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Gulluni tops crowded field for Hampden County DA

Date: 9/11/2014

SPRINGFIELD – In what was one of the most anticipated and hard-fought campaigns of the 2014 primary election season, Anthony Gulluni was the runaway winner for Hampden County district attorney (DA) during the Sept. 9 primary election.

The Forest Park resident received 44 percent of the vote to beat out Brett Vottero, a former Hampden County assistant district attorney and assistant U.S. attorney, Holyoke defense attorney Shawn Allyn and Hal Etkin, also a former assistant district attorney and director of the Western Massachusetts Police Academy, for the position, which was vacated by Mark Mastroianni, who accepted an appointment as a federal judge at the Springfield U.S. District Court.

Former First Assistant District Attorney James Orenstein has overseen the operations of the District Attorney’s Office since Mastroianni’s departure.

Gulluni, 33, overcame the fact he had the least amount of service time as an attorney in the field, running a platform that emphasized recent experience  – he was the only candidate currently working in the DA’s office – and support and endorsements from numerous unions, both police and labor, as well as former Hampden County DA William Bennett.

 “I’m really thankful to the voters of Hampden County, as well as all of those who supported me, from the volunteers to my friends and especially my family,” he said. “I can’t say I expected [to win by such a wide margin]. All of [the candidates] ran good campaigns. It was a long process, but I’m happy with the results.”

Gulluni said in the coming months prior to taking office, he would form a committee to help ease the transition for the District Attorney’s Office, which will have had a new leader for the second time in less than five years after Bennett had the position for two decades.

“I have the utmost respect for Jim Orenstein and I will be happy to take the reins from him,” Gulluni said. “He’s done a terrific job and having worked with him will be a great asset as we make the transition.”

Vottero, who finished second with 28 percent of the vote after running a campaign that touted 30 years of prosecutorial experience, said he was disappointed in the result, especially after recent feedback he received.

“Especially these last few weeks, when people really started paying attention to the issues, I thought we had won,” he said.

It was the second defeat for Vottero, who also failed to win the 2010 Democratic primary and indicated he did not intend to run again for the position.

He called the campaign “an experience I will never forget” and thanked his supporters, pointing out “a lot of good people” working in the District Attorney’s Office “put their jobs on the line” by throwing their support behind him. “What an incredible gift to receive,” he remarked.

He also expressed frustration in what was generally a small turnout.

“I congratulate Anthony Gulluni, but to take office with just about 5 percent of voters weighing in, I think it’s discouraging for anybody who cares about community,” he said. “That would be true regardless of what the outcome tonight was.”

Allyn, who along with Vottero met briefly with Gulluni to congratulate him after a winner was declared, said while he wasn’t satisfied with the result, he was happy he was able to run a positive campaign.

“We ran a good campaign, but the people have spoken and I’m going to respect their decision,” he said. “I’m grateful for the support I received and I’ll go back to work at my practice tomorrow.”

Allyn declined to elaborate on whether he would run for office again.

“Right now I’m just absorbing tonight and for now I’ll focus on my practice, which is very vibrant,” he said.

Etkin could not be reached for comment as of press time.

In other races, Eric Lesser won a seesaw battle with Tim Allen for the right to represent the Democratic Party in the race for the state Senate’s 1st Hampden and Hampshire District seat against Republican Debra Boronski and Independent Mike Franco in the general election on Nov. 4.

Ludlow School Committee member James “Chip” Harrington was third with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Ludlow Selectman Aaron Saunders and Thomas Lachiusa.

The 1st Hampden and Hampshire District encompasses parts of Springfield and Chicopee as well as Wilbraham, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Ludlow, Granby, Hampden and Belchertown.

As results rolled in, Lesser and Allen swapped position multiple times before the Longmeadow native and former Obama Administration aide narrowly earned the victory with 32 percent of the vote. Allen received 31 percent, representing a margin of victory of less than 200 votes.

“Election night obviously can be kind of a nail-biter, but I was confident in our team and the work we put in,” Lesser said. “We were confident our campaign had resonated with voters because we remained focused on the issues.”

Lesser said he took “a little time to rest,” but was already back out on the campaign trail Sept. 10.

“I’m fully focused on November,” he said. “I’m focused on continuing to talk about what we need here in Western Massachusetts in order to move forward. We’ve been left out of the conversation and in order for that to change, we need a strong voice in Boston.”

Patrick Leahy did not see nearly as much resistance in his Democratic race against Christopher Hopewell for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District. He will take on Republican incumbent Don Humason.

Seventy-two percent of voters that went to the polls in Holyoke, Westfield, Agawam, Southwick, parts of Chicopee, Granville, Montgomery, Russell, Southwick, Tolland, Easthampton and Southampton casted votes in Leahy’s favor.

“It was a great night for us and I was very happy to be able to celebrate it with the volunteers who have been working so hard on this campaign from the beginning,”?he said. “I was disappointed with the turnout overall, but certainly happy with the result.”

In approaching the race against Humason, “the ground game is already in place,” Leahy said.

“The reason we won the primary in such convincing fashion is we knocked on more doors, made more phone calls and talked to more people one-on-one,” Leahy explained. “We’re going to continue doing that and I plan to out-hustle Mr. Humason.”

Incumbent Democrat Joseph Wagner captured his 13th term in the state House of Representatives’ 8th Hampden District seat, defeating William Courchesne. There are no Republican or independent challengers for the position.

Jose Tosado will represent the Democratic Party in the Nov. 3 election for the 9th Hampden District, which is made up primarily of Springfield neighborhoods and a small portion of Chicopee. Tosado earned 42 percent of the vote to top Peter Murphy and Edward Collins. He will face Libertarian Robert Underwood.

Carlos Gonzalez had the backing of the voters and captured the Springfield-centric 10th Hampden District seat vacated by Cheryl Coakley-Rivera, who resigned in March to take an assistant clerk position at the Hampden County Superior Court. Gonzales received 42 percent of the vote to cruise past Ivette Hernandez and Springfield City Councilor Melvin Edwards.

Benjamin Swan retained his seat representing the heart of Springfield in 11th Hampden District with 60 percent of the vote against challenger Larry Lawson.