Sunday, December 13, 2009

Massachusetts Senate Primary Results

The short story on the Democratic Senate primary this past Tuesday is that Martha Coakley won big with 47% of the vote statewide, as her three male opponents hit the glass ceiling. In the Republican primary there was really no contest, with State Senator Scott Brown getting 89% of the vote.

Democrat Martha Coakley, Republican Scott Brown, and Libertarian Joe Kennedy (no primary opponent) now face off in a general election in January.

I knew it was going to be a tough evening for the male candidates in the Democratic primary when I went into my Cambridge polling station around noon on Tuesday. I passed four women coming out arm-in-arm who looked to be around Martha’s age in their mid to late fifties. Once in the voting booth, I could hear two female poll workers talking openly about how badly they wanted Martha to win.

But now that there has been time to study the results in a more detail, there is a little more to the story than that:

CandidateStatewideGreater BostonOld Industrial CitiesWestern Boston SuburbsRest of State
% of primary voters100%20%10%3%66%

In Greater Boston, the race was quite tight. Mike Capuano eked out a 769 vote win over Martha Coakley. Alan Khazei did better than he did statewide, and Steve Pagliuca did worse. For Greater Boston, I am counting Boston, Chelsea, Somerville, Cambridge, Brookline, Newton, Watertown, Belmont, and Arlington.

Steve Pagliuca did best in the old industrial cities like Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, Brockton, New Bedford, Fall River, Lynn, Lawrence, Haverhill, Revere, Taunton, Attleboro, Fitchburg, and Leominster. These places are where Barack Obama fell big to Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Presidential primary.

Alan Khazei beat out Mike Capuano to finish second in the western Boston suburbs of Weston, Wayland, Lincoln, Concord, Wellesley, Needham, Dover, Sherbourn, Boxorough, and Harvard. Alan finished second in a number of other towns around the state.

Turnout for the special election primary was very low, lower than other contested Democratic primaries in recent and not so recent memory:

1,258,9232008 Democratic Primary for President
910,8772006 Democratic Primary for Governor
823,7492006 Democratic Primary for Lieutenant Governor
789,8221984 Democratic Primary for Senate
746,1902002 Democratic Primary for Governor
664,7952009 Democratic Primary for Senate

This is the problem with single party politics in Massachusetts. In a state of roughly 4.5 million people, we will likely have the next Senator picked by the votes of the 310,827 citizens who voted for Martha Coakley. Good for them, good for her, and congratulations. But, measured against any ideal of democracy, I don’t see how this is good for us no matter who you support.

Yes, Massachusetts' voters have elected some Republican Governors in the last two decades, so they don't always rubber stamp the Democratic primary results. But the Republican primary vote is even smaller than the Democrats, only 162, 706 voters in the 2009 Republican primary for Senate.

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