Massachusetts former 2nd Hampden & Hampshire State Senate district was one of the few remaining GOP holds in the legislative chamber. While the district was competitive in terms of partisanship, the Mass GOP continued to win simply because they had stronger candidates with significant cross-party appeal.
In the fall of 2021, that all changed. Then-State Senator Donald Humason was elected to be Mayor of Westfield, a competitive suburban city Donald Trump won in 2020 that had constantly flummoxed Democrats. Humason resigned from the State Senate to officially be sworn in as Mayor and thus, a special election was called. Republicans recruited John Cain, a local small business owner who decided to lean in on Trump style messaging. Democrats nominated State Representative John Velis, a young veteran with a Bluedog voting record who had flipped the State House seat in Westfield he represented only a few years earlier. In the face of potential primary opponents, Velis refused to buck on his Bluedog appeals, and lazy partisan attacks were diffused by accruing cross-party endorsements, highlighting his bipartisan voting record, and refusing to fall for any traps regarding endorsements from known Democratic names. The campaign even faced a six week delay due to COVID-19 (March 31, 2020 to May 19, 2020) and quickly adjusted to online and digital investments that pushed Velis’ message and also advised folks to vote by mail and guided them through the process.
Velis dominated, flipping the seat with a comfortable 65/35 final result. And in the competitive town of Westfield, which had elected a new Republican Mayor less than a year earlier? Velis won the town with 70 percent of the vote, pulling in an almost-unheard of amount of bipartisan support that helped guarantee a super-majority in the State Senate.