Patricia Duffy ‘filled with gratitude’ in primary win

  • Patricia “Pat” Duffy, the longtime legislative aide to state Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, won election Tuesday night in the 5th Hampden District Democratic Primary.  SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Pat Duffy, who won election for state representative in the 5th Hampden District, picks up trash, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020, on the grounds of the Holyoke Public Library. Duffy and her campaign team, including Sandy Ward, center, and Linda Pratt, handled the chore, which was originated by OneHolyoke CDC. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Pat Duffy, left, talks with Nina Kleinberg talk during a protest, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, organized by the Coalition for Birthing Care Access to condemn the closure of Holyoke Medical Center's Birthing Center at the intersection of Beech and Northampton streets in Holyoke. Duffy won election as state representative in the 5th Hampden District Democratic Primary on Tuesday. Kleinberg was a midwife at the Birthing Center. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/2/2020 3:47:01 PM

HOLYOKE — The morning after Pat Duffy won a competitive Democratic primary to represent Holyoke as state representative, she said she was “filled with gratitude.”

“I feel like we had a clear message about building community and being responsive to everybody in Holyoke,” Duffy, who won with 40.3% of the vote against her two opponents, said in an interview. “I’m just feeling gratitude that people saw that, heard that and could tell it was sincere and responded.”

Duffy — the longtime legislative aide to the seat’s current occupant, state Rep. Aaron Vega — defeated commercial real estate broker and five-term Ward 3 City Councilor David Bartley, who finished second with 31.5% of the vote, and Patrick Beaudry, the manager of public affairs for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, who finished with 27.9% of the vote.

There is no Republican on the ballot for the general election in November, meaning Duffy has all but won election to the 5th Hampden District seat.

In a statement posted to social media, Bartley said he intended to finish his term as city councilor, thanking those who supported his campaign along the way.

“Last night I lost and I heartily congratulated both opponents who I consider to be winners each,” Bartley wrote.

Duffy said that one of the first pieces of legislation she hopes to file is to act on any recommendations that emerge from the Legislature’s investigation into the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak that killed at least 76 veteran residents of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. She said that Vega and state Sen. John Velis, D-Westfield, are on the investigative committee, which she will be staffing this fall.

Education will also be a big an early focus, she said.

“As far as specifics go, priority one is making sure that we fulfill all the tenets of the Student Opportunity Act, and that cities like Holyoke get the higher public education funding that we promised in the Student Opportunity Act,” she said, referring to the landmark education bill passed in November that will see more education funding in the state, with a particular emphasis on low-income students, students of color and English learners.

Regional agriculture and food access will be another focus for Duffy, she said. And as Holyoke faces the closure of a second hospital unit in the city, she said she wants to press for solutions to the trend of necessary units closing in the region.

“Finding more tools for keeping those units open when the Department of Public Health says they are essential services, as we know they are,” Duffy said. “How can we push back and keep units like that open?”

Holyoke Medical Center is currently in the process of shuttering its Birthing Center. That impending closure follows a decision made earlier this year by Providence Behavioral Health Hospital’s operator, the health care giant Trinity Health, to close 74 in-patient psychiatric beds in Holyoke — including the region’s only in-patient pediatric beds.

Duffy’s victory came amid record voter turnout across the state, and Holyoke was no exception. Some 34% of voters participated in the election, which was a full 20 percentage points higher than the previous Democratic primary elections.

“It left me very pleasantly surprised,” Holyoke City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee said in a phone interview Wednesday. Murphy McGee said that she suspected less in-person turnout due to the high number of mail-in ballots cast amid the pandemic. But polling places were busy Tuesday.

“I’m definitely anticipating a really big turnout for November,” Murphy McGee said. “We definitely are going to try to do some advertising for poll workers. I’d rather have too many than not enough.”

For Duffy, the higher than usual turnout was an indication that some safety precautions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic — such as mail-in balloting and expanded early voting — should be kept around permanently.

“This pandemic has laid bare inequities that a lot of us have been working on and thinking about and trying to find solutions for,” she said.

Duffy won big in Wards 1, 2, 4 and 6, which largely fall within the neighborhoods of South Holyoke, Churchill, downtown and The Flats. She also won Ward 7.

Bartley, meanwhile, beat his opponents in Wards 3 and 5, which contain the Elmwood, Whiting Farms, Homestead Avenue and Rock Valley neighborhoods. Those victories, however, weren’t by wide enough margins to overcome Duffy’s leads in the other wards.

Beaudry didn’t win any ward outright, though he came close in Ward 5 Precinct A, which contains Homestead Avenue and Rock Valley neighborhoods.

Duffy said that the campaign between the three candidates was positive and focused on the issues — a sentiment shared by Beaudry in a statement to reporters Tuesday evening. Duffy said she hopes that will be an example in a city where politics can get heated.

“We had a civil campaign,” she said. “It was about ideas. We had differing opinions but treated each other with respect.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at
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