Sen. Steven Baddour's decision to resign from his state Senate seat is certainly a loss for local communities and their citizens.
Baddour will leave by next week, heading to a job in the private sector at a law firm where former Gov. William Weld works.
Baddour, a Methuen Democrat, has been an effective legislator and an active voice for the region. When he was first elected to the seat a little over a decade ago, he set out to be an independent voice. He was successful in that goal, often disagreeing with his party's hierarchy, particularly when it came to matters that affected his district. It has been a good thing to have a senator with an open mind who primarily focuses on the interests of his district and places party politics in a secondary seat.
Baddour has also been a favored son within the party. He rose fairly quickly through the ranks of the Democrat-controlled Senate, winning powerful chairmanships, such as the Transportation Committee and, more recently, Ways and Means Committee. Through it all, Baddour hasn't lost touch with the people and communities he serves.
It's unfortunate that the district will not be represented in the state Senate for the next six or so months, but it will give plenty of time for the field of candidates to gel and for voters to get a good look at who is running.
The scramble for the Senate seat is already starting. We've seen this happen before. In fact, Baddour was first elected during a similar scramble when Sen. Jim Jajuga resigned in 2001 to take a post in then-Gov. Jane Swift's cabinet.
The dynamics of this Senate district do not favor the election of a candidate from our immediate area. The bulk of the district's population is in the western end of the district in Methuen and Haverhill, and that is usually the power base from which a hometown candidate is elected (Methuen's population is about twice Newburyport's, and Haverhill's is about three times as large as Newburyport). There have been four senators elected to the seat since the district was realigned in 1979, and only one of them — Amesbury's Nick Costello — has been from our eastern end of the district. Costello held the Senate seat from 1984 to 1990. Jajuga, of Methuen, defeated him in the 1990 Democratic primary.
The candidate shake-out will help tell us whether there's a chance that a Newburyport-area hopeful has a shot. Already, it's clear that a viable candidate from Methuen, former Mayor Bill Manzi, is emerging. Closer to home, Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer and City Councilor Jim Kelcourse seem to be expressing some interest. No one from Newburyport has stepped up yet.
Costello's first bid for the Senate seat was helped along by the fact that several candidates from the Methuen/Haverhill area split up the votes in their hometowns, making it easier for an "easterner" to get into office. We'll wait to see if that opportunity happens this time.