Thursday, June 13, 2024

Evan MacKay at their campaign launch May 15 at The Democracy Center in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. (Photo: Julien Gomez)

State Rep. Majorie Decker hasn’t faced a primary challenger for the 25th Middlesex district since 2018, and no opponent has achieved more than 14.5 percent of the district’s vote since 2014.

She has a new challenger, though, who has shown early strength in fundraising. Much of it is from small donors from within the district.

Evan MacKay launched their campaign for the all-Cambridge district on May 15 at The Democracy Center in Harvard Square, promoting an agenda that includes affordable housing, progressive taxation of the wealthy and government transparency. They have sociology and statistics degrees from Harvard and have worked in community organizing and labor.

“The people are hungry for change,” MacKay said, pointing to a 2022 ballot question seeking support to make legislators’ committee votes public. An average of 84 percent of voters across 20 districts voted yes; in Decker’s district it was 94 percent, but that failed to convince her, the MacKay campaign said.

The May 15 launch event is well-attended. (Photo: Julien Gomez)

“We have made numerous efforts to persuade Rep. Decker,” MacKay said, noting that the ballot question in the 25th Middlesex “received the highest level of support compared to any other district in Massachusetts.”

Decker and her campaign were contacted May 16 by email and phone for an interview about election issues and fundraising, but did not respond.

MacKay has done well so far in the run-up to the Sept. 3 primary in which they will face Decker, according to a fundraising report by Ian Hunt-Isaak. The applied physics doctoral candidate at Harvard said he has been analyzing local campaign data from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance for his Campaign Voter Statistics website. Cambridge Day was approached to look at fundraising figures by supporters of MacKay’s campaign; Hunt-Isaak said he is not officially part of MacKay’s campaign team but has volunteered for the campaign and is “in support of MacKay’s candidacy.”

Fundraising data

The two campaigns file reports to the state on different schedules, making direct comparisons tricky, Hunt-Isaak said May 16, when his data looked between Dec. 1 and April 10. He planned to update his figures when MacKay reported fully for May, matching a filing from the Decker campaign from the middle of the month.

In the period Hunt-Isaak studied into April, MacKay had 402 donations to Decker’s 111, with 47 percent coming from within Cambridge compared with Decker’s 19 percent.

“We’re running this big grassroots campaign. A lot of our outreach is based on going out and knocking on doors three or four times a week and asking them what they want,” campaign manager Lee Folpe said.

The campaign rejects funds from lobbyists and developers, while Decker has received $12,820 from lobbyists out of total raised funds of $42,620 as of May 1, MacKay and Folpe said.

MacKay’s approach to fundraising could be compared to that of state Rep. Mike Connolly in the 2016 run against a longtime incumbent, Timothy Toomey, but at the same point in the campaign timeline MacKay’s fundraising is nearly $25,000 ahead of Connolly’s, according to Hunt-Isaak’s analysis. Toomey had held the 26th Middlesex district for 24 years; Connolly unseated him on a second attempt.

Decker’s campaign record

Decker

Decker boasts a long and distinguished political career. She has held her state seat since her election in 2012 to replace the retiring Alice Wolf after seven consecutive terms on the Cambridge City Council. In that first state primary for the 25th, which stretches from the Charles River to Somerville with Harvard Square at the heart of it, Decker faced Gayle Johnson and Lesley Rebecca Phillips. They drew a combined 15 percent of the vote to her 79 percent.

Phillips would go on to face Decker, now the incumbent, in another three elections and to slightly dwindling returns: 14.5 percent in 2014; 14 percent in 2016; and 13 percent in 2018. Phillips, who died in 2023, did not run against Decker in 2020 or 2022.

The percentage of the vote for Decker has trended generally upward, from a low of 73 percent in 2014 to her all-time high of 85 percent in the 2022 primary. She has not faced a general election opponent.

Decker has passed bills ranging from child care for homeless parents to mandated educational provisions for instructors. Her agenda focuses on education and public health.