A sweep in three special elections

Three Democrats were elected to vacant House seats in special elections Tuesday, holding the mostly urban seats for the majority party in the Legislature.

Dan Donahue, an aide to Mayor Joe Petty of Worcester, won his race over Republican Carol Claros to take the 16th Worcester District seat vacated earlier this year when John Fresolo, who is considering another run in 2014, resigned amid an internal ethics House ethics probe.

In Boston, community activist and former State House aide Dan Cullinane of Dorchester defeated two independents to win the 12th Suffolk District seat, representing parts of Dorchester, Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Milton.


The election was scheduled after state Senator Linda Dorcena Forry gave up her House seat when she was elected to the Senate, succeeding Jack Hart, of South Boston, who stepped down for a private sector job.

Former governor’s councilor Carole Fiola of Fall River will also be returning to Beacon Hill after narrowly overcoming Republican David Steinhof to fill the seat vacated by David Sullivan, who left the Legislature to take over the Fall River Housing Authority.

All the races were marked by low turnout. In Fall River, 23 percent of eligible voters cast votes, while turnout in Boston and Milton was under 10 percent. In Worcester, Donahue received 1,606 votes while 910 voters cast ballots for Claros, as 11.8 percent of registered voters turned out, according to the unofficial tally.

In Freetown, where some of the Fall River-based district is located, Steinhof edged a victory as 18 percent turned out, but Fiola won the election with 2,861 votes to 2,536 for Steinhof.

In Boston, 8.7 percent of voters turned out as Cullinane cruised to a victory with 1,403 votes and 73.3 percent of ballots cast.

Cullinane won with 82 percent of voters in the part of the district located in Milton, where 8.9 percent turned out, giving Cullinane 281 votes.


There have been six completed House special elections this year and one completed Senate special election, with a second Senate special underway in Western Massachusetts. Most of the elections were scheduled because officials elected last November opted to pursue other careers, although races in Worcester and Everett were required after Fresolo’s sudden resignation and due to former state Representative Stephen Smith’s resignation in connection with his eventual conviction on voter fraud charges.

In all six House special elections, candidates ran for seats previously held by Democrats.

Earlier this year, Republican Leah Cole of Peabody won the seat formerly held by the late state Representative Joyce Spiliotis, a Democrat.

In the other five House specials, Democrats retained seats.

Once results are certified and winners are sworn in, the House will have its full roster of 160 members, including 130 Democrats and 30 Republicans. The Senate has three Republicans and 36 Democrats, with candidates currently vying for the seat former state senator Michael Knapik, a Westfield Republican, gave up this summer to take a job at Westfield State University.

Martha Walz, president of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts, celebrated Tuesday’s victories, saying the winners in Worcester and Fall River are more supportive of access to abortion than their predecessors.

The Republican Party did not field a candidate in the Boston race.