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Tran Sees Red After Victory

November 11, 2018 GMT

Sen. Dean Tran kicked off his Tuesday victory speech by telling supporters that all he sees is red.

He defeated Democratic challenger Sue Chalifoux Zephir by more than 5,000 votes in a rematch for the Worcester-Middlesex Senate seat he won less than a year ago.

The notebook

“The victory tonight, even though it’s sweet, I can tell you one thing,” he said. “It’s even sweeter than the victory we had in December.”

Tran declared victory just before 9:30 p.m. and celebrated at the Leominster Elks Lodge.

FITCHBURG CITY COUNCILORS defended their decision to allow eight recreational pot shops to open up in the city Thursday.


Two residents filed petitions to slash the number in half, citing concerns with youth consumption, public safety and the introduction of a substance into a city that hard-hit by the opioid epidemic.

But city councilors, with the notable exception of At-Large Councilor Anthony Zarrella, weren’t convinced.

At-Large Councilor Marcus DiNatale said the petitioners truly want a prohibition on all pot shops in Fitchburg, an impossibility barring a city-wide vote that would require about 3,000 signatures to make it onto the ballot. The number of dispensaries that locate here is irrelevant, he argued, noting that a majority of residents -- 57 percent who voted on the 2016 ballot question that legalized marijuana -- were in favor of legalization.

“The issue is not the number of establishments the issue is whether they are here or not, and that is the main question that we cannot decide on the voters of Fitchburg decided,” he said.

City Council President Michael Kushmerek drew on his own experience growing up with an “abusively alcoholic household.” Drawing a parallel between liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries, he said regardless of the distance his father had to travel, he’d buy and abuse alcohol.

“Limiting the number from eight or four won’t give you the relief that you’re seeking,” he told the petitioners. “Addicts are going to abuse and whether there’s four or eight, if a market exists, they will seek it.”

Zarrella said he was initially in favor of capping the number at four, and was the only councilor who voted in favor of the petitioners request to slash the number of dispensaries in half. He said the jury’s out on whether more dispensaries mean more problems, but “it presumably has some effect when you have more rather than less. If not, then why does the city cap liquor licenses?


“The place where I think there’s at least a possibility that the number could make a difference is in terms of new entrants to the market. If something is all over the place you’re much more likely to try it out,” he said.

And when it was all said and done, councilors voted 9-1 to keep the cap at eight.

BILL WELD STILL has bragging rights.

Gov. Charlie Baker won re-election easily this week, bringing an anti-climatic election season to a close on Tuesday when he defeated Democrat Jay Gonzalez by 34 points to win a second term.

The victory was decisive, to be sure, but pre-election polling suggested that the well-liked Republican had an outside chance at knocking his mentor off the popularity pedestal. Weld set the high-water mark for support in 1994 when he ran for re-election and broke the 70 percent barrier, winning re-election by a 43-point spread.

Baker’s 67 percent actually ranks third in the past 50 years, behind Weld and Michael Dukakis who won a third term in 1986 over Republican George Kariotis with 69 percent of the vote.

None of that really matters though. What does is that Baker stuck out like a purple thumb on Tuesday and will be inaugurated again come January with a clear mandate to do whatever he wants, as long as Democrats in the Legislature agree.

So what does he want to do? Well, on election night, Baker told a jubilant crowd that the second term was going to be “non-stop, pedal to the metal, let it rock.” But on Wednesday morning, in the sobering light of day and after a 45-minute Cabinet meeting, it was more, ”... the kinds of things we’ve been doing.”

And as it always has, the success of the governor’s opioid-climate change-MBTA agenda will hinge on buy-in from Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, who saw their margins strengthened slightly.

Democrats picked up two seats in the House, including one open seat, and one in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Jim Lyons of Andover and Republican Sen. Richard Ross of Wrentham lost their re-election races to Tram Nguyen and Becca Rausch, respectively.

BAKER MAY NOT have made history with his win on Tuesday, but Massachusetts voters did. Secretary of State William Galvin, who also won another term and was the top vote-getter on Tuesday, said Friday that total turnout statewide is approaching 2.7 million for the election, a record in a midterm year.

The crush of voting, no doubt motivated in part by opinions of President Donald Trump, was enough to sweep Democrats into office from the top of the ballot to the bottom, with the exception of Gonzalez who was never quite able to make inroads against the governor.

“I don’t have a single regret,” Gonzalez said at the Democrats’ victory party on Tuesday night, where U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the featured guest and main attraction. “And there’s not a thing I would change about the campaign we ran. I’m proud of what our campaign stood for.”

Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford said it felt like every time the Democrats found a button to push on Baker, the governor would “act like a Democrat” and do it.

“It was a tough cycle to tell people this guy’s the enemy. He’s similar to Bill Weld, but he’s got no future in the national Republican Party,” he said.

BAKER PROBABLY WOULD have trouble getting through a GOP presidential primary without modulating some of his core positions, but what about Warren surviving a crowded field of Democrats on the other side?

The senior senator couldn’t match Baker’s numbers, but still romped to a second-term over Republican Rep. Geoff Diehl and independent Shiva Ayyadurai with more than 60 percent of the vote. Now that the midterms are over, Warren will face questions that will only grow in intensity as the weeks and months go by about her 2020 plans.

Warren said Thursday she has no timeline to make a decision: “It’s less than 48 hours. I said I would take a hard look and and I will. Too early,” she said.

BAKER MAY NOT have broken 70 percent, but Galvin did with over 1.8 million votes. The soon-to-be seven-term incumbent was followed by Attorney General Maura Healey, who also got more than 1.8 million votes and exceeded the performance of Baker, who many Democrats wanted to see challenged by Healey this cycle.

IN CONTRAST TO the close races around the country, including some in Florida and Arizona that still haven’t been decided, blowouts actually seemed to be the thing this year.

Not even the fiercely fought ballot battle over nurse staffing ended up being close, with Question 1 earning support from only 30 percent of voters. The question now becomes what nurses do next after the union has failed to get staffing quotas through the Legislature or the electorate.

The other two ballot questions protecting transgender rights and dealing with corporate money in politics also passed, and Treasurer Deb Goldberg and Auditor Suzanne Bump also won new terms.

BAKER GOT BACK to work after the post-election glow faded by signing a civics education bill into law at a curiously private ceremony that didn’t make his public schedule, nor was the press advised beforehand. The bill, ironically, has a media literacy component and will encourage schools to help high-school students pre-register to vote and participate in a civics project.

The governor then took off for Las Vegas with his family to celebrate his big electoral victory by taking in a Blink-182 concert.

Yup, Blink-182.

LET’S HOPE WHILE he’s there he’s not staying at Wynn Resorts, because that would make for some uncomfortable headlines as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues to weigh whether to strip one of two resort casino licenses from the company.

The commission is investigating whether Wynn Resorts shielded regulators during the license application process from information about namesake Steve Wynn’s alleged inappropriate behavior toward women.

That process, already taking longer than anticipated, hit another speed bump this week when Wynn, the man, sued the Gaming Commission in an attempt to block them from using documents as part of their investigation that he believes were turned over in violation of his attorney-client privilege.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Election 2018. Sine die.

Contributors to the Sunday Notebook are Sentinel & Enterprise staff writers Amanda Burke and Mina Corpuz, and State House News Service reporter Matt Murphy.