Commentary: Election reflections on the state primary

  • LIVINGSTON

Editor-in-Chief
Published: 9/13/2020 12:50:10 PM

One election down and another to go — the really big one in which voters decide who will lead this nation for the next four years among other serious business.

So, how did it go on the night of the Sept. 1 state primary?

Earlier in the day reporters spread out to talk with voters as part of a “person on the street” story. That evening another team took over to take calls from town clerks in each community after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Using a Google Sheets, they loaded the results that updated automatically on our website.

Election night is typically busy, given the staff is collecting the results from 30 communities and reporting the news under the pressure of a deadline.

I recall the night last year when Roxann Wedegartner was elected Greenfield’s mayor. Due to a broken voting machine for one precinct, counting took longer than anticipated. As I eyed the clock, my fear was that we wouldn’t have the results in time for the print edition.

I was preparing an “as of press time the results of the mayoral race weren’t in” story when at the very last minute, our city reporter who was stationed at the polls was able to get the numbers, so we could run with the story: “Wedegartner pulls off narrow victory for Greenfield mayor.”

(Actually we had prepared ahead of time separate stories with sufficient background information about the three candidates because we anticipated a close race.)

Given the uncertainty of when town clerks would have the complete results by our Sept. 1 press deadline, we gave a heads-up to readers that we would likely not have them in the next day’s paper. But we would have coverage online that would be available for free. (Those who subscribe to the Recorder can get their news for free with the paper and online editions anyway.)

In the Sept. 3 edition, we had reaction pieces with comments by local Democrats and Republicans, plus a graphic of the results.

We’ve heard from readers to make the type larger and eliminate the darkish colors that look great on the screen, but were unreadable in print. That’s our plan for the general election.

In the meantime, go to page A5 in today’s print edition for a simplified version.

What marked this primary election was the lack of races. Our local state senators and representatives ran unopposed, perhaps a testament to the job they’ve been doing. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern was the only candidate on the Democratic ballot although he will have a Republican opponent, Tracy Lovvorn, in the Nov. 3 general election.

Certainly, of interest was the U.S. Senate race between Democrats Ed Markey, the incumbent, and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Markey will face Republican candidate Kevin O’Connor, who got more votes than Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai.

Then, there was the contest for the 1st Congressional District — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, the incumbent, versus Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse — and one that was marked by controversy.

Early last month, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s student newspaper, published allegations contained in a letter signed by three college Democrat groups, including the UMass Amherst Democrats, that accused Morse, who is gay, of using his “position of power for romantic or sexual gain, specifically toward young students.”

In response, Morse denied that he abused his position of power when he was a lecturer at UMass, which is conducting an investigation.

Weeks later, on Friday, Aug. 28, at 5 p.m., UMass Amherst Democrats sent Morse an apology, noting the letter was never meant to be public, and that its language “played into homophobic stereotypes that have been used to oppress gay men in politics.”

Frankly, the timing and sincerity of this public apology is questionable since it was issued at the end of the last day that communities could hold early voting at the polls. A record number of people had already voted by mail. The damage to Morse’s campaign had been done.

One could surmise the UMass Democrats were pulling for Neal, who, by the way, did not carry Franklin County.

I would also like to use this opportunity to clarify post-election coverage of the 2nd Franklin District. A few readers took issue with the headline: “Democrat LaRose significantly led Independent Whipps in state primary.”

I see their point when they say the headline was misleading. Yes, Will LaRose, the Democratic candidate, did very well in the primary, and the votes for him far exceeded what incumbent Rep. Susannah Whipps received.

But as an independent or unenrolled candidate, Whipps’ name was not on any ballot for the primary. Voters had to write in her name and address. So, clearly LaRose had the advantage.

As we noted in our story, LaRose and Whipps will run against each other in the Nov. 3 election and her name will be on the ballot. That will be the real contest between the two candidates.

Lastly, thanks to area town clerks for getting us the results promptly, and for the poll workers who kept the democratic process running smoothly. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this election presented challenges, including early voting and ensuring safe protocol at the polls.

If the primary is any indication, we expect the Nov. 3 general election to go smoothly as well.




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