Thursday, February 14, 2008

Longmeadow Landmark Leaving...

Well, admittedly, it is hard to say how much of a landmark Mary Rogeness is, but the alliteration was irresitible.

So the Republican reported today that State Rep Mary Rogeness R-Longmeadow is retiring from the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Rogeness, 66, has served in the General Court since 1991. At the time, according to the article, she was 1 of 38 Republicans in the House. Today, she is one 19.

News of her retirement has already sparked some interest in the seat. Springfield City Councilor Kateri Walsh has expressed interest from the Democratic Side and longtime Brian Lees Aide, Enrico Villamaino III, who ran against Gale Candaras for Lees' Senate seat in 2006 has done the same for the Republicans.

Rogeness's seat poses interesting questions about how this seat will turn come November. To be fair, having only two potential candidates, one from each party, is hardly the race. Expect at least one primary fight before November (explained below).

The largely Longmeadow and Hampden district is arguably the least Blue Collar seat in the immediate Springfield area. It's most blue collar area is probably Monson, although Monson has been on the rise in recent years. The closest comparison might be Angelo Puppolo's district, which includes Wilbraham, but also chunks of Springfield and East Longmeadow.

Not to insult Hampden, but Longmeadow appears to be the locus of the district. Longmeadow is the ATM of Springfield area politics. It may be near impossible to find a candidate for office in greater Springfield who did not have at least a few donors who list a Longmeadow address.

Taken together with Hampden who have one of the most affluent districts in the state, let alone Western Mass, filled with citizens eager to donate to campaigns of both parties and likely to show up to the polls. It will be a spirited campaign to be sure.

As such it will present problems to both as of yet announced potential candidates. If Longmeadow is as much of the locus as it may seem, it may not be interested in having either a Springfielder or somebody from the "other Longmeadow" represent them.

Kateri Walsh would have difficulties because her base of support is largely within Springfield, which consists of only a sliver of Rogeness's district (2 precincts). She certainly has friends throughout Hampden County, but do they span the length and breadth of the Second Hampden? Walsh would also need to really convince voters. The same politics that work on voters in Springfield may not work on White Collar suburbanites. Walsh has one key advantage: her brother, Hampden County District Attorney William Bennett. Bennett lives in Longmeadow and having been DA for some time must have pockets of support in every town in the County. At the same time, Springfielders may fear a 10th spot return of supposed Asselin-friend former City Councilor Morris Jones.

Enrico Villamaino may face different questions. First of all he is still unknown to a number of voters, although the 2006 campaign did take him through territory that included much of Rogeness' district. He was terribly outgunned compared to Candaras and the Mass GOP essentially ceded the seat to her. If the GOP wants to keep control of this important House seat they may want to pick a more seasoned, wealthier, or more visible candidate. Expect a prominent lawyer, selectman or another official to materialize as a GOP candidate.

With open seats rare at best and competitive races rarer still, the local press and the public will be all over this race. Because the GOP is still categorized as an endangered species, press coverage will probably include the Globe, too. As of now, only has an AP report on Rogeness' retirement.

More generally, the race may serve as a bellwether for the GOP's health for the foreseeable future. If they lose the seat, then recovery will not be for a while. If they keep it, depending on how things go for the legislature between now and 2010, the GOP may be in a position to make some gains in both the House and Senate.

*Rogeness photo from


Kathleen Conley Norbut said...

Good morning,

I found your blog early this morning as the sun was rising over the beauty of the hills in Monson. The 2nd Hampden District voted overwhelmingly Democrat in the 2006 Gubernatorial race.

Monson had the highest % of votes for Tim Murray in the primary in Hampden County.

When I moved to Monson from Boston in 1997 the community was rural with active farms. Much has changed and despite the lower EQVs than the other towns in the 2nd Hampden district, Monson is evolving into a solid middle class community.

You described the district in terms of Longmeadow and Hampden without providing data of actual populations.

The 2 precincts in Springfield are a small component of the district and most people living in the district do not perceive it as an urban seat. The seat has been held by a Longmeadow resident for decades with Mary Rogeness (R) currently and Iris Holland occupying the seat. It would be an uphill climb for any candidate outside of Longmeadow to take the seat.

The challenges of the seat are to be able to understand and advocate for the diverse socio-economics and cultures of the towns (not the diversity of the people per se).
Hampden Pop ~5,000
E. Long pop. ~15K / 2 = 7,500
Monson pop. ~8,400
Longmeadow pop. ~15,500
Springfield 2 precincts (don't have it)

So, here's the thing. Monson will vote for the candidate who is Authentically Opposed to Casinos regardless of party.

When people don't want their town destroyed, party (which is already a diluted identifier for voting decisions) becomes secondary to principle.

With one conservative Democrat (Walsh) - is that an oxymoron? - and a moderate Democrat (Ashe) from politically connected families (with similar feeder markets for votes) fighting over Longmeadow, the swing vote for the primary is Monson with Hampden holding a minor role as well.

Hampden will vote Republican in the general and East Longmeadow will likely go Republican even if Jack Villamaino(R) E. Long. sits this one out in deference to Bill Scibelli (R)Longmeadow, who seems to have been tapped by Mary and Dean Rogeness.

Hampden so loathes taxes (despite high median incomes) they allowed their senior center and library to close for a year.

Hoping to round up your post with a little more info.

Disclosure: I am a a Selectman in Monson and a member of the Democratic State Committee.

Matt S. said...

Your comments on the composition of the 2nd Hampden are greatly appreciated and insightful. However, it is important to note that splitting tickets are a common practice in both Presidential/Gubernatorial and legislative races.

I did overlook the transformations of Monson, and although it has grown in recent years, it retains a number of the elements it has traditionally had.

The precincts in Springfield together would have approx. 5000 people as each of the cities precincts has about 2500. Not any bastion of support for a Springfield candidate.

Although Walsh reportedly took on Cong. Neal from the right in the past, I doubt she is conservative enough to appeal to Hampden or Longmeadow. Plus, suburbanites will be very suspicious of people connected to Springfield's machine, that includes both Walsh and Ashe included.