Dems Build Senate Advantage; Fewest Seats GOP Has Won in a Biennial Election Since 1970

From left, Democrat John Cronin topped Sen. Dean Tran of Fitchburg; Rep. Tram Nguyen fended off Republican challenger Jeff Dufour in the Merrimack Valley; and Kelly Pease reclaimed the Fourth Hampden House District for the Republicans. (Courtesy photographs.)

Massachusetts Democrats appear to have been unable to capitalize on having a deeply unpopular Republican president at the top of the ticket this fall and will not likely emerge with substantially greater supermajorities in the legislature.

Preliminary results indicated the balance of power in the state legislature will be changed only slightly, in large part because only one-quarter of the 200 seats up for grabs every two years drew contested races.

Rep. Tram Nguyen, a North Andover Democrat, won election to a second term, fending off a challenge from Republican candidate Jeff Dufour two years after she unseated Rep. Jim Lyons. After he left office, Lyons took over as chair of the Massachusetts Republican Party.

Democratic House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he had been keeping an eye on the races involving Reps. Nguyen, Kathy LaNatra of Kingston, Josh Cutler of Duxbury and Dave Robertson of Tewksbury.

DeLeo said, “We also feel pretty good, with all due respect, because of the fact of Trump heading up the ticket, the Republican ticket nationally. We feel, at least here in Massachusetts, that will help Democrats.”

In addition to Nguyen, Robertson was victorious Tuesday, defeating Republican Alec DiFruscia by more than 3,000 votes, while Cutler won by about 4,800 votes, according to the Associated Press. LaNatra said late Tuesday that she was leading by about 2,500 votes with results from two towns outstanding, and her opponent, Summer Schmaling, said she was expecting a tight race with results to come Wednesday.

The headlining victory for the Democrats on Tuesday could be Lunenburg Democrat John Cronin’s toppling of incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Tran in northern central Massachusetts.

Party officials said Cronin was on track to win. Democrats held the seat from 1993 until Tran won it in a 2017 special election.

With Tran’s defeat, the GOP caucus in the 40-seat Senate is poised to shrink to three members. That level of representation is the fewest seats the party has won in a biennial general election since at least 1970, though the minority caucus dropped to three as recently as 2013 due to a mid-session resignation.

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