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Galvin orders recounts in two Massachusetts House races

Republican Andrew Shepherd, second from right, trails his Democratic opponent, Margaret Scarsdale, by 17 votes in the 1st Middlesex district. The Secretary of State's office Wednesday ordered a recount in that Mass. House race and another in the 2nd Essex district.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The state’s top elections official on Wednesday ordered hand recounts in two Massachusetts House races where candidates are separated by just a handful of votes.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin issued the order to local clerks in the Nashoba Valley and North Shore districts shortly after the Governor’s Council formally certified the 2022 election results Wednesday.

State Representative Lenny Mirra, a five-term Georgetown Republican, leads his Democratic challenger, Kristin Kassner, by just 10 votes for the Second Essex seat he has held since 2013 but whose makeup was dramatically remade during last year’s redistricting process.

In the 1st Middlesex district, Democrat Margaret Scarsdale leads Republican Andrew Shepherd, of Townsend, by 17 votes for an open seat that, before this year, had been held by the GOP for nearly 40 years.


Each of the taxpayer-funded recounts must be completed by Dec. 10, according to Galvin’s order.

Galvin can only order a districtwide recount if the difference between the top candidates is within 0.5 percent. Both races fall well within the margin.

Local election officials in towns in each district will schedule hand recounts, all of which will be open to public observation, Galvin’s office said. Towns must provide at least three days’ notice to each candidate prior to the date of the scheduled recount, meaning they can start no sooner than Saturday.

Shepherd and Kassner filed recount petitions last week.

The races will have no effect on which party controls power in the House, where Democrats have long held a supermajority. But the results could detract from the Republicans’ shrinking presence on Beacon Hill.

Democrats are poised to hold at least 132 seats in the 160-member House come January — three more than they began last session with — in addition to keeping the 37 they had in the Senate.


Should the current margins hold in the 1st Middlesex and 2nd Essex, adding another Democrat and GOP seat apiece, it would give Democrats 133 and Republicans 26. (Susannah M. Whipps, of Athol, is the chamber’s lone unenrolled member.)

The 26 seats would mark the lowest GOP share since 2009, before a Tea Party-fueled wave the next year helped more than double their numbers in the chamber.

The 1st Middlesex seat had been in GOP hands since 1984, and was represented by Sheila Harrington for more than a decade before the Groton Republican resigned in February to take a clerk magistrate post.

Mirra was first elected in the 2nd Essex in 2012, but when the Legislature reshaped its electoral map during the redistricting process last year, it overhauled the district, slicing off all or parts of five communities and merging his hometown and Newbury with other North Shore communities, including Ipswich, Rowley, and Hamilton, where Kassner lives.

Mirra was the only House member to vote against the proposed map. “I got totally screwed,” he told the Globe last week.

Matt Stout can be reached at Follow him @mattpstout.