10 GOP State House Primaries Are Happening in Massachusetts

Don't forget about these primaries on Tuesday; their outcomes could tip the balance of power in that caucus.

Democrat Denise Andrews won re-election as state representative in 2012 by fewer than 200 votes, out of some 18,000 votes cast. Given the difference in expected turnout, that should mean a terrific opportunity for Republican Susannah Whipps Lee, the loser of that slim margin, to challenge for a rematch. Lee is running hard, with the endorsement of most of the current Republican House leadership, including Minority Leader Brad Jones.

But first she has to get through Tuesday’s primary, in which she faces conservative favorite Karen Anderson. Anderson is endorsed by Massachusetts Citizens For Life (MCFL) and the Massachusetts Republican Assembly (MARA).

Those groups, and others such as Citizens for Limited Taxation (CLT), would love to see Jones toppled from his perch as leader and hope to see a whole new slate elected, led by conservative representatives Shauna O’Connell and Geoff Diehl. (Correction at 12:45 p.m. Sept. 9, 2014: Citizens for Limited Taxation supports Brad Jones and is not seeking his removal as Minority Leader. The suggestion otherwise was made in error.)

The likelihood of that happening depends a great deal on the primaries being held on Tuesday. There are Republican primary competitions in just 10 of the state’s 160 house districts, but when the current House Republicans currently number just 29, it doesn’t take many to potentially tip the balance within that caucus.

The Anderson-Lee primary, in the 2nd Franklin District, is one of the most interesting of the 10. Here are the other nine. Not all break down on simple Jones-vs-conservatives lines, but the fate of Brad Jones might well lie somewhere in these contests:

· 2nd Bristol: Democrat Paul Heroux took this seat from Republican George Ross in 2012. To try to take it back, conservatives are rallying around Jeff Bailey against Bert Buckley. He has been endorsed by Diehl, MARA, CLT, and MCFL.

· 2nd Essex: Republican incumbent Lenny Mirra is being challenged by a newcomer, Ed Watson, in what is presumed to be an uncompetitive primary. The establishment side of the GOP isn’t going to oppose an incumbent, while the anti-establishment side isn’t going to oppose a solid conservative—and potential O’Connell/Diehl ally—as Mirra.

· 5th Essex: Democratic incumbent Ann-Margaret Ferrante was unopposed in 2012, but some Republicans think she could be vulnerable. O’Connell and Diehl, along with other fiscal conservatives, are backing Bob Whynott. Social conservatives, including MCFL, are with Michael Boucher.

· 5th Plymouth: Democrat Rhonda Nyman won narrowly in 2010, and more convincingly in 2012. Diehl and O’Connell are backing Lou Valanzola to take her on, although some hard-right conservatives prefer David DeCosta.

· 10th Plymouth: This open seat to succeed Democrat Christine Caravan is considered winnable—former state rep John Cruz, brother of the Plymouth District Attorney, took 44 percent against Caravan in 2010. He is running again. But O’Connell, Diehl, and most conservative groups are with Colleen Maloney.

· 5th Worcester: Anne Gobi is running for state senate, and another Democrat will probably win the open seat. That’s probably why this three-way Republican primary with Don Berthiaume, Stephen Comtois, and Jennifer Gaucher hasn’t seemed to become as much of a battleground.

· 9th Worcester: This seat being vacated by Republican leadership member George Peterson is fast becoming a central battleground. Peterson’s former chief of staff David Muradian has the support of most elected officials, including some solid conservatives. But O’Connell and Diehl recently joined CLT and others—including Marty Lamb, who is heading the statewide effort to repeal the indexed gas tax—in endorsing Shawn Craig.

· 10th Worcester: Democratic incumbent John Fernandes is almost certainly invulnerable, so there hasn’t been much internal squabbling over the Republican primary between Chris Kivior and Mark Reil.

· 18th Worcester: Republican incumbent Ryan Fattman is running for state senate, so the winner of this open primary is in good shape to win the seat. The interesting dynamic here is that the leading candidate is Joe McKenna, chief of staff for Republican state rep Peter Durant—who is a solid conservative and potential O’Connell/Diehl ally. So, as with Mirra, neither side wants to oppose him, and will instead probably try to recruit him once he is elected. Some conservative groups, however, are interested in Jesse Liminek or Charles Arakelian.