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Ross state Senate win boosts GOP

Wrentham candidate takes office vacated by Brown

By Jason Woods and Lisa Kocian
Globe Correspondent | Globe Staff / May 12, 2010

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Giving the state GOP another boost as November elections approach, state Representative Richard Ross, a Wrentham Republican, last night won the state Senate seat recently vacated by US Senator Scott Brown.

Ross, 55, bested Needham physician Peter Smulowitz, a political newcomer who narrowly survived a bruising Democratic primary against state Representative Lida Harkins, a former House majority whip.

According to unofficial results, Ross garnered 15,893 votes to Smulowitz’s 9,819, giving Ross about 62 percent of the votes. Ross won Needham, seen as a liberal stronghold in the 12-community district, by a vote of 2,717 to 2,495, according to unofficial results. Smulowitz won in the district’s precincts in Wayland, Wellesley, and Natick.

The special election was one of what could be about 30 contests to fill open legislative seats this year. Although the exact number won’t be known until the filing deadline later this month, more incumbents than usual have said they will bow out. Buoyed by so many vacancies as well as multiple scandals among Democratic lawmakers, Republicans see a potential to make inroads in the Democrat-dominated state Legislature.

In the other contest yesterday, Sal DiDomenico, an Everett city councilor, dominated a second special state Senate election, garnering 88 percent of the votes over independent John Cesan, according to unofficial election results.

The results in the two races won’t alter the makeup of the state Senate, since a Democrat succeeded a Democrat and a Republican followed a Republican. Nonetheless, coupled with Brown’s stunning victory in the US Senate race this year, the Massachusetts Republican Party immediately seized on Ross’s victory as a harbinger of more wins in the fall.

“Senator Brown’s historic victory and Richard Ross’ win tonight show that voters are seeking a return to balance in our state’s political system,’’ Jennifer Nassour, state GOP chairwoman, said in a statement. “The Democrat machine is striking out in Massachusetts. Republicans are ready to put an end to one party rule on Beacon Hill, and we are offering the commonwealth fiscally conservative and ethically strong candidates up and down the ballot in November.’’

John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, congratulated Ross, but he also pointed out that each party won an election last night.

Democrats will have an opponent for Ross in the fall, he said, but asked if Smulowitz would be that candidate, Walsh said only Smulowitz could answer that. Smulowitz did not return calls for comment last night.

Asked about the contentious primary, Walsh said, “I’ve seen a lot of tough primaries . . . where there were tough words and sharp elbows and it’s possible to bring things back together following those, but that wasn’t possible in this case. I think it played a significant role in tonight’s results.’’

Celebrating his victory in Wrentham, Ross told supporters: “I’m so thrilled at the towns in this district for pulling together and electing me the way they have today. . . . On day one I promise to bring the money back to the towns of this district.’’

Ross also issued a statement, just after Smulowitz called him to concede.

“Tonight marks the beginning [of] a new journey for me,’’ said Ross. “I have proudly served half of this state Senate district as a representative for the past six years, and I look forward to the opportunity of serving the towns in the north for the first time.

“It is a true honor to be finishing the term of US [Senator] Scott Brown in the state Senate and I am energized and humbled by the support I received today. My record in the Legislature of never voting for a tax increase truly resonated with families and businesses of the district, and I look forward to continuing to fight for the taxpayers who themselves are working so hard every day.’’

Smulowitz, a 34-year-old emergency room physician, angered some voters in Needham, where he lives, when he attacked Harkins during the primary for accepting contributions from disgraced House speakers she served under.

Harkins, also of Needham, fought back hard, accusing her rival of “gutter politics.’’ She declined to support him in his race against Ross.

By contrast, Ross had A-list support from his party, including campaign appearances by Brown. The seat was considered his to lose.

It’s the third time Ross has followed in Brown’s footsteps. Ross won his friend’s Wrentham selectman seat when Brown was elected to the House, and then he replaced Brown in the lower chamber six years ago, when he won this state Senate seat.

The state Senate’s Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District covers Millis, Needham, Norfolk, North Attleborough, Plainville, Sherborn, Wayland, and Wrentham, as well as parts of Attleboro, Franklin, Natick, and Wellesley.

DiDomenico, who won the other race, will represent Everett, Chelsea, and parts of Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, Revere, and Saugus in the Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex district. He succeeds Anthony Galluccio, a Cambridge Democrat who resigned earlier this year after he was jailed for failing a breath alcohol test that was part of his probation.

DiDomenico, who served as Galluccio’s chief of staff, celebrated his victory with family and friends at Shooters Restaurant in Everett, but said he’s looking forward to getting to work. “I’m very, very happy with the amount of support we received in the district,’’ he said. “It shows the people like what they’re hearing.’’

Globe correspondent Alix Roy contributed to this report.

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