Prior to the general election on Nov. 6, the Fenway News is posting two articles by Kate Coiro on the Sept. 4 primary.
This piece includes reactions from residents to the state representative races in the 9th and 15th districts.
Democrats new to the political realm defeated long-term state representatives in the Massachusetts primary election last month, prompting various reactions from residents in the 9th and 15th districts.
In the 9th district, which spans from Back Bay to Fenway and Roxbury, Jon Santiago beat Byron Rushing, the House’s assistant majority leader and fourth-highest ranking Democrat, with 48 percent of the vote to Rushing’s 37 percent. In the 15th district, Nika Elugardo beat Jeffrey Sanchez, a Jamaica Plain Democrat and the House Ways and Means chairman, who has not faced a primary opponent since 2010, with 52 percent of the vote to Sanchez’s 48 percent. The district includes Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill, Roslindale, and part of Brookline.
Jonathan Cohn, a member of the Ward 4 Democratic Committee and Fenway resident, supported Santiago and Elugardo. He said that both candidates displayed an impressive “grounds campaign.”
In particular, Cohn feels that the two candidates willingness to go door to door to engage with voters differentiates them from the incumbents, particularly Rushing. “Byron has a very impressive civil rights history,” said Cohn. But then, “he was brought into House leadership and didn’t have that same force he once did.”
On the other hand, Cohn believes Sanchez lost because his values did not align with those of voters. “Jeffrey Sanchez had a mismatch with the district,” Cohn said. “Things that would be assumed that you would support, he didn’t…Many of the things that people in the district felt passionate about hadn’t been making progress. Even when he says that he supports things, he’s still deferring to the speaker of the House.”
This notion, that Sanchez often deferred to House leadership, is something that many people, including Elugardo, have criticized.
But Christopher Feiss, a Mission Hill resident and member of the Ward 10 Democratic Committee, defended Sanchez. “You’re setting yourself up for failure if you butt heads with the speaker just because you want to make a statement that won’t ultimately help your district,” he said. “It won’t help you, it won’t help your people.”
The speaker of the House, Robert A. DeLeo, does possess a lot of power. So voting with him, as Sanchez and Rushing have done in the past, is a pragmatic choice.
But some people, like Varshini Prakash, the Communications Director of Sunrise Movement, an environmental group that endorsed Elugardo in September’s election, look at long-running political careers as a disadvantage. “We’re witnessing a wave of change across this country, and Massachusetts is no exception,” she said. “Young people are fed up with an out-of-touch political establishment that’s corrupt and complacent in the face of the greatest existential crisis of our lifetimes. We’re the largest voting block for the first time in history, and we’re ready for a new generation of leaders.”
Massachusetts general election, in which Santiago and Eluguardo will be representing the 9th and 15th districts respectively, will take place on Nov. 6.
Kate Coiro is a journalism major at Northeastern University. Read her profile of Elugardo and Santiago here.