This morning’s Springfield Republican included an article about Democrats discussing their plans to win the State State Senate seat vacated by Mike Knapik (R-Westfield). I couldn’t help thinking as I read the headline; who cares?
No, I’m not suffering from special election fatigue. The thing that seems irrelavent to me is the party membership of the state senator from Knapik’s Western Mass district. The Democrats have a rock solid veto-proof majority in the state senate, and Knapik’s membership in the Republican Party did not distinguish his efforts to forward the interests of his constituency in the senate from those of his Democratic colleagues. Unlike the US House and Senate, the legislative chambers and committee rooms of Beacon Hill are not battlefields in the war between left and right in America.
Another Republican, Brian Lees, represented Springfield in the state senate for decades. The most powerful Democratic pols in Western Mass made little secret of their affection for Mr. Lees. Democrats hoping to challenge Lees were regularly discouraged from doing so by the area’s Democratic office holders and behind-the-scenes “king maker” types. When Mr. Lees left the Senate to run for Hampden County Clerk of Courts, his Democratic challenger was pointedly discouraged by top Democrats, and even denied key endorsements. When this candidate pressed the question of endorsements as a matter of party loyalty, he was essentially told to shut up.
While the media will no doubt frame the election to replace Knapik in partisan terms, it’s very unlikely that the campaign will be particularly partisan because the party membership of the winner will mean nothing to the Western Mass folks who have a clear stake in the identity of the next state senator from Knapick’s district. Republican State Rep. Don Humason (R-Westfield), who was the first to announce his candidacy for the seat, will likely enjoy considerable support from area Democrats, even if his opponent is fellow State Rep. Aaron Vega (D-Holyoke). For the establishment Democratic pols and politicos in Western Mass a candidate’s willingness to work cooperatively with them to forward the region’s interests in Boston is far more important than party label.
For Western Mass state pols, regardless of party, politics is more about Eastern Mass versus Western Mass than right versus left.