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Two Springfield City Councilors Win Primaries For State Legislature

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WAMC
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Two Springfield City Councilors are poised to go to Beacon Hill in January as state legislators after this week’s Democratic primary results.

Ward One City Councilor Adam Gomez upset five-term State Senator James Welch of West Springfield in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the Hampden District, while Ward 8 City Councilor Orlando Ramos topped a three-person Democratic contest in the 9th Hampden House District.

Gomez, who will be unopposed on the November election ballot, is set to make history. He would be the first Latino to represent Springfield in the Senate and would be the first Massachusetts State Senator of Puerto Rican descent.

"I'm humbled. I'm real humbled," Gomez said in a telephone interview.

The Hampden District takes in more than half of Springfield, part of Chicopee, and all of West Springfield.  Gomez bested Welch by a huge margin in Springfield, where voter turnout was the highest for a state primary in decades. He was outpolled by the incumbent in West Springfield and Chicopee.

"I have tremendous respect for him and his tenure at the State Senate," said  Gomez about Welch. He said the two have spoken and will meet in the future to talk about a transition.

With a background in community organizing and social services before he got into politics, Gomez said his priorities as a State Senator will include economic justice, health care access, and police reform.

"I want to go out in the community first and really start having these conversations ... and construct a comprehensive plan that works for everyone with equitable access to all resources," said Gomez.

Ramos credited his primary win to hard work.  Despite the pandemic, he went out and knocked on doors in the oddly-shaped district that snakes from the Liberty Heights neighborhood through East Springfield to Sixteen Acres.

"I wanted to make sure that the voters saw that I was a hard worker and I don't take any days off and I take my job seriously and I am glad they saw that and they supported me," said Ramos.

In the November election for the House seat, Ramos will run against Robert Underwood, who qualified for the ballot as an independent.  The incumbent, Democratic State Rep. Jose Tosado, is retiring.

In January, Gomez and Ramos (if he wins election to the state legislature) will have to decide whether to give up their council seats. Their current two-year terms run through 2021.

Normally, if a councilor resigns the vacancy is filled by the next-highest vote-getter in the most recent election. But in 2019, both Gomez and Ramos ran unopposed.   If either man resigns, the City Council would appoint replacements, according to Springfield Election Commissioner Gladys Oyola-Lopez.

Ramos said one of his concerns about leaving the Council is the manner by which his successor would be picked.

" I am not 100 percent sure that is the best form of democracy," said Ramos. "I would prefer the voters choose my replacement."

There is recent precedent for having seats in the City Council chambers and the Massachusetts House chamber simultaneously.

After becoming a state legislator in January 2017, State Rep. Bud Williams announced he would remain a Springfield City Councilor until his term expired at the end of the year.  Williams said he planned to donate part of his $19,500 City Council salary to charity.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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