yet, he’s a Republican in a state that isn’t.

Brown’s team wants to portray him as an independent, hardworking, regular guy who embraces bipartisanship to solve big problems, and if that storyline has a year’s worth of sticking power, Brown’s chances of coming back to Washington, D.C., in 2013 increase. But state and national Democrats — and outside groups — want to tie Brown to unpopular Washington Republican leadership. They hope to chip away at his independent image by accentuating all the times he has voted with the Senate Republican Conference, while overlooking the Democratic measures he supported like financial reform and the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.

Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has her own narrative that her opponents will try to debunk. Warren says on the stump that she grew up “on the ragged edge of the middle class” and has spent her life fighting against entrenched interests for the sake of the millions of middle-class families like hers. Warren led the creation of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but Republicans will paint the former White House adviser as an out-of-touch Harvard elitist. Warren’s strong fundraising, more than $3 million in less than a quarter, scared away most of her primary rivals this fall, and Brown’s team is focused on beating her next year.

Although narrative may drive the campaign, numbers will determine the winner, and both candidates are able to raise copious sums of money. Democrats believe that with much higher turnout in a presidential election in a state that will almost certainly side with President Barack Obama, Brown will have a steep hill to climb in hitting 50 percent. But Republicans see a path to pulling in enough independents, blue-collar Democrats and Republicans to win. In 2010, more than half of registered voters in the Bay State were unaffiliated with either political party, 36 percent were Democrats, and 11 percent were Republicans.

This election is going to be close.


The state Legislature’s redistricting committee released a draft map the second week of November that shored up incumbents and reduced the number of districts from 10 to nine.

Rep. John Olver (D) announced in October that he will retire at the end of his term, easing the job of mapmakers. His district was parceled out into others in the draft map, with the district that includes the home of Rep. Richard Neal (D) now including all of Western Massachusetts. That sets up a primary challenge for Neal against former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo Jr., who is running from his home base in the Berkshires.

In the redraw, Democratic Reps. Stephen Lynch and Bill Keating were placed in the same district, but Keating will run for his second term in the open Cape Cod and Southcoast district using his summer home in Bourne as his primary residence. He’ll continue to represent much of the same turf if he comes back to Congress in 2013. Particular winners in the proposed map, which is likely to become law soon, were Rep. Niki Tsongas (D), who saw her district shored up, and Lynch.

Massachusetts is a reliably Democratic state but state political operatives see Rep. John Tierney (D) as most vulnerable. Redistricting did little to change that. His wife was convicted last year on federal tax charges, and the Boston Globe reported in late October that she would testify at the trial of her brother, who faces federal racketeering charges. The Congressman hasn’t been implicated in any illegal activity, but it’s hard to see how further trials won’t tarnish him.

Former state Sen. Richard Tisei, who was the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010, is said to be considering a bid for the seat and would be a competitive candidate. Lawyer Bill Hudak (R), who lost to Tierney in the previous cycle, may challenge him again.

New Hampshire

Gov. John Lynch (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 4
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 54%/McCain 45%


Although the Granite State’s redistricting is incomplete, the parties are confident the map will not change a great deal.

Neither Republican incumbent is polling well, but Rep. Charles Bass is the more endangered of the two. He beat lawyer Ann McLane Kuster (D) by just more than a point in 2010, and she is running again and is raring for a rematch. She is well-funded, and national Democrats have put this race at the top of their list for possible pickups this cycle.

An October WMUR Granite State poll showed Bass with a 29 percent approval rating among adults in his current district.

Freshman Rep. Frank Guinta (R) fared marginally better. Among adults in the 1st district, he had a 30 percent approval rating.

Guinta is building up a notable war chest, but he has a race on his hands. He faces the possibility of a 2010 rematch because former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, whom he unseated, is running again. But Shea-Porter has a primary and isn’t guaranteed to be the Democratic nominee. She has a fundraising advantage over her fellow Democrats, former financial executive Joanne Dowdell and businessman Andrew Hosmer.

Rhode Island

Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I)

2012 Electoral Votes: 4
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 63%/McCain 35%


Incumbent: Sheldon Whitehouse (D)

1st term (54 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Republicans are not looking to launch a serious challenge to Whitehouse. Newport resident and political neophyte Barry Hinckley is running and appears to be Republicans’ sacrificial lamb.

The man whom Whitehouse unseated in 2006 is now Rhode Island’s governor. But don’t expect this race to garner anything close to the headlines that the 2006 contest did — this race is not competitive.


State lawmakers will take up Rhode Island redistricting in January, and a commission is drawing up recommendations for the Legislature. No dramatic changes are expected, but the 1st district is expected to pick up a few thousand voters from the 2nd.

The most interesting race is in the 1st. Although he’s in a solidly Democratic seat, freshman Rep. David Cicilline has struggled in his first term. Before his service in Congress, he was mayor of Providence. The city has faced dire fiscal straits, and Cicilline has received much of the blame.

Anthony Gemma, who ran in the 2010 Democratic primary against Cicilline, has been making noise about running again. Gemma’s fundraising has been lackluster, but he has a history of spending personal money.

Cicilline’s 2010 Republican opponent, John Loughlin, is running again. Cicilline beat Loughlin by 6 points, but Democrats chalk that up to the favorable GOP year. Republicans have also touted another candidate, former Rhode Island state police Superintendent Brendan Doherty.


Gov. Peter Shumlin (D)

2012 Electoral Votes: 3
2008 Presidential Vote: Obama 67%/McCain 30%


Incumbent: Bernie Sanders (I)

1st term (65 percent) | Outlook: Safe Independent

Sanders has no substantive Republican opposition yet in this race and should be easily re-elected to a second term in the Senate.


At-large | Incumbent: Peter Welch (D)

3rd term (65 percent) | Outlook: Safe Democratic

Welch faces no fierce Republican challenge for his seat, and barring a surprise, he’s a safe bet to return for the 113th Congress.