Special election for Humason’s seat set for March

  • Sen. Donald Humason, R-Westfield, who will be leaving the Senate in January to become mayor of Westfield, resubmitted his resignation letter on Wednesday.

Staff Writer
Published: 12/12/2019 11:28:09 PM
Modified: 12/12/2019 11:27:58 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A special election date has been set for a western Massachusetts state Senate seat that Republicans have held since the 1990s.

The special election for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District, to fill the seat of outgoing Sen. Donald Humason, R-Westfield, will be held on March 31. The primary date for the election will be March 3.

These dates also apply to filling the vacancy in the Plymouth and Barnstable District, vacated when former Sen. Vinny deMacedo, R-Plymouth, stepped down in November to become the director of regional partnerships at Bridgewater State University.

“I am very disappointed that we could not come to an agreement on a March 3, 2019 special election date due to the Republicans’ various procedural delay tactics,” Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said in a statement. “I am happy, however, that the residents of the Plymouth and Barnstable and 2nd Hampden and Hampshire districts now have some certainty as to when the special election will be held.”

So far, only Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield, is running for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District seat, a district that also includes Holyoke, Easthampton and Southampton. The resignations of Humason and deMacedo could potentially cut the already small Republican caucus in the state Senate from six seats to four.

The deadline for submitting nomination papers to the local registrars of voters for either contest is Jan. 21, while the last day to file certified nomination papers with the secretary of the commonwealth is Jan. 28. Getting on the ballot for state Senate requires at least 300 certified signatures.

Spilka’s announcement, dated Wednesday, comes amid a kerfuffle about Humason’s resignation letter.

“This is a tempest in a teapot,” Humason told the Gazette.

A resignation letter is required for the Senate to set a special election.

On Wednesday, according to a news report from MassLive, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin characterized Humason’s letter as “worthless,” because it didn’t contain the word irrevocable, citing a 2004 Supreme Judicial Court case that characterized the resignation of Sen. Cheryl Jacques, in which she said she was irrevocably resigning, as not merely an expression of intent. He also said that this was part of a Republican effort to not hold the special election on March 3 and to suppress voter turnout.

March 3 is also the date of the 2020 presidential primaries in Massachusetts.

Humason characterized Galvin’s behavior as a “tantrum.” He also said that he only learned about the objection to him not using the word irrevocable in his letter after he was contacted yesterday by a reporter. He said neither Galvin nor his office reached out to him about it.

“I would have put the word in there,” Humason said. “Nobody told me.”

Humason said that before he wrote his resignation letter, which he submitted initially last week, he consulted with Spilka, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, and the clerk of the Senate. And he noted that he included the date and time he will be stepping down in his letter.

Humason, who is leaving the Senate to become mayor Westfield, has announced his intention to step down on Jan. 6 at 5 p.m.

Humason resubmitted his resignation letter yesterday, with the word irrevocable in it.

“It’s done,” Humason said. “It was no big deal with me.”

Humason said that he had delayed submitting his resignation letter because of the discussions on when the election would be held, and he expressed a preference for the primary to be held on March 3. However, he said that when he submitted his resignation letter last week, he didn’t leave out the word irrevocable as a political move.

“The secretary is the one being partisan, not me,” he said.

In a statement released by a spokeswoman, Galvin’s office said that since Humason “has filed a corrected letter and the Senate has accepted it and called the special, the secretary doesn’t have anything more to add at this point.”

In closing, Humason made a resolution for the future: “The next time I resign I’ll make sure it’s irrevocable.”

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

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