Rep. Stanley Challengers Out Early

By Chris Wangler
March 4, 2024

 

In September 2022, after the 9th Middlesex District was redrawn to exclude Lincoln, Heather May nearly beat 21-year incumbent state rep Tom Stanley in a state Democratic primary.

On Friday, she announced her intentions to seek the seat again in the state election this fall.

And she’s not alone. An Independent newcomer, Sean Diamond, also wants to win the seat as the first-ever Massachusetts Forward Party candidate.

If both get on the ballot, Stanley will have to campaign against May in the September primary and then against Diamond in the general election in November.

But the longtime state rep says he’s ready this time after hauling in the most votes in last year’s crowded at-large city council race.

Not Backing Down

Before the 2022 election, the 9th Middlesex District was redrawn to exclude two precincts in Lincoln, meaning it included almost all of Waltham. 

That meant an immediate disadvantage for Stanley, who had built 10 years of support in Lincoln. 

But it was an opportunity for Heather May, a Nebraska native, Lakeview mom, Emerson lecturer, Democratic City Committee official and union member, involved with Healthy Waltham and other local orgs. 

She had experience running in Waltham after being edged out of a 2019 Ward 2 city council preliminary election.

Shifting her focus to state rep, May raised money, campaigned aggressively and drove motivated supporters to vote in the Democratic primary.

It nearly worked. With 23% turning out, she lost by only 300 votes (2,643 to 2,343), a slender 6 point margin. Now she’s back to try again.

“We’re long past due for a change on Beacon Hill,” she said in a press release. “We deserve more from our leaders in the State House.”

“It’s time for a transparent democratic process that works for everyone. Whether it’s housing affordability, climate resilience and justice, or access to education, I will always be an advocate for the people.”

So what’s changed over the last two years? 

May’s progressive allies in Waltham suffered heavy losses in almost every race in the last city council election, raising questions about progressive appeal in Waltham. 

But strong female candidates appear to be on the rise—and a woman has never served as 9th Middlesex Representative.

Wild Card

Meanwhile, first-time candidate Sean Diamond is not running as a Democrat or a Republican.

“While technically running as an ‘independent’ candidate due to MA election laws regarding formal political party recognition,” Diamond’s campaign website says, “I aim to appear on the ballot for Middlesex 9th District as the first Forward Party candidate in Massachusetts, joining candidates in other states across the nation as we champion respect for everyone’s time and attention in government, business and society.”

Founded by former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang, the Forward Party has the slogan of “Not Left. Not Right. FORWARD” and looks beyond rigid partisan gridlock to meaningful reform.

Among its leaders are former Republican Kerry Healey, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor under Governor Mitt Romney (at right in photo), and former Bay State Republican Governor Bill Weld (left).

A Pennsylvania native, Sean Diamond has worked in Waltham since 2012 in the solar department of a utility company, with an academic background in physics and climate change science. 

The former Democrat purchased a home in Warrendale with his wife Lauren in 2019. He has until April 30 to submit signatures to get on the ballot. 

With little name or party recognition, Diamond faces an uphill climb in a race against experienced Waltham candidates.  

Ready This Time

First elected in 2001, Democratic Rep. Tom Stanley is also a Waltham councilor-at-large and the son of late former Waltham mayor Bill Stanley. The Stanley name is on the Waltham senior center and an elementary school. 

After years of blowouts against longshot challengers, the 2022 Democratic primary was a wake-up call for Stanley. 

He surged in last year’s Waltham city council election, topping the ticket among all at-large candidates. 

My experience, institutional knowledge and relationships throughout all levels of government have made a difference for Waltham,” he said. 

A married father of two sons, Stanley is a powerful advocate for seniors at the State House as Co-Chair of the Elder Affairs Committee. 

He has worked collaboratively with local, state and federal officials, including U.S. House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, but he says he hasn’t lost touch.

“Constituent services and staying in touch with the people I represent has been a high priority of mine,” Stanley said. “Last year alone, my office received over 12,000 requests for assistance.”

This fall, he plans to court all the voters he missed last time with a simple message: “I always put Waltham first and I deliver.”

File and courtesy photos