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2010 elections yield surprises

Date: 11/9/2010

Nov. 10, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs and Katelyn Gendron

The election of 2010 was an eventful one and this story focuses on two races of importance to to our readers.

GREATER SPRINGFIELD -- Earlier this year, State Sen. Stephen Buoniconti took his time announcing his intentions to run for district attorney after months of speculation. When he did, the conventional political wisdom was that he was the automatic front-runner.

After 10 years in the Legislature, Buoniconti had built up positive name recognition and a campaign war chest that many observers believed would compensate for his lack of experience as a prosecutor prior to being elected he had served just five years as an assistant district attorney.

After handily turning back fellow Democrats in the primary, Buoniconti faced attorney and former assistant district attorney Mark Mastroianni. Mastroianni, a registered Democrat, ran as an independent due to his belief that partisan politics should not be part of the office,

Buoniconti's initial advantages, though, ultimately proved ineffective, as voters in Hampden County elected Mastroianni to the position.

Mastroianni gathered endorsements from a large number of law enforcement unions, present and former prosecutors and retired judges.

Buoniconti ran considerable television ads in which he made promises to do away with plea bargains in the district attorney's offices and fight with judges over sentencing.

Mastroianni spoke on his experience as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney and his goal of efficiently handling cases to make the county a safer place.

Mastroianni's classification as an independent crossed across party lines as shown by the number of Republicans who attended his packed election night party at the Onyx restaurant in Springfield.

Speaking over the din of his supporters, Mastroianni stopped short of saying that he expected to win, but that he had " a good feeling" in the final weeks of the campaign thanks to a sense of his candidacy gaining momentum.

He acknowledged that Buoniconti was "very established" and had a "strong following."

After taking several days to spend time with his family and "decompressing," Mastroianni said he would begin assembling a transition team. At the top of the list of issues he will need to address is replacing veteran prosecutors who made their intentions to leave the district attorney's office prior to the election.

Mastroianni also wants to "clean up the backlog of cases," and will seek ways of streamlining procedures at the office to do so, within the present budget and staff restraints.

He said that he had been friends with Buoniconti for years and the campaign strained that relationship. He hopes to move forward with Buoniconti on a personal basis.

At his election night event at the John Boyle O'Reilly Club in Springfield, Buoniconti thanked his family and supporters. He appeared at the clearly tense and somber event about half an hour after two reporters from The Republican and Masslive were asked to leave.

Emotions about the election were running so high that the candidate's mother yelled, "Screw you!" to the reporters as they left.

When Buoniconti entered the room, he and his wife took time to greet many of the approximately 70 or so people gathered. Eschewing the room's stage, he stood in the center of the floor and said, "Campaigning is always difficult and tonight it's not what we hoped."

"We hold our heads high on how we conducted ourselves in the campaign," he added.

"We have nothing, nothing to be sad about. We put everything on the line," he said. "We obviously had some forces against us. Those forces were unfair at times."

His supporters answered "Yes" in response, a reference to media coverage concerning his refusal to release his complete tax returns.

"I wouldn't change a thing [about the campaign]," he said.

Buoniconti said that he will continue serving the people of his district as their senator for the next two months and that he would return to practicing law, although at this time he had not picked a specialty.

When asked if he would consider another run at public office, Buoniconti replied, "I'm not even thinking about that."

"Every time I've been elected by the voters, it is a privilege," he said.


The outcome of Election Day's races for the House's 3rd and 6th Hampden Districts and the Senate's Hampden District will bring new faces, policies and strategies to Beacon Hill, according to the victors, State Representative-elects Republican Nicholas Boldyga and Democrat Michael Finn and Senator-elect Democrat James Welch.

Newcomers to state government, Boldyga and Finn, along with Welch, a veteran state legislator, said they're ready to hit the ground running come January.

"My number one priority will be what I call, 'Economic equality in Western Massachusetts.' Here in Western Massachusetts is always a little slower to feel the benefits [from Boston] and I'll be the leading voice in that [effort]," Welch said of his first days as a state senator.

Other priorities will be quality education, upgrading infrastructure and above all, constituent service, he added.

Welch said he's unsure at this time where he'll be setting up his district office, which will serve Agawam, West Springfield and portions of Chicopee and Springfield.

Welch defeated Republican Agawam City Councilor Robert Magovern by taking 61 percent of the vote, 21,538 to 13,805, respectively.

Finn, president of the West Springfield Town Council, earned his spot in the House by overtaking West Springfield Republican Gregory Neffinger by a tally of 6,580 to 5,472.

Finn said he's back to work as a trial court officer after taking a leave of absence to work on his campaign for the 6th Hampden District, which serves West Springfield and sections of Chicopee and Springfield. Finn said he would request another leave of absence to focus full time on his roles as state representative as well as town councilor come January.

"The City Council has been a great training ground [for state government]," he explained. "There's a learning curve no matter where you go. To become effective you need to learn the dos and don'ts."

Welch said he's committed to aiding Finn in his transition into his office.

Finn called his campaign for state representative, his leave of absence from work as well as he and his wife's decision to refinance their home to make ends meet until Election Day, "a really big risk" that was "definitely worth it."

"The campaign trail was at some times overwhelmingly stressful but it was the most fun I've had with my family," he added.

Finn noted he's currently studying state rules and regulations relative to state legislators so he will be prepared for his first days on the floor as well as working to set up a district office and support personnel.

Boldyga, a Southwick selectman, slipped into Beacon Hill by only 98 votes over incumbent Democrat State Rep. Rosemary Sandlin's 5,987. Agawam School Committee Vice Chair Anthony Bonavita, independent, came in a distant third with 3,232 votes.

Boldyga said one of his first priorities as state representative of the 3rd Hampden District, serving Agawam, Granville, Russell and Southwick, "will be to focus on effective ways to make sure our community continues to thrive."

"I'll be looking to create and promote business growth in Western Massachusetts so we can ensure people are able to care for their families and make sure our children are receiving the best education possible," he added.

When asked if he'll continue to serve as a selectman, Boldyga replied, "I have received dozens of requests from citizens in Southwick to remain on the Board of Selectmen. My main focus is our district and that we're being adequately represented. When the time comes, one of the most important issues will be to make sure the town does not incur any costs associated with a special election. Ensuring that cities and towns do not incur unnecessary costs should always be on the top of our lists."

When asked if he was concerned Sandlin may contest the election results, Boldyga said, "There have been several other state representative races resulting in differences of around 100 votes and the incumbents have conceded those races. They stated, the votes are too great to overcome and it will result in a costly and timely endeavor for the people of our district. I'm very confident in the abilities of our town and city clerks and the outstanding job they did on Election Day."

Sandlin had yet to announce whether or not she'd ask for a recount by press time.

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