On Springfield

State Senate Race Could Be Crowded

Not long after José Tosado lost his bid for mayor in November, I asked him if he thought he might try to reclaim the seat he gave up on the City Council, a la Bud Williams, who left the Council in 2009 to get beaten by Dom Sarno in a mayoral race, then was re-elected to an at-large Council seat this fall.

Tosado gave the never-say-never response I’d expect from any seasoned pol; I’m still a young guy, he told me, who knows what the future might hold?

Now comes the intriguing news that the former Council president is mulling over not a return to the Council, but rather a run for the Hampden District state Senate seat, now held by Jim Welch.

That’s looking like it could be a pretty crowded race. Tomorrow evening, Tosado’s former colleague, Ward 3 Councilor Melvin Edwards, will announce his own candidacy for that seat, at a $25 event at the Basketball Hall of Fame. (Edwards was originally expected to run for the state rep seat now held by Ben Swan; the recent legislative redistricting process, though, moved Edwards out of Swan’s district.)

All three men are Democrats, meaning the big contest is shaping up to be the September primary. Edwards—and Tosado, if he does jump in—is perhaps banking on the one-term Welch not to have solidified his hold on the seat. Welch was a state rep for the 6th Hampden district before he won, in 2010, the Senate seat previously held by Stephen Buoniconti. (Buoniconti vacated that seat to run, unsuccessfully, for district attorney.) Welch’s political career has essentially followed in Buoniconti’s footsteps; once upon a time, Buoniconti was the 6th Hampden state rep, and Welch was his aide.

In the 2010 Senate race, Welch beat his Republican challenger, Robert Magovern, rather handily, 61 to 39 percent. His strongest base is in his hometown of West Springfield, all of which lies in within the district; the rest of the district comprises parts of Springfield and Chicopee. [Correction from an earlier version of this post, in which I wrote that Agawam was also in the district. Agawam was removed during the recent redistricting process, as alert reader RMC reminds me below.]

Could Edwards or Tosado knock out the incumbent? Based on previous election results, well, that’s hard to say. Tosado, to put it bluntly, was toasted in the mayoral race by Sarno, 72 percent to 28. That might suggest that Tosado ought to look for a new hobby, and never even consider sticking his toe in the political waters again—until you look at his longer electoral track record; over his years on the City Council, Tosado consistently was a top vote-getter.

Edwards, meanwhile, is a strong councilor, but it’s hard to tell what his support would look like in a larger arena than his Ward 3, which has notoriously low voter turnout. Edwards won his Ward 3 last fall with 98 percent of the vote—but he faced no opposition and, in raw numbers, that translated to just 711 votes. (There were also 14 write-in votes, and 472 blanks.) In 2009, the year Edwards first took office, he beat Martin Loughman, 62 percent to 37. That year, 1,080 Ward 3 voters turned out. In contrast, about 35,000 voters came out for the 2010 Hampden state Senate contest.

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