Redrawn districts challenge incumbents \ McGovern, Neal, Tsongas are starting strong

Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA) - Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Author: John J. Monahan
All three members of Congress representing parts of Worcester County may face challenges this fall as they prepare to seek re-election in newly mapped districts their opponents believe may have opened up new opportunities. 

While U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, may face a challenge from independent candidate Patrick Barron of Worcester, it remains unclear whether either of two little-known Democrats who signaled interest in a primary challenge to Mr. McGovern will follow up with formal candidacies. 

Two Republicans who took out nomination papers have since decided against challenging Mr. McGovern. 

U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, is seeking a 12th term, running in an expanded 1st Congressional District that includes parts of southern Worcester County such as Sturbridge and Charlton and much of Western Massachusetts. 

Running against Mr. Neal are former state senator and current Berkshire County Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo Jr., a Pittsfield lawyer, and William Shein, a political satirist from Alford. 

U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, who is seeking a third full term after winning a special election in 2007, is facing the winner of a Republican primary between two candidates who also ran in a four-way primary for her seat two years ago: Jonathan Golnik of Carlisle, who won the primary and got 42 percent of the vote in the general election, and Thomas J.M. Weaver of Westford, who came in third in the 2010 GOP primary. 

McGovern spokesman Scott Zoback said even though Mr. McGovern is not facing any established party candidate, he has been working hard to get known in the 52 new cities and towns, including many in Western Massachusetts. 

"He has got a very new district and he is going to work very aggressively to get to know those communities and all the new people in them and that isn't going to change regardless of who is in or out of the race," Mr. Zoback said. 

Mr. Neal, who has a $2.5 million campaign fund, is starting off in a strong position in his primary, having represented most of the large population centers in the newly shaped district for many years, while being well known in newly added nearby areas of West Springfield, Holyoke and Westfield. 

"I'm taking it seriously, but I am no stranger to the district. People see me all the time," said Mr. Neal. He said he has worked on many projects over the years in the Worcester County parts of the district, such as the defense manufacturing center in Southbridge, and he visits that part of the district often.. 

"I was just in Dudley and was also out in Charlton to help with money for the Fire Department," Mr. Neal said Mr. Nucifero is also an experienced elected official, having represented a state Senate district for 10 years once held by his father. He ran unopposed throughout Berkshire County to win the register of deeds seat in 2006. So far, the Nuciforo campaign, which is promoting him as the more progressive Democrat, has raised about $315,000. While Mr. Neal sees much of the vote coming from areas he is better known, Mr. Nuciforo pointed out that 66 cities and towns in the new district, including his home town of Pittsfield, have been represented until now by U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, who is retiring at the end of this term. 

"People are very unhappy with the results they are seeing in Washington, for good reason, and we represent an alternative," Mr. Nuciforo said. "I'm a strong Democrat with impressive credentials, whether we talk about consumer protection, opposing Wall Street deregulation, standing with women for reproductive health, or fighting for economic fairness for middle class citizens." 

The other Democrat in the race, William Shein, describes himself as "a bold, progressive voice for Western Massachusetts," and he has made campaign financing a central theme. He maintains the country will not make substantial progress on jobs, economic fairness and the environment until big money is taken out of politics. He has said he will not accept campaign contributions of more than $99. 

Ms. Tsongas is facing the winner of a Republican primary that includes two candidates who vied to challenge her two years ago. This time, with the new district geography in play, the challengers are hoping they will see a different result. 

"I'm doing it again, yes," said Mr. Golnik. "I think I ran a strong race, but sometimes it takes two tries." This time he is better known from the last campaign and continuing high unemployment remains a central issue, he said. 

"We've got a jobs crisis in the district," he said, with 8.8 percent unemployment in Lowell and 14.5 percent in Lawrence. 

Ms. Tsongas has more than $800,000 on hand, compared to Mr. Golnick who has raised about $80,000. 

Mr. Golnik believes he has an advantage to win votes in new parts of the district, including Central Massachusetts communities where he said they tend to vote more conservatively. 

"I think that new territory represents new opportunity for us," he said, noting that Gardner, Marlboro and Clinton voted 60-40 Republican in recent elections.


 


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