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Legislative offices

Creem and other incumbents fend off primary challengers

By Andrea Estes
Globe Staff / September 15, 2010

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More than a dozen lawmakers yesterday survived primary challenges and an anti-incumbent mood that had many politicians fearful they would lose their jobs.

Only one legislator — first-term Representative Pam Richardson, Democrat of Framingham — was defeated in a rematch with the opponent she narrowly beat two years ago.

Among the incumbents who won yesterday were Senator Cynthia Creem of Newton, who easily fended off her first primary challenger in 12 years, and Sonia Chang-Díaz, who outpolled Hassan Williams, a lawyer and public school teacher. Chang-Díaz succeeded Dianne Wilkerson, indicted state senator, in November 2008, and the race dredged up memories of Wilkerson, who held the seat for 15 years before being arrested two years ago on bribery charges.

Creem, a lawyer and former Newton alderwoman, trounced corporate communication executive Charles Rudnick. Creem, who was first elected to the Senate in 1998, hadn’t faced an opponent since 2004. Rudnick had quit his job last spring to work on the campaign full time.

Sal DiDomenico of Everett, who had won the seat held by Anthony Galluccio, Democrat of Cambridge, in a special election, won a rematch with Timothy Flaherty of Cambridge, whom he narrowly beat in April. Gallucio quit in January after being jailed for failing a breath alcohol test while on house arrest. DiDomenico was Galluccio’s chief of staff.

Candidates across the state fought over more than two dozen open legislative seats — positions vacated by lawmakers who retired, quit, or ran for another office. Departing lawmakers include longtime Senator Marian Walsh, Democrat of West Roxbury, who announced she would not run again after sparking a furor last year by accepting, then declining, a $175,000-a-year job offer from Governor Deval Patrick.

Others include Steven Panagiotakos, Senate Ways and Means chairman, who decided not to seek reelection, and Senator Richard Tisei, a Republican, who is running for lieutenant governor.

In Boston, the sons of two former state representatives won their frenzied fights for open legislative seats.

In South Boston, Nicholas Collins, who worked for state Senator Jack Hart and whose father, James, was a one-term state representative from Charlestown, won the Democratic nomination, outpolling Mark McGonagle, another candidate with a solid political pedigree. He faces Republican Patrick Brennan in November.

McGonagle’s father, Bill, works in the Menino administration as the head of the Boston Housing Authority.

That race had rekindled old rivalries — McGonagle was favored by the Menino organization, while Ray Flynn, former mayor, whose differences with Menino have been bitter and legendary — backed Collins, according to political insiders.

Collins won nearly 48 percent of the vote, to 36 percent for McGonagle, with 97 percent of the votes tallied, according to the City of Boston.

“I think our message resonated. People want a strong, independent voice for the district and they want to have a say in what happens here,’’ Collins said at his victory party at Stadium Sports Bar.

In West Roxbury, mortgage broker Ed Coppinger beat out five rivals for the seat vacated by Representative Michael Rush, who won the Senate seat held by Marian Walsh.

“I think a lot of people are looking for a candidate who has a lot of experience raising a family and living in the community for a long time,’’ Coppinger said.

Eileen Donoghue, a former mayor of Lowell and city councilor, beat Christian L. Doherty, who served as an aide to Martin T. Meehan, former US representative, to succeed Panagiotakos, who is retiring

Representative James Welch of West Springfield won the race to replace senator Stephen Buonoconti, also of West Springfield. Buonoconti is running for district attorney.

Other incumbents who won included Stephen “Stat’’ Smith of Everett, Mark Falzone of Saugus, Rosemary Sandlin of Agawam, and Christine Canavan of Brockton.

In Quincy, Tackey Chan, a former assistant attorney general who worked as an aide to state Senator Michael Morrissey, won the seat held by Stephen Tobin, defeating Joseph Keegan.

In the Republican primary to face Senator Susan Fargo, Democrat of Lincoln, in November, Sandra Martinez, a Tea Party movement activist who lost to Fargo in an earlier race, beat Eric Dahlberg, whose campaign cochairman was Paul Cellucci, former governor.

In Framingham, Richardson lost to Chris Walsh by 209 votes. Two years ago, the results went the other way — Walsh lost to Richardson by 138 votes with a third candidate on the ballot. Walsh will face unenrolled candidates Jim Pillsbury and Jim Rizoli in November’s election.

“I’m amazed . . . The last campaign really set us up for this campaign,’’ said Walsh. He said his campaign workers were instrumental in his win. “The volunteers who do all of this, it’s very, very humbling.’’

Republicans were looking to make inroads in the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.

“Our Republican candidates are out there listening to voters and talking about jobs and taxes,’’ said Jennifer Nassour, party chairwoman. “Democrats on Beacon Hill have no interest in creating jobs, as evidenced by their eight tax increases in the past four years. Voters have a clear choice and GOP candidates are ready to deliver fiscal sanity and real reform in 2010.’’

Globe Correspondents Cara Bayles, Matt Rocheleau, Megan Mckee, Brock Parker, Jennifer Fenn Lefferts, and Calvin Hennick contributed to this report. Andrea Estes can be reached at estes@globe.com.

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