Local races deliver surprising results
Date: 11/9/2010Nov. 8, 2010
By Deb Gardner, Chris Maza and G. Michael Dobbs The election of 2010 was an eventful one and this story focuses on two races of importance to to our readers.
GREATER SPRINGFIELD -- Despite a sometimes contentious campaign, Brian Ashe retained his seat in the State House of Representatives for the 2nd Hampden District, beating Republican challenger Marie Angelides, an attorney from Longmeadow, by 466 votes.
The final numbers, reflecting votes from precincts in Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Springfield, Hampden and Monson, were 8,692 to 8,226 in favor of the incumbent Longmeadow Democrat.
Ashe was first elected to the House in 2008, becoming the first Democrat to represent the district in 36 years.
Republican Iris Holland served as Representative from 1972 until 1991, when fellow Republican Mary Rogeness took over and held the seat until 2008.
It was pizza and patience for supporters of Ashe as they waited out the results race at Fazio's in East Longmeadow Tuesday night.
With a giant flat screen TV balanced on the bar and a handful of his youngest supporters playing paper football at the back tables, the crowd of about 60 nibbled and chatted while they waited, many also checking cell phones frequently and passing along rumors and vote updates from sources as they came in.
The Democratic candidate himself seemed to have his cell glued to one ear most of the evening as the results filtered in slowly from the five precincts in his district.
Meanwhile, Angelides drew support from prominent figures at her election night party at Romito's and Sons Delicatessen, including Rogeness, Longmeadow Select Board Chair Robert Aseltine, Longmeadow School Committee Chair Armand Wray and Longmeadow Select Board Vice Chair and School Building Committee Chair Robert Barkett. Despite this support, she lost the vote in a battle of the two candidates' hometown by 223 tallies.
The official Longmeadow count was 3,682 to 3,459 in favor of Ashe.
Longmeadow boasted a 65 percent voter turnout as precincts throughout the district reported high numbers.
"I think what you saw was a strong get out the vote campaign," Angelides said. "What we saw in Longmeadow is what we saw in all of the communities in the district."
Angelides took the lead when the East Longmeadow vote came in with a count of 1,827 to 1,452 in her favor, but fell behind by nearly 400 votes with the results from Springfield's precincts B and C in Ward 6, an outcome that Rogeness told Reminder Publications was "expected."
Ashe dominated the Springfield vote, 889 to 369.
Once the Springfield results were in, Angelides' supporters anxiously awaited results from Hampden and Monson polls, which Rogeness said were crucial for a victory.
"In hindsight, we would have had to," Angelides said when asked if she would have focused harder on Springfield if she could run her campaign over again. "We did direct mailings and I went door-to-door in a lot of neighborhoods there, but I wish I had more Springfield support."
While Angelides' party started to wind down shortly before 10 p.m., rough numbers from Monson began filtering in, showing that Angelides lost that town's vote by approximately 200 votes. Official tallies showed Ashe took the town by 212 votes, 1632 to 1420.
Conversely, at 10 p.m., Ashe's camp had solid numbers from Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Monson and the 16 Acres and East Forest Park precincts of Springfield, the results showing Ashe with nearly a 600-vote lead.
But unlike two years ago, when a supporter said then candidate Ashe "had a big lead going into the Hampden vote count," the 2010 race was still too close to call.
"It's too bad we have to wait so long to get the vote. I'm looking forward to serving another two years," Ashe said to the gathering of his faithful shortly after 10 p.m.
As the crowd of supporters then began to thin, Ashe told Reminder Publications
that he was, so far, "feeling comfortable" with the results.
"Everything is looking in our favor. We've got four of five precincts in and I'm up by 586 total votes with just Hampden left, and I won Hampden last time," Ashe said.
He expected to get the results from that town, which still counts its ballots by hand "maybe at two in the morning."
"I know it's not huge, maybe 1,500 total voters," he said of the 2010 Hampden poll count. "Even two years ago, when I was up by 2,000 [votes], until I got Hamden I was not completely comfortable."
Final results from the town of Hampden were not finished until "somewhere between 12:30 and 1 [a.m. Wednesday]," a representative from Hampden Town Hall said. Angelides said she did not learn of the final count until 5:30 a.m.
"It was a long night," Angelides said. "I did not feel comfortable all night waiting for results to come in."
In the end, Angelides won the Hampden vote, 1,151 to 1,036, but it was not enough to defeat Ashe.
On the overall mood of voters that evening, Ashe said the races, including his own sometimes contentious battle with Angelides, seemed to reflect how dissatisfied people have been with the current state of the country.
"People are trying to say they aren't happy," Ashe said of the countrywide shift to conservative voting.
"But even when people aren't happy, they still have to have a good enough reason to change," he added, noting the continued confidence that Massachusetts voters showed in their Democratic candidates that evening.
Angelides said she was "surprised" at the lack of success Republicans were having across the state of Massachusetts, despite the party's success on a national level in gaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives and six Senate seats.
Angelides said she was unsure whether or not voters would see her on the next ballot.
"We have to think about and assess that. We still have to go over the numbers and see where we need to work harder," Angelides said. "Also, I'm expecting my first grandchild in a few months, so I might want to focus on enjoying being a grandmother."
Regardless, Angelides, said she enjoyed her first foray into politics.
"It was a hard run, but it was very exciting," Angelides said. "I enjoyed getting out there and meeting people in the district and really enjoyed the whole race."***
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, utimately 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 his 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.