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Eric Lesser's bid for statewide office falls short

Eric Lesser greets supporters at the Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow on September 6, 2022 just before he announced his concession in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.
Paul Tuthill
Eric Lesser greets supporters at the Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow on September 6, 2022 just before he announced his concession in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor.

No regrets, he said, about campaign for lieutenant governor

A candidate for statewide office from western Massachusetts failed to advance past the Democratic primary.

Eric Lesser conceded in the three-way Democratic race for lieutenant governor about two-and-a-half hours after the polls closed Tuesday night but before any major news outlet had declared a winner.

“We obviously didn’t win, but we tried really hard,” Lesser said. “We worked our tuchus off and I want to thank everyone here.” The candidate spoke to a crowd of about 100 supporters at the Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow.

He said he had called Kim Driscoll to congratulate her. Driscoll is now Democratic gubernatorial nominee Maura Healey’s running mate in the November election.

“She has my full support, 100 percent and I know she is going to make a fantastic lieutenant governor,” Lesser said. “ I personally am very excited to get to work for the Healey-Driscoll ticket for victory in November.”

The final unofficial results had the five-term mayor of Salem winning the primary with 47 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Lesser. State Rep. Tami Gouveia of Acton finished third.

With this outcome and the rest of the results from Tuesday’s primary, the entire statewide Democratic ticket for November comes from eastern Massachusetts. Three of the six candidates -- Healey, Attorney General nominee Andrea Campbell, and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, who is seeking a record eighth term – reside in the city of Boston.

Lesser burst onto the local political scene in 2014 when after serving as a White House aide in the Obama administration, he returned to his hometown of Longmeadow and won an election for an open State Senate seat. He championed progressive causes and became a prominent advocate for a high-speed rail connection between western and eastern Massachusetts, pushing a reluctant Baker administration to eventually do a feasibility study.

Speaking to a crowd of about 100 supporters Tuesday night, Lesser, 37, did not sound like someone who is finished in politics.

“Visions outlive election cycles,” he said. “ T here’s ups and downs to politics. There’s ups and downs to everything. We’re going to keep at it, we’re going to keep going and with this team, I’m confident that we can do absolutely anything.”

Questioned by reporters, Lesser said he had no regrets about this bid for statewide office.

“We did everything we could and I think the numbers in western Mass, the Berkshires, the whole Pioneer Valley really show we’ve got a team here and I’m excited about that,” he said.

In what was a fairly sleepy primary campaign season, Lesser struggled to get recognition from voters outside of western Massachusetts, said Matt Szafranski, Editor-in-Chief of Western Mass Politics & Insight.

“It’s very difficult to build up your name recognition if you’re from the western part of the state,” he said. He cited the lack of a contest for the Democratic nomination for governor as one of the “factors that militate against somebody west of I-495, not even western Massachusetts, getting a statewide nomination.”

In the Democratic primary to nominate someone to run for the senate seat Lesser will vacate, Jake Oliveira, a first-term state representative from Ludlow, defeated former congressional aide Sydney Levin-Epstein of Longmeadow.

“It really is a culmination of seven months of hard work, of knocking on doors, of meeting people, and calling them at their homes to assure they have the next state senator who will be taking over from Eric Lesser and (I) will be someone responsive to their needs,” he said.

Oliveira will now face Republican William Johnson of Granby in the Nov. 8th election in the newly-drawn Hampden, Hampshire, Worcester Senate District.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.