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Female Candidates Waiting in Massachusetts’ Wings

After decades of white, male dominance in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, the state’s next generation of potential House members is likely to include several women and minorities.

In the past five years, Massachusetts has elected two women to its congressional ranks, following a 25-year stint without a female member in the delegation. An upcoming special election in the 5th District to replace Democratic Rep. Edward J. Markey, who recently won a Senate special, has the potential to add another female member: Democratic state Sen. Katherine Clark is a front-runner in that crowded contest, according to Democratic operatives.

“Elizabeth Warren really shattered the glass ceiling,” Democratic consultant Mary Anne Marsh said about the flood of women eyeing congressional bids in Massachusetts. “So many women are now the ones looking to run here.” Warren, a Democrat, beat former Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott P. Brown in 2012.

Outside of the unique rise of Brown in 2010, Massachusetts has continued to be a strong Democratic state at the federal level, with every member of the delegation a member of the Democratic Party. But with an unusual amount of change in the delegation over the past few cycles, including the turnover of the state’s two Senate seats in a one-year span, consultants say it might be a while before another opportunity arises for the Democratic bench to ascend to Congress.

Looking at hypothetical retirements, men still dominate the chatter over Senate seats, while women could see more opportunities in the House.

For example, if the 67-year-old Markey were to retire after one term in the Senate and 40 years in Congress, Democratic operatives said, actor Ben Affleck may take a look at the seat.

“His name has been out there so many times, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that he would look at it,” one Democratic operative said.

Democrats also said freshman Democratic Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III from the 4th District would likely look to run statewide.

Should Kennedy run, Democrats say, Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong would likely be a strong contender for his seat.

Democratic consultants say the next realistic opening in the delegation will come when eight-term Democratic Rep. Michael E. Capuano, 61, chooses to retire from the 7th District.

Boston City Councillor Ayanna Pressley is considered a potentially strong contender for that seat. The first black woman to serve on the Boston City Council in its 103-year history, Pressley won the at-large seat in 2009 and won a competitive re-election bid in 2011. She is seen as having a promising future in politics.

“If you talk to 10 people, all 10 would have one name come to mind to replace Capuano: Ayanna Pressley,” one Democratic consultant said.

Democrats also mentioned current at-large city council candidate Michelle Wu as a potential candidate in the 7th District. Wu is a Harvard Law graduate who worked on Warren’s campaign in 2012.

“She is one to watch,” another Democratic consultant said. “She’s running for the Boston City Council for the first time, but everybody is so impressed with her.”

If six-term Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, who is 58, decides to retire, Democrats say state Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry would likely be a top contender for that seat. A Haitian-American, Dorcena Forry won a competitive special election for a state Senate seat long held by men.

In the 1st District, if 64-year-old Democratic Rep. Richard E. Neal were to step aside, Democrats say state Sen. Ben Downing would be the “immediate front-runner.”

“He’s smart as a whip and a nice guy who works like crazy and is a real progressive,” another Democratic operative said. “He clearly is in the next generation of great leaders.”

For Republicans in Massachusetts, the best shot at winning a congressional seat comes this cycle, in the 6th District against nine-term Democratic Rep. John F. Tierney. Tierney won his seat in 2012 by one of the slimmest margins in the country and will likely face former opponent Richard Tisei again in the midterms.

Tierney is facing a Democratic primary challenge from former Marine Seth Moulton and Marisa DeFranco, who lost in a primary to Warren in 2012. Tierney has faced ethics questions over his wife’s business dealings.

Republicans also argue that the 9th District, currently held by Democratic Rep. William Keating, is a competitive seat.

“That 9th District is something we’ve always had our eye on,” one Republican consultant said.

GOP operatives mentioned Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson as a potential Republican challenger for that seat, as well as failed GOP Senate special-election candidate Gabriel Gomez.

Farm Team is a weekly, state-by-state look at the up-and-coming politicos who may eventually run for Congress.

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