Adam Gomez on his historic victory in Springfield

Gateways Podcast Episode 67

The 2020 Massachusetts primary election was unlike any we’d ever seen. Months before, legislators and the Secretary of the Commonwealth scrambled to provide a vote-by-mail system. A pre-election survey conducted by the MassINC Polling Group found that 4 in 10 voters planned to vote via mail. When all was said and done, in many cities and towns, the proportion of mail-in voters was far higher.

But, according to MassINC Polling Group research director Rich Parr, utilization of mail-in voting and early voting varied wildly town by town. “If you look at the eleven original Gateway Cities, 52% of [votes] were coming in early, compared to 66% of the other cities and towns. So there’s a pretty big gap there.”

This is important because low-income and minority communities tend to have lower turnout, especially in primaries. “People had hoped that by allowing people to vote early or mail in their ballots, you reduce the many barriers that low-income people may disproportionately face.”

Early voting and vote-by-mail opportunities don’t appear to have changed that. Parr said Springfield, Lawrence, Brockton, New Bedford, Holyoke, and Chicopee were all on the very low end in terms of early voting. The socioeconomic divide persists. “The towns that had a higher percentage of voters that had a Bachelor’s degree or higher, that was the thing that most lined up with how much they were voting early.”

Turnout imbalances that skew the electorate is just one of the many reasons our state legislature doesn’t reflect the diversity of Massachusetts residents. Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez spoke with Ben about how he was able to overcome this challenge to defeat an incumbent state senator in the democratic primary.

Gomez said his constituents wanted to see more of their state Senator, and they wanted issues addressed like health disparities and housing. “On housing and health — the pandemic happened and showed how economically challenged this district was.”

Police accountability and the Black Lives Matter movement was also top-of-mind for many voters, Gomez said. And his focus on those issues may have played a part in his victory against incumbent James Welch. “For a very long time I’ve been a part of the BLM movement, and also police accountability. That also played a factor, knowing that [Welch] voted down the qualified immunity amendment.” The Springfield City Council filed a resolution in support of the Senate version of the police bill that included an amendment to limit the qualified immunity that protects police officers from civil lawsuits.

Gomez shares his story about being arrested at a young age his and plans to champion criminal justice reform alongside health, housing, and police accountability when he joins the state senate next year.

Listen to the full podcast episode here:


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