NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

April 2, 2012

Open race gives local Senate hopefuls a shot

AMESBURY — While Greater Newburyport makes up only a quarter of the registered voters in the First Essex Senatorial District, don't be too quick to rule out a victory by a local candidate.

It can be done.

Just ask Nicholas Costello.

In 1983, he managed to pull off something that is an oddity in the Merrimack Valley — Costello, the candidate from the little town of Amesbury, had an upset win. The seat almost always goes to a candidate from Haverhill or Methuen, where the bulk of the district's voters live.

"You just got to work hard. You got to meet the people and let them know you know something about their area. It takes a lot of work," Costello said, recounting his win 29 years ago in a special election.

Observers say some of the dynamics that helped propel Costello to office may fall into place again this year, as the field of candidates from across the district grows. If several candidates emerge from Haverhill and Methuen, the chances increase that a candidate from Amesbury, Salisbury or Newburyport can win.

Today is Steven Baddour's last day as senator after a decade representing the district. A week ago, the Methuen Democrat announced he was resigning in the middle of his sixth, two-year term to take a job with an international law firm, McDermott, Will & Emery.

Three people have taken out nomination papers to run for the seat, which represents Newburyport, Amesbury, Salisbury, Merrimac, Haverhill, Methuen and part of North Andover.

Costello, who served four terms in the Senate, said he went through a lot of shoe leather in his race. But there was more to it than good old-fashioned campaigning. According to those who helped him to victory, the math worked in his favor.

Usually, if a single Methuen or Haverhill candidate with good name recognition runs, that person will win the seat. Methuen has about twice the population of Newburyport, and Haverhill has more than triple the population.

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