Massachusetts remains solidly Democratic state
BOSTON — Massachusetts more than lived up to its reputation as a solidly Democratic state, as the party reclaimed the U.S. Senate seat once held by Edward Kennedy, swept all nine U.S. House races and backed President Barack Obama in the home state of Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard Law School professor, defeated Republican Sen. Scott Brown Tuesday in a closely-watched race that was the most expensive in state history, with the candidates spending a combined $68 million.
The GOP’s hopes of capturing its first victory in a House race since 1994 were also dashed when embattled Democratic Rep. John Tierney squeezed out a narrow win over challenger Richard Tisei in the state’s 6th District. Tierney’s campaign had been dogged by questions about what he knew of an illegal offshore gambling ring involving his wife’s family.
Voters in the 4th District, meanwhile, sent another Kennedy to Congress. Joseph Kennedy III, the 32-year-old grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and son of former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II, handily defeated Republican Sean Bielat.
Massachusetts voters also weighed in on three ballot questions, giving approval for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions and for a so-called “right to repair” automotive law.
Warren will be the first woman to hold a U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. She noted that her election came 50 years after Edward Kennedy won his first campaign.
“He said that he would dedicate all of his strength and will to serve you in the United States Senate. For 47 years he did that. Tonight, I pledge to do the same,” Warren told jubilant supporters.
Brown, who upset Democrat Martha Coakley in a January 2010 special election to succeed Kennedy, was unable to repeat his success in the face of a determined Democratic organization.
“You’ve got no business in politics unless you respect the judgment of people. And if you run for office, you’ve got to be able to take it either way, winning or losing, and I accept the decision of voters,” Brown told supporters in his concession speech.
Obama, as expected, carried the state’s 11 electoral votes on his way to winning a second term. Romney, who served one term as governor from 2003-2007, and his wife voted Tuesday morning in suburban Belmont, which they still call home. They later traveled to Ohio and Pennsylvania for last-day campaigning before returning to Boston, where he would eventually deliver his concession speech at the city’s convention center.
Many voters clearly wrestled with the decision in the Senate race.
In Wayland, a western suburb of Boston, 53-year-old Bob Virzi said he picked Warren.
“It was a tough call,” he said. “I just feel like we can’t let the Senate go into Republican control. I like Scott Brown, but if you look at his record, it’s not as clear-cut as it should be.”
Virzi, an unaffiliated voter who describes himself as a semi-retired consultant, also voted for Obama, saying the economy was much better off than when he took office.
Lynda Connell, a 50-year-old registered nurse from Whitman, said she voted for Brown because she believed he was willing to work with Republicans and Democrats.
“He’s very bipartisan, and he’s voted on the issues, not just by the party,” Connell said.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said mostly anecdotal reports around the state pointed to a strong turnout, with long lines at some polling places. He said he had received relatively few reports of major voting problems and most had been resolved.
Voters said yes to ballot Question 3, allowing marijuana to be used medically for people with cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease and several other conditions. The law would create nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers regulated by the state Department of Public Health.
Also approved was Question 1, which requires automakers to share diagnostic and repair information with independent mechanics. The Legislature approved a compromise version of “Right to Repair” in July, but it was too late to remove the question from the ballot.
Voters were also deciding Question 2, which would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending medication at the request of certain terminally ill patients. The results were too close to call early Wednesday.
The fiercest congressional contest was in the 6th District, on Boston’s North Shore, where Tisei was trying to unseat Tierney, an eight-term Democrat. Tierney’s wife, Patrice, had been sentenced to 30 days in prison last year for helping one of her two brothers who had been implicated in the gambling ring file false tax returns.
Tierney said he had not been aware of the illegal nature of the operation, but Tisei, a former state senator, accused him of being dishonest with voters.
Kennedy was the first member of his famous political family to seek public office. A former prosecutor, he tapped into his family’s name and connections to raise more than $4 million for the race and will take the seat now held by the retiring Democratic Rep. Barney Frank in the district stretching from the western Boston suburbs to southeastern Massachusetts.
Democratic incumbents carried the day in the state’s other House races.
Rep. Edward Markey, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, defeated Republican Tom Tierney in the 5th district; Rep. Niki Tsongas bested Jon Golnick in the 3rd district; freshman Rep. William Keating defeated Christopher Sheldon in the 9th district; Rep. Stephen Lynch won over Republican Joe Selvaggi in the 8th district; and Rep. Michael Capuano won over independent Karla Romero in the 7th District.
Rep. Richard Neal in the 1st District and Rep. James McGovern in the 2nd District were unopposed Tuesday.