Cain, Velis square off again in state Senate election 

  • At left, state Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, who won a special election in May to fill his current seat. Velis defeated Republican businessman John Cain of Southwick, right. The two will face off again on Nov. 3 in the general election. DON TREEGER/THE REPUBLICAN via AP

  • Patricia “Pat” Duffy COURTESY PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/29/2020 3:50:16 PM

HOLYOKE — When city voters in the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District head to the polls on Tuesday, they may experience a bit of deja vu.

Competing for the district’s state Senate seat are two candidates who just ran against each other earlier this year. On May 19, then-state Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield, won a special election to fill the Senate seat, which had been vacated by Donald Humason, R-Westfield, who was elected mayor of Westfield. Velis defeated Republican businessman John Cain of Southwick, winning 64% of the vote.

Now, Velis will be a nearly six-month incumbent when he squares off against Cain yet again on Nov. 3. And after taking the seat, Velis said he has mostly been focused on his job as state senator — bringing in funding for the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke as part of the state’s supplemental budget, for example, as well as other resources.

“The campaign has been nothing more than doing the job,” Velis said in a phone interview. He said his message to voters continues to focus on his willingness to compromise with Republican and Democratic colleagues alike and “not whether I’m ideologically pure enough, whether or not I check all the litmus tests of the Democratic Party.”

After losing the special election in May, Cain has not done much campaigning ahead of the general election. His website,, has expired and is for sale, and no campaign events are listed on his social media accounts. In a phone interview, he said the pandemic has been more difficult for him to get in front of voters compared to his opponent, who as an elected politician is “living on a different set of rules.”

“It makes it more acceptable for him to be out in public,” Cain said, noting Velis’ appearance at events, and his position on a joint committee investigating the COVID-19 outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke. Cain also took issue with Velis, Humason and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, appearing maskless at a Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce event last month. “The political class has always been above the common people.”

Cain has reported $3,418 in expenditures since the special election, $3,000 of which was a repayment to the state Republican Party for mailings it had already sent out, according to records filed with state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, or OCPF. Cain has raised just $248 since May 20 and reported having $4,265 cash on hand in his last campaign finance report filed with the OCPF on Oct. 1.

Velis, meanwhile, had $21,628 cash on hand as of Oct. 1. OCPF records show that Velis has raised $41,265 since the election, including $27,937 in the month of October alone. Velis has spent $12,322 since the special election.

The largest donors to the Velis campaign since the special election have given $1,000 each and include Wilbraham lawyer Francis Bloom; Westfield contractor Curtis Gezotis; Christina Gezotis, who together with her husband is one of the owners of the Westfield dispensary Cannabis Connection; Longmeadow lawyer Phillip Lauro; Marc Lichwan, president of West Springfield’s Mcl Mechanical Services; and six members of the Queenin family, of Westfield and Florence, which owns the Agawam business Specialty Bold & Screw.

Velis was out on the campaign trail this past weekend, doing a standout in Easthampton before knocking on doors across the district and phone banking. His social media account is filled with pictures of volunteers at standouts, holding signs with slogans like “Cops for Velis” and “Re-elect John Velis for State Senate.”

“I’ve had the pleasure and the honor of being the candidate in this race who has knocked on hundreds of doors,” Velis said, adding that he has campaigned in every municipality in the district. In such uncertain times, he said his experience as a state representative and now senator is essential for the district. “I represent all 11 cities and towns as if they’re my home,” he said.

For his part, Cain said that his status as a businessman not in the political establishment would be a benefit to the district. He said that he hopes people see the problems with how the state is being run now and send him to office.

“To get us back to work … to be profitable,” Cain said. “We need to start electing people who are professionals, community-oriented and not really worried about their political career.”

The 2nd Hampden and Hampshire district, which includes Holyoke, Easthampton and Southampton, had been in Republican hands for more than two decades before Velis, a more conservative Democrat, won election in May.

5th Hampden District

In addition to the state Senate race, Holyoke voters will be able to cast their ballots for state representative on Nov. 3.

The race for the 5th Hampden District seat is uncontested, however, after Patricia Duffy — longtime legislative aide to the seat’s current occupant, Aaron Vega — defeated five-term Ward 3 City Councilor David Bartley and Patrick Beaudry, the manager of public affairs for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, in the Democratic primary on Sept. 1.

Vega announced in January that he would not seek reelection to a fifth term.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at

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