Election breakdown: Area voters buck statewide trend, go big for Sanders

  • A chart depicting the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential primary election in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region. STAFF ILLUSTRATION/ANDY CASTILLO

  • A map depicting the front runners of the Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, by town, throughout Franklin County and the North Quabbin region. STAFF ILLUSTRATION/ANDY CASTILLO

Staff Writer
Published: 3/4/2020 10:00:04 PM

Unlike the rest of the state, voters in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region were “feeling the Bern” on Super Tuesday, supporting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with a substantial lead over former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Sanders received 9,044 votes, Biden received 5,478 votes and Warren received 5,514 votes from within the 30 communities in the Greenfield Recorder and Athol Daily News coverage areas.

With the next highest vote count, Michael Bloomberg, who suspended his campaign Wednesday morning, received 1,492 votes.

Statewide, however, Biden was the top vote-getter. Sanders and Warren came in second and third, respectively.

Ferd Wulkan, a member of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution and a Sanders supporter, said he believes Sanders did so well in this region for a variety of reasons, including geographic.

“He won here as he did four years ago, and it’s a combination of reasons why. Vermont is his home base, and we’re very close to the Vermont border as well as having a long history of progressive organizations in this region,” Wulkan explained. “There’s a tradition and history of electing progressive officials in this area.”

He said throughout his time canvassing in Holyoke, Turners Falls and Shutesbury, there seemed to be a lot of residents supporting Sanders.

Wulkan said he believes “the more corporate Democrats have consolidated behind Biden and the left progressives haven’t done that yet.”

“What happens for Bernie does depend on Liz Warren and what she does next,” Wulkan said. “I think it will be somewhat of an uphill battle since Biden won. Once the delegates have decided in California, I think it will be a closer result. I don’t think the ‘Biden wave’ was as big as it seems. It’s significant but slightly exaggerated.”

Communities with strong Sanders support included Greenfield, with a 1,085-vote difference between Sanders and Biden. In Greenfield, Warren support topped Biden with 1,119 votes to Biden’s 1,023. There was a 567-vote difference between Sanders and Biden in Montague and an 89-vote difference between the two in Deerfield.

Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said Tuesday that voter turnout appeared to be running ahead of the presidential primary in 2016.

Galvin had predicted a healthy turnout, saying Monday that he expected as many as 1.5 million votes to be cast in the Democratic presidential primary. That would be a record turnout. He estimated a Republican turnout in the range of 350,000.

On Tuesday, Galvin said he expected the state to meet that expectation.

A total of 25,415 of the 61,558 registered voters in the region — Franklin County and the Worcester County towns of Athol, Petersham, Phillipston and Royalston — cast ballots Tuesday.

Towns with the highest turnout included Shutesbury and Wendell, which drew 64 percent and 60 percent turnouts, respectively. Oppositely, Orange and Athol had the lowest voter turnout with 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

For the Republicans, the incumbent, President Donald Trump, dominated with 2,588 votes in the region, followed by Bill Weld with 393 votes. In Buckland, one person wrote-in Utah Sen. Mitt Romney.

Tuesday also marked the first time that Massachusetts allowed early voting in a presidential primary. Nearly 230,000 voters statewide took advantage of early voting last week. About 190,000 of those ballots were cast in the Democratic primary.

In Northfield, for example, Town Clerk Dan Campbell shared that 178 of the town’s total 882 ballots (or roughly 20 percent) were cast through early voting last week.

As for the Green-Rainbow Party, 16 people in Franklin County and the North Quabbin region supported Howard Hawkins. The Libertarian with the most votes was Dan “Taxation is Theft” Behrman, who received 23 votes.

Wulkan said he sees a key difference between 2016 and 2020 — fear of Trump’s re-election.

“There were an awful lot of people who voted out of fear, rather than hope,” Wulkan said. “There is an incredible fear of facing four more years of Trump. There are people who believe that Biden has a better chance of beating him.”

Associated Press data was used for this report.

Reach Melina Bourdeau at mbourdeau@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.


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