Jarrett T. Barrios ’90—a progressive Mass. state senator whose district includes Cambridge and other nearby towns—said yesterday afternoon that he will resign from the Senate in July to become president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, capping off a political career that has spanned nearly a decade and included stints in both houses of the legislature.
Barrios’s departure, which the Associated Press reported yesterday, could lead to a special election between several Cambridge politicians, including former Cambridge mayor and City Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio and State Representative Alice K. Wolf.
Both potential candidates are power-players in Cambridge politics: Galluccio has received the most votes by a large margin in council elections since 1997, and Wolf, another former mayor of the city, has overwhelmingly won reelection in the last several State House elections.
Galluccio said in an interview yesterday that he is “seriously considering” running for Barrios’s seat and has received many calls from supporters. “This is happening very fast, and it’s something I want to take a serious look at,” he said, “but it’s obviously an excellent opportunity.”
Wolf, whose House district is almost entirely in Cambridge, said she is “strongly considering whether to run” and acknowledged that a race between her and Galluccio would be a tight one.
“A lot of the Cambridge portion of [Barrios’s] Senate district is in my House district, and I have a lot of support there, but Galluccio has support there too,” she said.
Wolf and Galluccio both expressed interest in Barrios’s seat last year when Barrios briefly halted his Senate race to run for District Attorney of Middlesex County. Galluccio officially declared his Senate candidacy at the time, but withdrew after Barrios returned to his Senate campaign.
A primary-election showdown between Galluccio and Wolf could divide Cambridge along ideological, as Galluccio is popular among more moderate voters, while Wolf 's base is more liberal.
Progressive politics across this divide may play a major role in determining the field of a special election.
Michael J. Albano, the former mayor of Springfield, Mass. and a potential candidate, said that while he was “certainly thinking about” establishing a campaign, he would not run against a popular progressive like Wolf. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]
“If there wasn’t another good progressive candidate in the race to stand hard against Anthony Galluccio, who I don’t think has ever stopped running for this seat, then I’d be willing to step in and run,” Albano said. “But I’m not going to run again Alice Wolf. She’s an elder statesman in this area.”
But Robert Winters, the editor of the Cambridge Civic Journal, said that Galluccio’s comparative conservatism could be an asset with some voters, especially those outside of Cambridge.
“Anthony is about as close to a district-wide candidate as Cambridge could produce,” said Winters, who is also a Harvard Extension School instructor. “The more left-leaning people of Cambridge have come to accept him...[and he] probably wouldn’t cause other candidates to pop up as strongly as some others outside of Cambridge [would]—places like Everett, they’d say ‘Oh, Anthony Galluccio, we know him, we can live with this.’”
Winters said that money would be particularly important given the compressed timetable for the election.
“Special elections are short-notice events, and there is money involved; you’re not going to have as many candidates able to pull something together,” Winters said. “If somebody just throws a light switch on and says ‘go,’ it’s different than...a vacated seat in a regular election, where there’s a lot of lead time.”
At least one source said that the costs for a run-off campaign will not be insignificant.
“I think you’re looking at a minimum of a $100,000 entrance fee” to the race, said a politician who declined to be named because of his working relationship with many of the candidates. According to their most recent state campaign financial filings, Galluccio has about $9,000 in cash on hand, and Wolf has about $78,000.
Several other local politicians have expressed an interest in filling Barrios’s seat.
Chelsea City Councillor Paul R. Nowicki and State Representative Eugene L. O’Flaherty both told The Crimson they are considering possible runs. O’Flaherty, a state representative for over a decade, has around $49,000, according to a filing from the beginning of this year. Finance reports from early 2003—the latest date available—listed Nowicki’s cash-on-hand at around $5,300.
Both said they are discussing the possibility of a campaign with their families before deciding their plans. Nowicki added that he would likely make his decision within the next 48 hours.
Massachusetts law restricts campaign donations to $500 per individual per year, making quick fund-raising more difficult than in many other states.
Barrios, who was elected to the Massachusetts House in 1998 and Senate in 2002, is known as a champion of gay rights and other progressive issues, such as expanding medical coverage for low-income individuals and providing emergency-room interpreters for non-English speaking patients.
He also gained national notoriety in 2006 when his legislation to ban the “Fluffernutter”—a sandwich made of peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff—in public schools was mocked as an example of legislative micromanaging. Barrios later signed on to a bill to make the “Fluffernutter” the official state sandwich.
—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Nicholas K. Tabor can be reached at email@example.com.
CORRECTION: The May 23 news article "Barrios Departs, Race Opens" incorrectly identified Michale J. Albano. Albano is a Chelsea politician who is the chair of the Chelsea Planning Board. He is not the former Springfield, Mass., mayor of the same name, as the article stated.