Pickup Lines: Handicapping the GOP's chances in the State Senate

It's not just our congressional districts; we in Massachusetts have among the least competitive legislative elections of any state, by any of several possible metrics. Just 12 of the 40 State Senate elections included candidates from the two major parties. Among those that did, none were decided by fewer than 12 percentage points; just two elections were decided by under 20 points.

With this in mind, what districts are most likely to produce competitive elections? One such district is that of longtime Senate President Therese Murray, who announced this past weekend that she would not seek another term. Given its relative rightward lean, her district offers the tantalizing prospect of a potential Republican pickup. Murray's district as the fifth most Republican-voting district in the state, based on three recent election: Warren-Brown 2012, Obama-Romney 2012 and Markey-Gomez 2013. Voters in her district voted by double-digit margins for both Scott Brown in 2012 and Gabriel Gomez in 2013. Murray's district also has one of the smallest party registration gaps of any State Senate district. There is no district in Massachusetts where Republicans outnumber Democrats, but with so many unenrolled voters going Republican, a relatively smaller registration gap is a promising sign for Republicans.

Given the that most incumbents State Senators win re-election by overwhelming to near-unanimous margins, targeting open seats may be the state GOP's best shot. Another possible pickup is the district of Senate Ways and Means Chair Stephen Brewer, who, like Murray, has announced his retirement. Brewer's district, in the Republican stronghold of Central Massachusetts, is the most Republican-voting district in the state, according to our rankings. Also leaving is Senator Gale Candaras, who running for Hampden County Register of Probate. She represents the tenth most Republican voting district, although the registration and voting figures there are far less favorable to a Republican candidate than in Murray and Brewer's districts.

What do you think? Can the Republican make gains in the State Senate this year, and if so, where? You can sort and re-sort the database below, or download the full spreadsheet with some additional figures to do your own analysis of where the most competitive races might happen.

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