Democrat Pavel Payano appears to be heading to the State House next January as the first senator elected to the new majority minority district serving Lawrence, Methuen and parts of Haverhill.
Payano, who was challenged by fellow Democrats Doris V. Rodriguez of Lawrence and Eunice D. Zeigler of Methuen, faces no Republican opponent in November. The reconstituted 1st Essex District added Lawrence, but lopped off most of Haverhill and all downriver communities. Payano appeared to perform best with voters in his home city of Lawrence, securing 3,896 votes to Zeigler’s 648 and Rodriguez’ 456 votes.
During a recent WHAV interview, Payano cited his background as a teacher for driving his interest in such programs as Early College, allowing high school students to earn one to two years of college credits while still in high school.
“I’ve always been focused on trying to improve the education within my community, focusing on affordability and accessibility issues around higher ed. I’m very interested in trying to deliver to the Commonwealth the idea of universal pre-K to bring more resources to urban schools like Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence,” he said.
He also discussed his concerns over student loan affordability and the additional burden it places on the abilities of families to finance a good home. The problem, he said, is compounded when teachers’ salaries are stagnant.
“I want to make sure the Student Opportunity Act is fully funded and that all three districts have the resources they need to be able to educate their kids. Part of that is making sure that teachers are being paid what their worth,” he said.
During his WHAV interview, he said there is an additional need for job training in new skills as blue collar jobs fade away.
Payano has been an at-large Lawrence city councilor for the past five years and previously was a Lawrence School Committee member for seven years. He won the endorsement of Vargas, who considered running for Senate until most of Haverhill was removed from the 1st Essex territory. His supporters hailed his victory as the historic first of an immigrant from the Dominican Republic winning a state senate seat.
His family immigrated to Lawrence in the late 1980s. For the past three decades, his parents Pedro and Maria Payano, have served as Lawrence Public School teachers and civic leaders.
In the unofficial vote count, Zeigler did win Haverhill, however, by about 50 votes. She garnered 573 votes to Payano’s 523 and Rodriguez’s 197 votes.
In Haverhill’s other, newly configured 2nd Essex and Middlesex senate district, Democrat Barry R. Finegold of Andover ran unopposed. He faces Haverhill Republican Salvatore P. DeFranco in November.
Two settled Haverhill races are seats in the House of Representatives. Next January, Democratic 3rd Essex District incumbent Haverhill Rep. Andy X. Vargas returns to the state house. He will be joined by newcomer Ryan M. Hamilton of Methuen, also a Democrat, taking the 15th Essex District currently held by Rep. Linda Dean Campbell. Campbell chose not to see re-election.
Following last year’s redistricting, Haverhill was left with two out of formerly four seats in the state House of Representatives. The Democratic candidates for each seat ran unopposed and face no Republican opposition in November. Vargas’ district is entirely within Haverhill and Hamilton’s district covers portions of Haverhill and Methuen.
In the 14th Essex District, where Rep. Christina A. Minicucci is also stepping down after the district dropped Haverhill, Methuen and Lawrence, Democrat Adrianne Ramos ran unopposed and faces Republican Joseph G. Finn. Both reside in North Andover. Second Essex District incumbent, Rep. Lenny Mirra, a Georgetown Republican, ran unopposed in his primary. He faces Hamilton Democrat Kristin E. Kassner The district sheds Haverhill, Groveland, Merrimac and Boxford and adds Ipswich and parts of Amesbury.
In the 1st Essex and Middlesex District, Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr of Gloucester ran unopposed in the Republican primary and faces no opposition in November. He will continue in the state Senate next year, serving such area communities as Georgetown, Groveland, North Andover and West Newbury.