The Andover Townsman
---- — Sen. Barry Finegold this week is making official what has been expected for months.
The Andover Democrat has been laying the groundwork for his decision to seek higher office in the role of state treasurer for close to a year.
He’s been working behind-the-scenes to build his campaign account, which has doubled in the last six months to more than $430,000, and has been increasing his visibility statewide in recent weeks with some higher-profile political activity.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed an election reforms bill that he helped to craft as co-chairman of the Election Laws Committee. Finegold, who has been working for years to see progress on the bill that allows for early voting and online and election-day registration, said the initiative had bipartisan support, which could only help him in the treasurer’s race.
Last week, he took the spotlight when he and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, joined with a coalition of legislators to champion a change in the parole opportunities for juveniles sentenced to life in first-degree murder cases. The action grew in part out of his commitment to seek justice for the family of Andover’s Colleen Ritzer, the Danvers High School teacher slain last year, allegedly by a then-14-year-old student,
Finegold’s hopes at advancing his political career are only natural. He spent 14 years representing Andover in the state House of Representatives before winning the Senate seat for the Second Essex and Middlesex District, which includes Andover, Tewksbury, Dracut and part of Lawrence, in 2011.
His bid for the treasurer’s post being vacated by now-Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman will not be without a challenge. Fellow Democrats Deb Goldberg, a 2006 candidate for lieutenant governor, and state Rep. Tom Conroy have already expressed their intentions to pursue their party’s nomination. And businessman Mike Heffernan announced this week on the Republican side.
Finegold’s decision, meanwhile, creates an interesting opportunity for his Senate seat.
Since at least 1999, an Andover resident has represented the district. Former Sen. Susan Tucker of Andover held the seat for 10-plus years before calling it quits and Finegold was elected.
Andover Board of Selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli hopes to continue that streak. In December, he announced he would wage his second bid for the seat — even before Finegold was prepared to come public with his plans.
Vispoli came up short in his bid for the seat two years ago, losing to Republican challenger Paul Adams, also of Andover, who ultimately lost out to Finegold in the finals.
But Vispoli is seizing the opening for “a new direction” created by Finegold’s departure. He said in a statement, “I believe now is the time to elect a senator who can use his business experience to demand accountability of our tax dollars and work to put people back to work.”
Other names are being tossed around. School Committee member and former state Rep. Barbara L’Italien even hinted to Townsman reporter Bill Kirk at possibly given the seat some consideration.
While things play out on the state level, there’s also some action on the local political front. Long-time Finance Committee member Mary O’Donoghue’s decision to pull nomination papers for the Board of Selectmen this week creates the potential for a three-way race for the one open seat in the March town election. Incumbent Mary Lyman is opting against seeking re-election.
Jodi Oberto, who as an Independent candidate waged an unsuccessful bid for the Second Essex and Middlesex District Senate seat in 2010, and Kevin Cuff, who was unsuccessful in his bid as an Independent candidate for state Rep. Jim Lyons’ 17th District state representative seat in 2012, have also pulled nomination papers for selectman.
It’s too premature to predict the outcome of any of these races. But it does set the stage for an interesting few months on the campaign front in Andover, the district and across the state.