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Comerford leads comfortably in Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District

  • Ryan O'Donnell, center, who is running for state Senate, waves to arriving guests during an election night party at Northampton Brewery, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ryan O'Donnell, right, who is running for state Senate, talks with Rick Kristek during an election night party at Northampton Brewery, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jo Comerford, who is running for state Senate, talks to her supporters during an election night party at Union Station in Northampton, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018 at Union Station. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chelsea Kline, who is running for state Senate, talks with Steve Trumpy during an election night party at Sierra Grill in Northampton, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chelsea Kline, who is running for state Senate, talks with Charles W. O'Dowd III, center, and others during an election night party at Sierra Grill in Northampton, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jo Comerford speaks to supporters who cheer and applaud as results are projected on a screen, Tuesday, at Union Station in Northampton. STAFF PHOTOS/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jo Comerford, center, who is running for state Senate, talks with Clare Higgins and Michael Aleo during an election night party at Union Station. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS



Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 05, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — One of the most unusual campaigns in Hampshire County history still did not have a clear winner on Tuesday night, although it’s clear that the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District in the Massachusetts state Senate will be represented by a woman.

With results still being counted, former MoveOn.org campaign director Jo Comerford led with 11,512, while educator and women’s rights advocate Chelsea Kline had 8,856, according to the Comerford campaign. Northampton City Council President Ryan O’Donnell had 720 votes while Central Hampshire Veterans’ Services Director Steven Connor got 466 votes.

“We starting to feel optimistic,” said Michael Aleo with the Comerford campaign earlier in the night, although he noted. “There’s still room for the gap to close.”

Results called in to the Gazette before press time showed Comerford with 9,638 votes to Kline’s 8,877, a lead of less than 1,000 votes. But these figures did not include votes from Greenfield and Montague and write-in votes from Amherst.

The Comerford campaign, despite its lead, has not yet declared victory.

“That is not for us to do,” said Comerford.

Comerford, O’Donnell and Connor ran as write-in candidates for the seat.

“I’m feeling uplifted,” said Comerford, who said she was deeply grateful for those who worked on the campaign.

She also said that she would be incredibly excited to win. As for the possibility of winning as a write-in candidate, she said that it was a reflection of her campaign’s “people power.”

“There’s no way I could have done this alone,” she said.

As it stood, the Comerford campaign had 5 precincts in Amherst uncounted out of 10, no results from Irving or Gill, was missing 1 out of 9 precints in Greenfield and 3 out of 6 precincts in Montague. Wendell and Whately had also not been accounted for.

“It’s not an insignificant number of votes that we are missing,” said Aleo.

Aleo also said that Comerford did very well in Northampton and Amherst.

When reached out to by the Gazette, O’Donnell congratulated the winner of the campaign, although one was not yet known at the time.

“I think it was a good campaign,” said O’Donnell

He also said he would continue as president of the City Council.

“This is my home,” he said noting that he had continued his work on the City Council during the campaign and would continue it after.

The Connor and Kline campaigns did not return calls for comment in time for deadline.

The race assumed its current form after the resignation of the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District’s longtime legislator, Sen. Stan Rosenberg, D-Amherst. Rosenberg resigned following a Senate Ethics Committee report that said he had failed to protect the Senate from the behavior of his husband, Bryon Hefner. Hefner is set to go on trial for a number of charges, including sexual assault.

Rosenberg’s resignation came after the filing deadline to get on the Democratic primary ballot.

Because Kline chose to challenge Rosenberg prior to his resignation, she was the only person who appeared on Tuesday’s ballot. However, five candidates ended up stepping forward to run as write-in candidates.

Two of those candidates, University of Massachusetts Amherst employee David Morin and attorney David J. Murphy, both of Amherst, ended up dropping out of the race. However, O’Donnell, Connor and Comerford stayed in until the end.

All four candidates ran as Progressive Democrats, with each emphasizing their own personal strengths. Kline noted having been a teenaged mother who had benefited from social welfare programs and the representation her election would bring; O’Donnell noted his position as the only candidate with legislative experience, Comerford pointed to her command of policy and her longtime advocacy of progressive causes, while Connor emphasized his history of being able to help people as an area department head.

Voters speak

The Gazette spoke to both Comerford and Kline voters at the polls in Northampton.

A number of Kline’s voters gave her credit for challenging Rosenberg.

“I like that from the begining she challenged Rosenberg,” said Claudia Lefko.

She said that although she likes Rosenberg, she believes in term limits.

“You can’t occupy these seats for your whole life,” she said.

“I think it’s really cool that she challenged Stan to be honest,” said Jessi Bond, who cited Kline as an old family friend. “The only way we’re gonna get old white men to be out of power here is for women to challenge them.”

Bond did say, however, that she liked Rosenberg.

Jason Rose-Langston said that he wrote in his neighbor, Comerford, because he liked her platform and knew people in her campaign.

“I am a firm believer in more women in politics,” he said.

Leslie Giordano has worked with Comerford on several committees, and decided to back her in the Senate race.

“She’s always doing the right thing in my book,” she said.

 

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@ gazettenet.com.