Races in several legislative districts where Republicans and Democrats hope to pick up seats are front and center as the final election season takes off north of Boston.
Fresh from their wins in the Sept. 6 primaries, Democratic and Republican candidates — joined by unenrolled contenders — have begun the eight-week dash to the Nov. 6 final.
In addition to helping elect a president and a US senator, voters this year will fill 53 Massachusetts House and Senate posts in the region, as well as three congressional seats and several county offices and governor’s councilor seats.
Two open Merrimack Valley seats that have long been in Democratic hands are being viewed as competitive battlegrounds based on past voting patterns.
One is the 1st Essex state Senate seat, where Newburyport City Councilor Kathleen A. O’Connor Ives, a Democrat, and Haverhill School Committee member Shaun P. Toohey, a Republican, will vie with Amesbury Municipal Councilor James M. Kelcourse and Haverhill School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti, both unenrolled.
Ives earned a spot in the final with a primary upset of William M. Manzi, the former Methuen mayor, and Tim Coco, a business owner from Haverhill. Manzi had been seen as the favorite because of his political résumé and endorsements he secured from Steven A. Baddour, who resigned the seat in March, and others.
“I’m honored. I want to continue to earn the confidence and trust of residents in the district,” Ives said. “Voters want and deserve specifics on where we stand on things, and I’ve always been clear on my positions and the work I want to do for the 1st Essex.”
Toohey advanced to the final by outpacing Sam Meas, a former congressional candidate from Haverhill.
“I’m going to continue what I started several months ago, and that is to get my message out every single day, and work to meet all the voters in the 1st Essex district,” Toohey said. “I feel confident that I will deliver the seat in November, which has not had a Republican senator in well over 40 years.”
Another race targeted by the GOP is the 2d Essex House seat, where Democrat Barry P. Fogel and Republican Lenny Mirra, two first-time candidates from West Newbury, will battle to succeed retiring Democrat Harriett L. Stanley.
A former Groveland Conservation Commission member, Mirra claimed his party’s nod by defeating Bob Cronin of Boxford and Selectman Gary C. Fowler of Georgetown in the GOP primary.
Mirra said he expected a close race in the final, calling Fogel a “very formidable candidate. “I’ve spent my life in small business and I believe my business background is what voters are looking for, because it represents a change from what we currently have on Beacon Hill,” he said.
A former West Newbury Conservation Commission member, Fogel ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Fogel said that if voters “want someone who is moderate, open-minded, and focused on efficient government — not more government — then my goal is to make them see that that’s the kind of person I am. I’m optimistic that if I can get that message to the voter, I have a good chance at prevailing.”
Two other Merrimack Valley seats should claim attention as possible battlegrounds between the two parties.
In the 2d Essex and Middlesex, state Senator Barry R. Finegold, an Andover Democrat, will be seeking to fend off a challenge from state Representative Paul Adams of Andover, who edged Selectman Alex J. Vispoli of Andover in the GOP primary. Adams took aim at the senate seat after being redistricted out of his current 17th Essex House seat.
The race in the 18th Essex House district features what promises to be a hard-fought rematch between two Andover residents, Republican James J. Lyons Jr., the incumbent, and Democrat Barbara L’Italien, whom Lyons unseated two years ago.
Democrats appear poised to pick up another GOP seat, the one held by Adams. City Council president Frank A. Moran of Lawrence will compete against unenrolled candidate Kevin M. Cuff in November. The GOP fielded no candidate in the race.
Other races likely to be closely watched by the parties include the contest in the 13th Essex House district, where Selectman Dan Bennett of Danvers, a Republican who mounted a successful write-in bid in the primary, is challenging Democratic incumbent Theodore C. Speliotis of Danvers. The race is a rematch of their 2010 contest, in which Speliotis edged Bennett.
In the 14th Essex House district, Diana DiZoglio, of Methuen upset incumbent David M. Torrisi of North Andover in the Democratic primary. DiZoglio and Republican Karin R. Rhoton, a former North Andover School Committee member, will meet in the final.
Also notable is the contest in the 21st Middlesex House district, where Democrat Ken Gordon of Bedford and Republican Walter Zenkin of Burlington will vie to succeed retiring incumbent Charles A. Murphy of Burlington, a Democrat. Gordon and Zenkin both ran successful write-in primary campaigns.
One race that attracted attention in the primary but that is unlikely to capture the spotlight in the final is in the 2d Essex state Senate district to succeed veteran incumbent Frederick E. Berry of Peabody, a Democrat, who is retiring.
City Councilor Joan B. Lovely of Salem won a hard-fought, four-way Democratic primary, and is strongly favored in the final election against Richard A. Jolitz, a Beverly Republican who lost to Berry two years ago.
Another open Senate seat Democrats hope to retain is that of retiring incumbent Susan C. Fargo of Lincoln. Michael J. Barrett, a Lexington Democrat and former state senator, and Sandi Martinez, a Chelmsford Republican, will face off in the final after having won their respective primaries.John Laidler can be reached at email@example.com.