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Where There’s Smoke, There’s a Discussion in Lunenburg Soon

September 9, 2018

LUNENBURG RESIDENTS get ready for for three months of opportunities to talk about recreational marijuana.

To help craft a bylaw that would regulate marijuana businesses or ban them in town, the Planning Board will hold six dicussions starting Monday through Dec. 10 to hear from residents.

The notebook

Each discussion, which will happen at the board’s meetings, will be dedicated to one recreational marijuana topic. First up is retail.

The discussions will also cover cultivation, processing, testing, craft cultivators, and marijuana transporters.

After the discussions, the Planning Board aims to write a bylaw that would be prevented at the 2019 Spring Town Meeting.

IN A LOT OF WAYS state elections can be hard to predict.

Compared to races for national office, they are smaller, they draw less attention, and there is little likelihood that a poll will be used forecast their outcome.

Such is the case for the ongoing races for seats for the Worcester and Middlesex state Senate district and as the 4th Worcester District state representative.

However, we do have one potential indicator.

Tuesday’s primary elections saw an unchallenged Democrat and Republican running for each position, inevitably matching them up for November’s general election. Therefore, voters had no obligation to fill in the bubbles beside the names of Republicans Dean Tran and Rich Palmieri or Democrats Sue Chalifoux Zephir and Natalie Higgins, but they did, and their votes numbered in the thousands.

Higgins, the incumbent state representative whose district solely covers Leominster, netted 2,337 votes while Palmieri only received 1,678, according to preliminary vote totals from the Leominster City Clerk’s office.

Leominster’s preliminary numbers for the state Senate race also put Chalifoux Zephir ahead of Tran by over 400 votes. She received 2,319 votes while Tran received 1,904.

However, it should be noted that Leominster, where Chalifoux Zephir is a city councilor, is only one city in a district that contains 10 other communities and that results from Fitchburg, Tran’s hometown, were not yet tabulated, according to its city clerk’s office.

And Leominster’s unofficial totals are small in comparison to the 15,000 vote turn-out the special election that put Tran in office last November. The same goes for the state representative race, which brought out nearly 19,000 voters when Higgins was elected two years ago.

WAS THE RACE for the 3rd Congressional District decided April 6?

Political prognosticator Steve Panagiotakos thinks it might have been.

That was the day Westford School Committee member Terry Ryan abandoned his quest to replace Rep. Niki Tsongas in Congress and instead enter the contest for 1st Middlesex District state Senate seat, which Panagiotakos formerly held.

Ryan’s congressional campaign wasn’t getting traction, and at the time he said the Senate contest was a better fit for him. At the time of his decision, there were 13 Democrats running for Congress, including himself.

As of Thursday afternoon, Lori Trahan, of Westford, claimed victory in the race for Congress on a razor-thin margin -- 52 votes -- over Dan Koh of Andover, with all signs pointing toward a recount.

Her hometown came out big for Trahan last Tuesday, giving her 1,459 votes compared to 648 for Koh.

Ryan was the top vote-getter in Westford in the Senate contest with 1,552 votes, compared to 549 for the winner, Lowell City Councilor Edward Kennedy.

If Ryan had remained in the race for the 3rd, “at least several hundred” votes that went to Trahan would have remained with him, Panagiotakos said.

“It was a bellwether moment in this race and no one is talking about it,” Panagiotakos said, adding with a smile, “Lori should take the Ryan family on a vacation this winter.”

That’s if Trahan wins out.

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER has the money, the name recognition, the approval ratings, and the backing of elected officials from both parties -- a perfect recipe for re-election.

So what does Democratic nominee for governor Jay Gonzalez have? A little of everything Baker has, plus maybe some Dementum.

The surge of progressive voters in Boston, Cambridge and Somerville that swept Ayanna Pressley into Congress on Tuesday night, washed away Ways and Means Chairman Jeff Sanchez and wreaked havoc on turnout modeling in the Third Congressional District could be just what the Democrats needed to convince voters and donors that Baker is vulnerable.

Add to that the fact that Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be sitting at the top of the ballot in November opposite pro-Trump Republican Rep. Geoff Diehl, who prevailed in his primary this week, and Democrats are starting to say there’s a chance.

“If that goes around the country. That wave is coming. I guarantee it’ll happen in November. That night there will be blowouts all over the country if people feel the same way and I think they do,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday morning.

Gonzalez handily defeated Somerville activist Bob Massie on Tuesday to secure the Democratic nomination for governor and his place atop a ticket that will include former Obama administration official Quentin Palfrey.

“Incumbency and money and special interest and pundits don’t decide elections. People do. People decide elections,” Gonzalez said at a “Unity” event the morning after the primaries, before then making an unsuccessful play to get Baker to agree to a side deal on campaign spending limits.

Gonzalez’s challenge now will be to tap into that energy and enthusiasm on the left and convince voters who were excited by candidates like Pressley that he can be a progressive leader for them as well.

Of course, Pressley stole all the headlines on Tuesday when she didn’t just defeat 10-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, she beat him convincingly. Pressley’s slogan “Change Can’t Wait” proved prescient as she is now poised to become the state’s first black representative to the U.S. House and possibly the next national obsession after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In hindsight, Pressley’s victory was exactly what lawmakers had in mind when they redrew the Congressional map in 2010 to make the Seventh District a majority-minority district. Many just didn’t think minority representation would come so soon, and at the expense of a progressive incumbent like Capuano.

“Clearly the district wanted a lot of changes,” Capuano said in a brusk concession speech. “Apparently, the district is very upset with lots of things that are going on. I don’t blame them. I’m just as upset as they are. But so be it, this is the way life goes.”

Some of those same district voters swept Sanchez and Majority Whip Byron Rushing out of the House in what Speaker Robert DeLeo antagonist Rep. Russell Holmes deemed a “clear rebuke” to DeLeo’s leadership style. DeLeo dismissed that interpretation, arguing that his consensus-seeking leadership style, which left some progressives wanting, worked for 13 of the 16 Democrats who faced primary challenges.

“It was a good night for the Democratic House and I’m proud of our results,” DeLeo said.

The narrative of a change election, however, didn’t necessarily hold together outside of the Greater Boston area.

While turnout seemed to be up everywhere there was a significant race of interest, establishment-types also had a decent night.

Tuesday’s top vote-getter was none other than Bill Galvin, the 24-year-incumbent secretary of state who dominated upstart Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim.

Galvin prevailed in the primary with almost 67 percent of the vote, and won 348 of the state’s 351 cities and towns, dropping only Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. And he made sure people knew that with a post-election Tweet that was downright Trumpian.

“What a Bill Galvin victory looks like,” the Brighton poll Tweeted, along with a map shaded almost entirely dark blue, marking the territory he won.

Zakim did not show up at the Democratic unity event in Dorchester on Wednesday morning, which was supposed to be a coming together of all candidates for the good of the party.

Capuano wasn’t there either, but Massie and Jimmy Tingle did show up, though they didn’t speak.

GALVIN MAY HAVE had an excuse as he was busy dealing with the unresolved contest in the Third Congressional District where Lori Trahan topped Andover’s Dan Koh by a mere 52 votes of the more than 85,000 ballots cast.

Galvin ordered the ballots impounded and Koh gathered the signatures he needed by Friday to trigger a recount that could drag the primary out just a little longer as Republican Rick Green awaits the winner.

Some campaigns in the crowded Third District field had been anticipating and modeling their get-out-the-vote efforts on a smaller turnout of closer to 65,000. The last time that seat was open in 2007, 55,805 votes were cast in the special Democratic primary.

Koh’s potential loss to Trahan would be the icing on a bitter dessert for Mayor Walsh, who climbed out from the under the rubble of Tuesday returns to lead the cheerleading Wednesday morning for Pressley, Gonzalez, Et al.

The mayor, who has elevated his profile in recent months by traveling to Ohio and Iowa and backing candidates beyond the borders of his city, rejected the analysis that he was the ancillary loser in the primaries even if it became hard to ignore how the losses piled up.

Walsh didn’t just endorse Capuano, his former chief of staff Koh, Sanchez and Zakim. He also mobilized his political machine to help try to drag them across the finish line, but couldn’t quite get them there.

“There’s no big losers in this,” Walsh said the morning after, suggesting the media puts too much emphasis on endorsements. “You pick sides and then whatever happens at the end of the day, you come together.”

STORY OF THE WEEK: Can’t wait, won’t wait. Voters, particularly those in Boston area, show hunger for new faces in their politics.

Contributors to the Sunday Notebook are Sentinel & Enterprise staff writers Peter Jasinski and Mina Corpuz, the Lowell Sun staff writer Chris Lisinski, and State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy.