By Peter Shanley and John Ruch, Gazette Staff
The Sept. 6 primary election is fast approaching and several local elected officials will be facing challengers.
The most contentious race is for the clerk of the criminal division of the Suffolk County Superior Court, where Democrats Robert Dello Russo, a former clerk, and office-holder Maura Hennigan, a Jamaica Plain resident, face off. They have questioned each other’s competency for the job.
“I am working very hard,” Hennigan said in an email to the Gazette, adding that she enjoys the job and the campaigning. “I am proud to be the first woman to hold this position. I am asking the people of Suffolk County to look at my long record of accomplishment and my 30 years of dedication to public service and to judge me on my record.”
“I’ve been pointing out to the constituents my pluses and some of her minuses,” Dello Russo told the Gazette. “My experience speaks for itself.”
He has said that, unlike him, Hennigan does not have the skills to act as a clerk in the courtroom when staffing is tight.
Hennigan has been plagued with scandals in recent months, including her campaign having been found in violation of campaign finance law by the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) in April. OCPF found that several of her court employees had labeled envelopes intended for sending out Hennigan’s political campaign materials last year.
Hennigan revealed in July that the State Ethics Commission had opened a “preliminary inquiry” into that campaign violation.
A press release from the Hennigan campaign describes her as an able administrator whose office was positively reviewed by the state auditor. It also notes her community outreach activity, including hosting a TV show about the court system.
Dello Russo, meanwhile, recently picked up the endorsement of Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, whose office recently was in dispute with Hennigan over an incident where a defendant on a murder charge was accidently released from jail.
Cabral, a JP resident, knew Dello Russo while she worked at the Suffolk DA’s Office. She said in a recent Gazette interview that the clerk position plays a more pivotal role than most people know.
“Every player in the system depends on it. If it doesn’t function at optimum level, it impacts all of us,” said Cabral.
She said Dello Russo knows the job, has done the clerking and is “a very hands-on guy.”
In much quieter races, Democrats Michael Dash and Michael Donovan are running for Suffolk County Clerk of Courts for civil business, and Democrats Patricia Campatelli and Sal LaMattina are competing for the Suffolk County register of probate position. The winners of the Democratic contests will face no opponents in the final election.
Another contested race is Democratic state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (2nd Suffolk District) battling Roy Owens, a regular candidate for elected office on a conservative Christian platform. The winner will not face a challenger in the general election.
“We’ve gotten an incredible number of things done together over the past four years, despite a really daunting economic landscape: CORI reform, increases in state aid to K-12 public schools, two foreclosure bills, the Transgender Equal Rights Act,” said Chang-Díaz in an email to the Gazette. “Those are results I’m proud of and I hope they will help me earn people’s confidence for another two years.”
There will also be contested races for the Governor’s Council, which confirms judicial appointments, among other duties.
Democrats Brian Clinton, Robert Jubinville, Patrick McCabe and Bart Timilty will vie for the District 2 seat, which became vacant in January when Kelly Timilty, sister of Bart, died. The winner will face Republican Earl Sholley in the general election.
Democrats Christopher Iannella, a JP resident, and Stephen Flynn will face off for the District 4 seat. The winner will not face a challenger in the general election.
Democratic state Reps. Jeffrey Sánchez (15th Suffolk District), Liz Malia (11th Suffolk District) and Russell Holmes (6th Suffolk District) all will not face an opponent in either the primary election or the general election in November.
On the federal level, two Republican challengers will battle for the opportunity to face Democrat U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (8th District) in the general election.
Matias Temperley, an immigrant from Argentina and a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, and Joe Selvaggi, a U.S. Navy veteran of the first Gulf War and a business owner, will try to top each for that opportunity.
Neither candidate responded to a request for comment.
Democrat U.S. Rep Mike Capuano (7th District) will not face a challenger in either the primary or general election.