Apparent Victor in Oh-so-close Race for 3rd; No Koh Concession
A Sun Staff Report
LOWELL -- Lori Trahan, touted as the Lowell born-and-raised candidate and Marty Meehan’s former chief of staff, declared victory early Wednesday morning by a sliver in the race for the 3rd Congressional District.
More than four hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m., Trahan and Dan Koh, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, were locked in a dead heat, with Trahan leading by only 223 votes with 97.8 percent of the vote counted.
State Rep. Juana Matias, of Lawrence, remained close to the top two.
Trahan’s election-night party was buzzing with attendees speaking in optimistic terms. Her campaign said they were waiting for final results, however, as several precincts in the district’s western and southern towns had not yet been reported.
“With 99 percent of the vote in in the 3rd Congressional District, I am confident that I have the pleasure and the honor of introducing your next congresswoman, Lori Trahan,” state Lowell state Rep. Dave Nangle told Trahan supporters at the UMass Inn & Conference Center.
Trahan then took the stage: “I stand before you humbled, honored and leading as the Democratic nominee for Congress, carrying on that incredible legacy of congresswoman Niki Tsongas. As I’ve said many times throughout this campaign, Lowell is not just where you’re from, it’s who you are. It’s about working hard, persevering, having that grit. You all gave it to me in spades.”
Koh had not conceded defeat as of 12:20 a.m.
Koh, speaking to supporters at the Oak and Iron Brewery in Andover, said: “It is amazing to see everyone here. It is amazing to see the dedication from so many amazing people.
“They’re still counting those votes. And unfortunately we won’t have any resolution tonight.”
Koh added: “If there is one thing I know for sure, our message has resonated throughout this district. That we believe in a better America. One that stands with people and not against them.”
Trahan was born and raised in Lowell, and currently lives in Westford. She served as chief of staff to former Rep. Marty Meehan.
Koh, an Andover native, moved back to the district to run.
Rufus Gifford and Barbara L’Italien, the other front-runners, had both conceded by 11 p.m., and the other five candidates appeared poised to receive single-digit percentages of the vote.
After months of campaigning back and forth across the region, the 10 Democrats vying to take the place of U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas scrambled to the finish line on a sultry primary election day.
From Lowell to Groton, from Fitchburg to Westford, sign-holding supporters were out en force at the polls to greet voters casting ballots in the most crowded race in the state.
The race for the 3rd Congressional District brought out a diverse, energetic field of candidates hailing from a wide range of demographic and professional backgrounds. Eight out of the 10 had never before run for legislative office.
For much of the year, the race to succeed Tsongas was a polite affair marked by optimism, progressive policies and frequent criticism of the Trump administration. Contentiousness crept in during the final weeks as an anonymous attack video circulated online and a handful of candidates began openly targeting one another.
Of the 10 candidates on the primary ballot, six got votes in Greater Lowell and Greater Lawrence, nearly two dozen exit interviews with voters at the polls showed.
Elizabeth Rosaro, a Lawrence resident who cast her vote for Rufus Gifford, the former U.S. ambassador to Denmark under President Barack Obama, said she made the decision based on the candidate’s advertisements.
“He was just the one I went with,” she said. “I’ve seen his ads the most on TV.”
Another Lawrence resident, Nabil Taveras, supported Lawrence state Rep. Juana Matias, who immigrated from the Dominican Republic when she was 5.
“I believe in what she believes in,” Taveras said. “And also I came from immigrant parents, so I know what she has gone through.”
Outside the Reilly School in Lowell, Helen Littlefield, 65, said she voted for Gifford.
“I’ve been extremely impressed by him,” she said. “He’s very positive, and has really motivated the younger voters.”
Voting for Gifford, too, was Dan Timmons: “We had a bunch of people canvassing the neighborhood and I thought he had a pretty good grass-roots campaign. He made a pretty strong stance as far as health care. Certainly that spoke to me. There weren’t any candidates that stood out too much, but I think the local campaigning helped make me aware of him.”
Said Erik Bates, 62: “It was hard to distinguish between the candidates, but (former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh Dan) Koh came out strong in his opposition to (President Donald) Trump.”
Bates also said he thought it was a plus that Koh is of mixed ethnicity.
A female voter who declined to be named said she voted for Lori Trahan, a small business owner from Westford, because she “likes what she stands for.”
A male voter who declined to be named said he voted for Gifford because of his experience at the national stage, campaigning for President Barack Obama and being the U.S. ambassador to Denmark.
“I went with who I thought would do the best job standing up to Donald Trump and being a good advocate for the district like Niki Tsongas was,” said voter David Capone. “I think Lori Trahan was the best person for that.”
Added former Lowell City Councilor Franky Descoteaux: “Trahan was very proactive in talking to people. When I asked for a meeting to share my thoughts, concerns and questions about the things I’m passionate about, she literally got me on the calendar the next day.”
Matias also picked up votes at the Reilly.
“I voted for Juana Matias because she’s Spanish, and I know she works for the Spanish community. She’s Dominican too, like me, so I figure I know a little bit about her, said Walquidia Martinez, who has lived in the U.S. since 1998, and moved to Lowell in 2004. “I think we have common goals. She’s going to work with immigrants in the community, and help them be better within the community.”
Outside the Bruce School in Lawrence, two voters followed a similar pattern. Nabil Taveras voted for Matias, saying: “I believe in what she believes in. And also I came from immigrant parents so I know what she has gone through.”
Arleen Bradley, a Lawrence resident who voted at the Robert Frost School, said Koh was her “definitive” choice.
“He’s new, he’s fresh, and I think he brings fresh ideas.”
At the same polling place, Elizabeth Rosaro voted Gifford: “He was just the one I went with. I’ve seen his ads the most on TV”
Outside the Pawtucketville Elementary School in Lowell, voter Stephen Ndngu, 31, said he voted for Trahan: “It was between her and Dan Koh. I’ve seen a good chunk of people supporting her.”
Added voter Edward Morgan, 44: “I like (Trahan’s) stances on the issues and I grew up with her. I know her and what she’s about.”
Outside the Lowell Senior Center, Josh, who declined to give his last name, voted for Alexandra Chandler, of Haverhill. “For me I felt it was no question for Chandler. Her experience in national security and “standing up to adversity” set her apart from other candidates, he said.
Both Angela Ales and Ron Lores said they voted for Gifford.
Angela Ales and Ron Lores, at Lowell Senior Center:
“We’re looking for people who are interested in the arts and are very diverse,” Lores said.
“And anti-Trump,” said Ales.
Interviews with Chelmsford voters revealed support for Trahan and Koh, but also state Sen. Barbara I’Italien of Andover and Tyngsboro Inn owner/lawyer Beej Das.
“She’s local,” said Alex Cole, referring to Trahan. “She didn’t move into the district to run for Congress.”
“She’s got the best background for the job, and I like that she came from the district,” said Jim Williams.
“I like her because she grew up poor,” Dores Nalwanga said. “We have the same upbringing.”
Kevin Dooley said he was supporting L’Italien because of her record for helping people and her work with those with Asperger syndrome, which a family member has.
“I think she shares the same values I have,” Dooley said.
Jen and Tom McGinn, of Chelmsford, said they supported Koh because they like his platform and he represents the younger generation getting more involved in politics.
Jen McGinn said she liked Koh before she knew he was interested in impeaching Trump, “now I like him even more.”
Chelmsford voter Lee Pender said he voted for Beej Das because he recalled seeing Das’ father in the July 4 parade yelling, “Vote for my son!” Pender said he has two sons and found it endearing that a father would do this for his son.