In many ways, Tuesday night’s Mass primary election results can be accurately interpreted as a repudiation of President Trump and the reactionary politics of the Republican Party. In at least three major races, women of color with strong progressive platforms won their primaries over candidates with perceived ties to the status quo.
The story of the night came barely an hour and a half after polls closed, when incumbent Rep. Mike Capuano conceded defeat to Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. Capuano was the fourth incumbent and second Democrat to be ousted in a primary this election cycle. With the victory, Pressley will make history as the first woman of color to represent Mass in the US House of Representatives.
“It seems that change is on the move,” Pressley told a group of boisterous supporters at her campaign party in Dorchester.
For Capuano, Tuesday night brought to an end two decades of service in the House, where he stood as one its most prominent members of the American left, fighting against unjust wars, excessive corporate influence, and championing ideas like nationalized single-payer healthcare. (In campaigning, Pressley said they’d “vote the same way,” but that she would be a more vocal advocate on the ground.)
“Clearly the district wanted a lot of change,” Capuano said. “This is life, and this is ok. America’s going to be ok. Ayanna Pressley is going to be a good congresswoman, and I can tell you that Massachusetts will be well served.”
Every other US House incumbent facing a challenge won convincingly, and the race to replace retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas remains too close to call with Daniel Koh narrowly leading Lori Trahan.
In Jamaica Plain, state Rep. Jeff Sanchez, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee, fell victim to the insurgent candidacy of Nika Elugardo, a progressive activist with the backing of MassCare, Our Revolution, and Sierra Club.
And in the race for Suffolk District Attorney, Rachel Rollins, considered the most progressive voice in the race, emerged victorious from a crowded field of hopefuls.
However, while much of the narrative will center around Democrats sticking it to the right, the right didn’t stay home.
More than a quarter-million Bay Staters cast Republican ballots on Tuesday, nearly doubling their turnout from the 2014 midterms. And most of that energy wasn’t spent on nominating milquetoast moderates in the traditional Massachusetts vein.
In the effort to oust Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Trump ally Geoff Diehl cruised to the GOP nomination with about 55 percent of the vote, upending notorious hot dog-eater John Kingston (27 percent) and big-bank sympathizer Beth Lindstrom (18 percent) in the process.
But possibly the most shocking result of the night came in the race against incumbent Gov. Charlie Baker, the most popular governor in the country. Baker’s hard-right opponent Scott Lively had about as successful an election night one can have without winning. With votes still coming in, close to 90,000 Bay Staters pulled the lever for a candidate with essentially zero social media presence, zero TV ads, and little more than columns in obscure right-wing papers and a website that looks like an elementary school project gone horribly awry. It was likely Lively’s vow to be “100 percent pro Trump” that attracted conservative votes, but his staunchly anti-gay, bigoted views, and policy proposals would give Alabama’s alleged pedophile Roy Moore a run for his money as America’s most extreme politician.
So, in a bout between America’s favorite governor and one of its fringiest conservatives, the nation can rest assured that Baker came out on top. But while Lively, who co-authored a book tying homosexuality to the rise of Nazi Germany, will likely fade into obscurity following 2018, his 90,000 voters will remain, perhaps organizing for a world that more accurately reflects their darkest fantasies.
On the Democratic side, Jay Gonzalez handily captured the party’s nomination with about 65 percent of the vote over Bob Massie.
“This will be an honest, positive campaign,” Gonzalez said. “It will be a grassroots effort that relies on everyday people. … It will not be a campaign that is fueled by dark money and wealthy special interests.”
Massie’s primary night party at Redbones in Somerville didn’t have the feel of a losing event. Despite the numbers quickly turning against Massie, the crowd erupted in cheer when news of Pressley’s victory broke on the TV in the downstairs of Redbones.
“I told [Gonzalez] in every way possible I want to help him beat Charlie Baker,” Massie told supporters. “I’m extremely proud of what we did together.”
In Back Bay, the scene was different at a party for Josh Zakim, who ran against longtime Secretary of State William Galvin to score the Dem nom for that office. If disappointed people who were gathered there were also somewhat excited for winners in the other races who appeared on television through the evening, they kept it to themselves.