State Rep. Tim Toomey was unseated Thursday in a Democratic primary upset, losing his run for a 13th term on Beacon Hill to a first term for challenger Mike Connolly, an activist and attorney.
Citing figures brought in by poll runners, the Connolly campaign was declaring success shortly after 9 p.m., predicting a win of 54 percent to 46 percent – or 2,926 votes cast for Connolly to 2,532 for Toomey from constituents in East Cambridge and East Somerville. If borne out by Election Commission review, Connolly has no challenger in the general election in November and will begin serving when sworn in next year.
Cambridge Commission results from late that night did bear out those figures, giving Connolly 53 percent of the vote to Toomey’s 47, or 2,042 Cambridge ballots to 1,828. (There was an 11-vote drop for Connolly; Toomey’s vote estimates were exact.) Somerville’s Election Commission showed Connolly took 884 votes to Toomey’s 704, for 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent.
“I’m just really proud of our campaigns,” Connolly said, pausing from giving hugs and high-fives at a party at Tavern in the Square in Central Square, a block from where election commissioners were taking in ballots for a comprehensive count. “Consider where I started from, and where we are tonight. It’s a big deal.”
Around him, campaign staffers and supporters were literally dancing with excitement. Campaign treasurer Frank Gerratana, an attorney working to elect in Connolly in three races in the past five years, said, “I’m almost in disbelief right now. It’s been such a wild ride.”
In Toomey’s previous, general election face-off in 2012 against Connolly, Toomey took 68 percent of the vote, Connolly got 25 percent and Somerville Republican Thomas Vasconcelos took 6 percent.
Toomey conceded the race for the for the 26th Middlesex House District via Facebook at about 9:38 p.m., saying:
“To my friends, family, neighbors, staff and colleagues: Thank you. Your friendship and confidence has meant the world to me over the past 24 years. My sincere congratulations go to Mike Connolly, who won a hard-fought victory tonight in the race for the Democratic nomination. My deep trust and respect for the voters of the 26th Middlesex District continues on. Your constant and passionate engagement with the issues and your deep love for our neighborhoods will never stop inspiring me. To the thousands of voters who came out to support me today, we’re still here, we’re still going to keep fighting for the things that matter and the causes that we believe in, and I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
He also called personally to concede, Connolly said. “He was very gracious, and we talked about working together as two people who really care about the community,” he said.
Toomey is also a longtime city councillor. His campaign manager, Jefferson Smith, was contacted Thursday for comment, but did not return a voice mail.
While still “in shock” Thursday and unable to name a specific first goal for his work in the Legislature, Connolly said, his campaign had been focused on such issues as transit, affordable housing, early childhood education and targeted taxes at the richest corporations. He said he looked forward to meeting with other members of the Cambridge and Somerville delegation.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Pat Jehlen was reelected, returning to a seventh term in office to serve constituents in Cambridge and Somerville in the Second Middlesex Senate District. Preliminary results showed Jehlen with 13,000 votes to Cheung’s roughly 4,000, according to campaign watchers reporting via social media.
In Cambridge, she had 75 percent of the vote, or 3,552 votes, to Cheung’s 1,169. In Somerville, she had 84 percent of the vote, or 7,142 votes to 1,336.
“We didn’t win just because of this year. We won because of decades of organizing and community building,” Jehlen told supporters. “The friendships we made, the relationships we formed, the values we shared in those battles – that’s what has brought us together again tonight. Money can’t buy the passion and commitment you brought to this campaign, and to the other campaigns you work on. Wall Street money couldn’t beat that.”
The races shared clashes over outside groups spending money locally – in the case of Jehlen and Cheung, concerning charter schools, as Jehlen decried the presence of pro-charter school funding from groups such as Democrats for Education Reform; and in the case of Toomey and Connolly, over spending by Our Revolution, the movement springing from Bernie Sanders’ run for president. Our Revolution endorsed Connolly and Jehlen.
“At least two Berniecrats won their races in the Boston metro area,” said one Connolly follower on Facebook. “Very promising.”
Spending by Democrats for Education Reform was estimated at $100,000 to support Cheung and to expand the number of charter schools in the state. As a result, the Massachusetts Teachers Association spent more than $75,000 to support Jehlen and hold the line on charter schools. Voters face a ballot question in November to add up to a dozen more of the schools statewide.
Late in the run, a site appeared repeating old concerns about Cheung: That when he first ran for office – in Virginia, more than a decade ago – it was as a Republican. The site was heavily sponsored on Facebook news feeds, and Cheung issues a press release early on Election Day quoting a voter ridiculing the site’s tactics, including its “dripping red font.”
In addition to Our Revolution, Connolly racked up a number of endorsements from organizations such as Progressive Massachusetts, Mass Alliance, Sierra Club and the National Organization for Women; from current and former Cambridge and Somerville elected officials Nadeem Mazen, Dennis Carlone, Jan Devereux and Minka vanBeuzekom, Patty Nolan, Emily Dexter and Lee Erica Palmer; and from academics Noam Chomsky and Lawrence Lessig.
While he credited support “throughout the district” for his win, Gerratana said endorsers “put in good effort … and that stuff makes a difference. They didn’t just say ‘We like you and endorse you,’ they went to work.”
Polls were open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with turnout by Cambridge voters – in this election, only Democrats – estimated to be at around 15 percent of those eligible. It was “very light,” election commissioner Ethridge King said, but beat statewide turnout predictions of 8 percent to 10 percent made by Secretary of State William Galvin.
The first ballots were wheeled in at 8:47 p.m. – from Quincy House in the Riverside neighborhood near Harvard Square. At around 10:48 p.m., a set of estimates released by the Election Commission showed 11,798 ballots cast in Cambridge. There were 8,866 ballots cast in Somerville out of 50,702 registered voters.
In Cambridge results:
Incumbent state Rep. Marjorie Decker beat Lesley Rebecca Phillips by 2,767 votes to 483, for 85 percent of the vote, in the 25th Middlesex House District, which serves only Cambridge.
Some incumbents were reelected with no challengers, including U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark in the Fifth District and Michael Capuano in the Seventh District; state Sen. Sal DiDomenico in the Middlesex and Suffolk District; state Rep. David Rogers in the 24th Middlesex District; state Rep. Jonathan Hecht in the 29th Middlesex District; state Rep. Jay Livingstone in the Eighth Suffolk District; and state Rep. Joseph Boncore in the First Suffolk and Middlesex District.
In other races, Peter Koutoujian remains Middlesex County sheriff, beating a challenge by a Wilmington resident; and Terrence Kennedy of Lynnfield remained on the Governor’s Council, beating two challengers from Boston.
This post was updated May 12, 2017, to relink final vote results after a city website redesign and show how close unofficial Cambridge vote tallies were to the final, official figures.