By Jim Ellis
Sept. 6, 2018 — The nation’s second Thursday primary is underway today, as Delaware voters will choose their federal and state candidate slates. Also, yesterday morning in northern Massachusetts, former congressional chief of staff and businesswoman Lori Trahan held a news conference to declare herself the new 3rd District Democratic congressional nominee, but her victory dance may have been premature.
The race of note today features state Human Relations Commissioner Kerri Harris challenging Sen. Tom Carper (D). Harris has raised only $120,540 through the Aug. 18 pre-primary financial disclosure period in comparison to Sen. Carper’s $3.6 million, and her effort is not expected to amount to a highly competitive Democratic primary battle. The Harris Campaign did draw support from New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez whose political operation is actively supporting this long-shot challenge.
Sen. Carper was first elected to the Senate in 2000 and is completing his third term. He toyed with the idea of retiring this year but obviously rejected that course of action. Before his election to the Senate, Carper served two terms as Delaware’s governor and was the at-large representative in the US House for five terms after serving a six-year stint as Delaware state treasurer. Since his original election as treasurer in 1976, Sen. Carper has spent 42 consecutive years in elective office.
First-term at-large Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Wilmington) is unopposed for re-nomination and will become the prohibitive favorite to win again in the November general election. The Republican battle is between two minor candidates, teacher and actor Lee Murphy and floral contractor Scott Walker.
Gov. John Carney (D), elected in 2016, is not on the ballot today. His four-year term will extend through the 2020 election when he will be eligible to seek a second term.
The unofficial count gives ex-Rep. Martin Meehan’s (D-Lowell) former chief of staff a 52-vote lead over ex-Boston mayoral chief of staff Dan Koh, both of whom topped a field of 10 Democratic candidates vying to succeed retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell).
However, Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin (D) announced after the Trahan news availability that an undisclosed number of provisional ballots still remain to be counted. And, he pointed out, the canvass process that will begin shortly, often uncovers small calculation errors. With a margin this tight, literally every uncounted or miscounted vote becomes important.
Massachusetts election law allows recounts for any margin within one-half a percent. This spread, being much less than that, certainly falls within the recount range. Secretary Galvin has already ordered the 3rd District Democratic primary ballots sealed in anticipation of a full recount occurring.
Koh has until Friday afternoon to request the recount. Already his campaign staff is out gathering the 500 petition signatures necessary to make the request official. Once initiated, the recount will likely consume several days and could be subject to subsequent challenges from either candidate.
Trahan did not run hard left in this campaign, emphasizing that she was born and raised in the Lowell area, came from a lower-middle class family, ran a congressional office, and started two successful businesses. She concentrated on discussing her local ties and community goals rather that pursuing a national political agenda.
Koh used the contacts he made in serving Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to develop a fundraising operation that pulled in more than $3 million for his primary campaign, far more than Trahan’s $1.2 million. Koh was by far the biggest spender in a field where five of the 10 candidates were contenders and three spent seven figures on their campaigns.
The unofficial vote totals give Trahan 18,368 votes and 22 percent of the vote as compared to Koh’s 18,316 votes.