Cocchi Wins Democratic Primary For Hampden County Sheriff
The candidate who was backed by the longest-serving sheriff in western Massachusetts to be his successor won an overwhelming victory Thursday in a spirited Democratic primary. But plans by a veteran state legislator to turn his Springfield seat over to his son were upended by voters.
Nick Cocchi won the Democratic primary in the race for Hampden County Sheriff in the first competitive election for that office in 42 years.
At a raucous celebration with 200 people at the Lusitano Club in his hometown of Ludlow, Cocchi thanked his family, friends, and supporters, who were ubiquitous for months standing out with campaign signs at busy traffic intersections and going door-to-door throughout the county.
" The office of sheriff is about integrity. The office of sheriff is about character," he said to cheers from the crowd of supporters and well-wishers.
Cocchi, who is a veteran administrator in the sheriff’s department, launched his campaign two years ago, shortly after Sheriff Michael Ashe, who was first elected to the office in 1974, announced he would retire when his current term was up. Cocchi was later endorsed by the immensely popular and nationally renowned incumbent sheriff.
For the November election, Cocchi will be on the ballot along with Republican John Comerford and independent James Gill.
" ( We're) excited. We know we are only halfway home. We worked hard to get to this point and will work even harder to bring home victory in November," Cocchi said in an interview.
In making his first bid for elected office, Cocchi defeated two veteran politicians for the Democratic nomination. Unofficial results show he won 50 percent of the vote. Springfield City Councilor Tom Ashe, who is not related to the sheriff, was second and Governor’s Councilor and former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano was a distant third.
Cocchi was the top vote-getter in the city of Springfield, where Ashe had been endorsed by most of the city’s political establishment including Mayor Domenic Sarno and City Council President Mike Fenton.
Cocchi enjoyed an almost two-to-one fund raising advantage over his rivals, according to campaign finance reports.
The dominant issues in the race were the sheriff’s role in combating the deadly opioid crisis and the professional competency of the candidates.
" We stayed on message," said Cocchi. " Our message was experience over politics."
Long-time Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams won the Democratic primary Thursday in the Massachusetts House district that has been represented by civil rights pioneer Ben Swan for almost a quarter-century. Swan had endorsed his son, Ben Swan Jr.
Williams said he was humbled by the victory.
" I've been walking and knocking on doors since this campaign started," said Williams. " That is what people want. The old fashioned campaigning of meeting people and actually talking with them."
He got into the race late, as Swan delayed his retirement announcement in what was seen as an attempt to smooth the path for his son’s initial run for elected office.
In another race to replace a retiring state legislator, Solomon Goldstein-Rose, 22, a recent graduate of Brown University, defeated five other candidates in the Democratic primary in the 3rd Hampshire House District. As there is no Republican or independent filed to be on the November ballot, Goldstein-Rose is likely to succeed 12-term State Rep. Ellen Story.
Patrick Cahillane, a veteran administrator at the Hampshire County jail in Northampton, handily won the Democratic primary in the race to succeed retiring Hampshire County Sheriff Robert Garvey.
Mary Hurley, a retired Superior Court Judge and former Springfield mayor, won the Democratic primary for 8th District Governor’s Council. With no Republican running, she will likely be elected in November to succeed Albano on the council, which confirms judicial and parole board nominations by the governor.