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Slim Pickings

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Town election ballots for the Sept. 6 State Primary offer limited choices for Democratic and Republican voters

For Saugus residents in Precincts 3 and 10 who will be voting in the Massachusetts State Primary next month, just two of the 12 offices on the ballot are contested.

And in half of the races, there’s not even a Republican candidate running: Nobody for Essex County Sheriff or District Attorney. Nobody for the Governor’s Council. No Republican is challenging incumbent state Rep. Jessica Ann Giannino (D-Revere) for her Sixteenth Suffolk District seat. State Sen. Brendan P. Crighton (D-Lynn) will be re-elected without opposition. And the state Republican Party also lacks a candidate to run against state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg.

Only two political races matter in the Republican primary, which is set for Tuesday, Sept. 6:

  • Who gets to represent the Republican Party for Governor: Geoff Diehl faces Chris Doughty in that race.
  • Who wins the battle between Lieutenant Governor hopefuls Leah V. Allen and Kate Campanale.

Meanwhile, the ballots for those Saugus residents voting in the state Democratic Primary does offer considerably more choices. Seven of the twelve offices are being contested.

But local Democrats failed to field a candidate to run against State Rep. Donald Wong, R-Saugus, who will have no competition for the second consecutive state election as he will win his seventh two-year term representing voters of the Ninth Essex House District.

A “free ride” for Saugus delegation

All three members of the Saugus legislative delegation face no opposition in the fall election.

“The pickings are really slim,” said longtime Saugus Republican Town Committee Chair Jim Harrinton, who has chaired the town Republican Party all but three years since 1989.

“It’s one of the few times we’ve had few choices. I can’t recall an election with fewer choices,” Harrington said.

Why aren’t there a lot more choices of candidates running, particularly in the county and legislative races?

“I think a lot of people in the Republican Party feel that even if they are well-qualified, they’re just not going to win. We have a lot of good candidates with good values and they’re not going to win,” he said.

“The main reason, I think, is that a lot of people have lost interest in going out and running. To put your head down, it takes a toll on your family, your wife and children. Running for office is a tremendous undertaking. It’s a sacrifice. You have to have a lot of fire in your belly to want to be a political candidate these days,” he said.

Harrington noted “There are a ton of reasons. COVID-19 may be part of it.

A lot of people have soured on the Republican Party because of Donald Trump. He’s obviously a very polarizing figure. You either love him or loathe him,” he said.

Harrington also blames biased media coverage about the Republican Party as a contributing factor.

“The media slams Republicans every chance they get,” he said.

While Republican participation is waning, Harrington cites one race where local Democrats seem to have given up.

“The Democrats don’t even bother challenging Donald Wong anymore because he’s going to win,” he said.

The Democrats’ take on the ballot

Saugus Democratic Town Committee Chair Joseph Malone calls it “a quiet year” as far as political participation goes.

“Even when we went to the state Democratic convention, people felt Maura Healey had it wrapped up.”

Healey’s Democratic challenger – Sonia Rosa Chang-Díaz – apparently agrees with that assessment Chang-Diaz is on the Democratic primary ballot. But, she’s withdrawn because she doesn’t believe she can win.

Malone said he agrees with Harrington about some of the reasons that political interest has waned.

“A lot of people who are fairly successful and would make good candidates don’t want to take the pay cut. And put themselves out there every two years to go through the scrutiny they go through,” Malone said.

“Seems like the Republican Party is really dying in the state. They’re down to five state senators. There’s a lot more scrutiny than in the old days.

I think it’s a stigma in Massachusetts now to carry the Republican Party label,” he said.

“I can’t see any of the Republicans winning anything in the statewide or congressional races in Massachusetts this fall.. They’ll be lucky to hold onto whatever they have in the state Senate and House.

Is this a sign of things to come?

“I would say so,” Malone said. He’s “very surprised” that the Republicans can’t at least field respectable candidates to run for office.

“I’m surprised that they can’t field a Republican candidate to run for sheriff because former Sheriff Frank Cousins, a Republic Sheriff, held the job for years. They’ve pretty much given up on it,” he said.

“It’s kind of surprising. There are some very affluent towns in Essex County where you would think they would be able to field some candidates. That shows how far their interest has waned. The Democrats are going to walk-in during the elections this fall, from Healy right on down the line.”

As of this week, there are 20,637 registered voters in Saugus, according to the Town Clerk’s Office. That includes 13,152 unenrolled voters, 5,133 Democrats and 2,077 Republicans.

SAUGUS REPUBLICAN COMMITTEE CHAIR JIM HARRINGTON: “It’s one of the few times we’ve had few choices. I can’t recall an election with fewer choices.” (Saugus Advocate file photo)

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