On a sleepy primary Election Day, state Representative Walter Timilty captured the Democratic nomination for the Milton-area seat being vacated by embattled state Senator Brian Joyce. Longtime Senator Patricia Jehlen of Somerville easily fended off a primary challenge from Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung. In Boston, 27-year-old newcomer Chynah Tyler won the Democratic nomination for the seat vacated by longtime Roxbury Representative Gloria Fox.
And in Cambridge, incumbent state Representative Tim Toomey lost his primary to challenger Mike Connolly.
In an unusual Thursday election, Massachusetts voters picked candidates in party primaries for US representatives, state legislators, governor’s councilors, county sheriffs, and registers of deeds. But with no statewide races and relatively few contested down-ballot contests, turnout appeared generally low.
Secretary of State William F. Galvin had predicted turnout of between 8 and 10 percent. But some major areas didn’t even see that level of voter engagement.
“There aren’t many legislative challenges. Many people ran unopposed,” Galvin said earlier in the week. “There are very few primaries on both sides. Since you have so few primaries, as a result there are people saying, ‘Why I am going to go vote? What am I going to vote for? There’s nothing to decide.’”
None of the nine Democrats representing Massachusetts in the US House drew a party challenger this year, though there was one Republican congressional primary, in the Ninth District. And neither of the state’s US senators were up for election.
Roxbury-area House race
In the race to replace Fox, who is retiring after three decades in office, Tyler beat two opponents in the Democratic primary.
Tyler, the youngest of the contenders, formerly served as a legislative aide to state Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz. She also worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, where, Tyler said, she helped inmates close to being released get employment, housing, and community support.
The mother of one, she indicated that, if elected in November, she would focus on such issues as affordable housing, economic development, edu-cation, and public safety.
Closely trailing was Monica Cannon, a community advocate. Also on the ballot was Mary-dith Tuitt, a Navy veteran and chief of staff to Fox at the State House.
The Boston district is overwhelmingly Democratic and no Republican is running.
Milton-area Senate race
In the race to succeed Joyce, Timilty easily defeated newcomer Nora Harrington. With 46 of 50 precincts reporting, he had won 57 percent to 43 percent.
Joyce did not seek election to the State House for the first time in 20 years, amid accusations of using his public office to advance his private law practice.
Timilty, 47, had succeeded Joyce in the House and held onto the seat for nine terms, often taking conservative stances on social issues. Harrington faulted him for not debating her and challenged his right to coast into the other chamber, campaigning against “career politicians.”
In one mailer, Harrington said that Timilty had little to show for his 17 years on Beacon Hill “but a history of right-wing votes.”
But Timilty, an affable pol from a political family, prevailed, winning the rivals’ shared hometown of Milton, as well as Avon, Braintree, Randolph, and West Bridgewater, a campaign aide said. Harrington carried the towns of Easton, Sharon, and Stoughton.
In the general election in November, Timilty will face a challenge from independent candidate Jon Lott.
Cambridge-area Senate race
Jehlen, the winner, is a prominent critic of charter schools, and her race against Cheung had attracted substantial outside spending by the partisans in Massachusetts’ highly charged fight over the schools. The Massachusetts Teachers Association, a union which opposes charters, spent $115,000 backing Jehlen’s reelection bid, according to the most recent campaign finance filings.
Democrats for Education Reform, which favors the schools, spent at least $100,000 supporting Cheung’s challenge.
It was the most expensive front in a statewide proxy war between the two organizations, with both sides contributing to candidates in races from Cape Cod to Roxbury — where Democrats for Education Reform supported Tyler in the House race to replace Fox and the teachers union backed Cannon.
The legislative contests were seen as a warmup for a ballot fight in November, when voters will decide whether to lift the state cap on charters and allow for the creation of 12 new or expanded schools per year.
Jehlen acknowledged that charter schools were an important issue but said “it’s not just about charters.”
“We’re part of a movement that has changed Somerville and we hope has changed the Commonwealth,” she said.
Jehlen will not face any opposition in the general election in November.
Cape & Islands Senate seat
Democrats on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket nominated Julian Cyr, a 30-year-old Truro resident, who defeated Barnstable County Commissioner Sheila Lyons of Wellfleet, according to unofficial results.
Cyr, who interned at the Obama White House, worked on Deval Patrick’s gubernatorial reelection campaign, and spent more than five years working at the state Department of Public Health, said a main focus of his campaign was about making sure people on the Cape and Islands can “still make a life here” amid rising costs and struggles with the opioid epidemic.
He also emphasized his age as an asset. “If my generation of Cape Codders, if my generation of Islanders doesn’t step up, who else will do that work?” he asked.
On the Republican side, retired Air Force Brigadier General Anthony E. Schiavi of Harwich was narrowly leading James H. Crocker Jr. of Barnstable.
The Senate seat became open after state Senator Daniel A. Wolf, a liberal Democrat and the chief executive of Cape Air, declared he wasn’t running for reelection. Wolf noted the district is competitive and said he expected the general election to be hard fought.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of focus on this race from the state Republican Party,” Wolf told the Globe. “As hard as Julian worked in the primary, he’s going to have to double-down in the general. But it’s winnable. And he knows and understands the district and is a hard worker.”
Kirsten Hughes, chairwoman of the state GOP, said in a statement that Schiavi would be a partner with Governor Charlie Baker — who polls have found to be popular — and support the governor’s efforts to “reform state government and protect taxpayers.”
■ In Lawrence, Juana Matias beat incumbent Representative Marcos Devers in the Democratic primary.
■ Toomey, a long-serving Cambridge Democrat, was toppled by liberal Connolly for the 26th Middlesex District representing parts of Cambridge and Somerville. Connolly, an attorney and community organizer, was endorsed by Our Revolution, the successor organization to US Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Connolly unsuccessfully challenged Toomey in 2012 but came back to beat him 54-46 percent. Toomey was first elected in 1992.
■ Milton resident William J. Driscoll Jr. prevailed in the Democratic primary to fill the House seat Timilty vacated to run for Senate. Driscoll claimed 21 percent of the vote, beating out his closest rival, Michael F. Zullas, by 278 votes, and defeating fellow Democrats Tony Farrington, Kerby Roberson, Denise R. Swenson, Jason R. Adams, and James F. Burgess Jr. No candidates ran on the Republican ticket.