State Rep. Bill Straus won the Democratic nomination for the 16th time in a row in Tuesday’s 10th Bristol District primary election. Meanwhile, the Republican race was too close to call.
Straus beat out Fairhaven businessman Rick Trapilo, the second-ever Democrat to challenge him during his 30-year incumbency. Both candidates agreed on the outcome before most towns in the district had reported their results. They had seen enough after looking at the unofficial Fairhaven polling numbers, where the vote was 1,586 for Straus, 608 for Trapilo, and nine write-ins.
Straus said that the ability to communicate his accomplishments and goals helped him win the election, adding that Trapilo made him a better candidate by running.
“He gave me the opportunity to talk about my job, to talk about my ideas for the future, and to point to my accomplishments,” Straus said Tuesday night.
Trapilo congratulated Straus and said he has “no regrets at all.” He will support Straus in the general election.
“I feel good, I worked hard — I knew it was going to be an uphill battle going against a 30-year incumbent,” he said.
The businessman plans to run for office again, though he doesn’t know which office or when.
The Republican primary was a match between Mattapoisett chiropractor Jeffrey Swift and Robert Scott McConnell, a retired Plymouth County deputy sheriff and chairman of the Fairhaven Republican Town Committee. Swift had a narrow lead as midnight approached, but some precincts still had not reported results, and the race was too close to call.
It was an unusually competitive primary season for the 10th Bristol District — the last time both the Republican and Democratic primaries were contested at once was 1956.
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The district covers Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion, and Rochester. It also used to cover some of New Bedford’s Near North End, but after 2021 redistricting it now includes a sliver of New Bedford north of Brooklawn Park and part of Acushnet.
Straus’s campaign emphasized his experience as a legislator and his desire to continue working on projects like South Coast Rail and the Route 6 bridge replacement. Trapilo, in his first run for elected office, campaigned on his business background. After decades as an executive in the manufacturing industry, “I know how to get the job done,” he told The Light last month.
Follow The New Bedford Light for the latest updates on the Nov. 8 elections, including election synopses and candidate profiles.
Straus had a significant head start in fundraising. He began the cycle with $86,624 in his campaign account and added $38,805 leading up to the primary. Trapilo, meanwhile, raised $27,457, most of which was his own money.
The two Democratic candidates both supported increasing education funding, aiding the state’s transition to renewable energy, and expanding health care investments. But they diverged on a few topics, including taxation.
Trapilo said he wanted to provide tax incentives to make the South Coast more business friendly, and to help the state drop its nickname of “Taxachusetts.” While Straus does support tax relief to help families cope with inflation, one of his goals was to make sure the state maintains a balanced budget. Outside a polling location Tuesday, Straus said Trapilo’s stances reflected an “incomplete sense” of how taxes and business work.
On the Republican side, the differences between the two candidates were less clear. McConnell’s campaign was primarily focused on his career with the sheriff’s department rather than policy. Meanwhile, Swift has no campaign website and he turned down multiple requests for an interview with The Light in the weeks leading up to the primary. He did not answer multiple phone calls on the day of the primary election.
Despite Swift’s low profile, he managed to raise $8,720 for his campaign, all from individual contributions. McConnell, even after campaigning door-to-door throughout the district, could only raise $1,370.
Swift appeared confident at a public event hosted by the Mattapoisett Republican Party last week. Party Chair Paul Criscuolo walked up to greet him just before the event started.
“You bring any signs?” Criscuolo asked. Other candidates had brought yard signs to give out to voters, but Swift was empty-handed.
“The town is littered with them,” Swift said, smiling.
In a speech at the event, Swift said he wanted to be a “citizen legislator.” He added that he wanted to repeal the law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Massachusetts — a stance he shares with McConnell.
Swift also listed his plans to improve roads and bridges, protect parental rights, ensure school safety, support fishermen, and transition to renewable energy. But he did not name any specific policies that would achieve those goals.
Either Republican in the GOP race will face steep odds in the general election. Straus has defeated eight Republicans running for the 10th Bristol seat since 1992. As an incumbent, he has never received less than 57% of votes in the general election, and he often received upwards of 70%.
Straus said his campaign strategy for the general election will be the same as it was in the primary.
“It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a primary or a general election,” he said. “The way to win is by talking about the job and my vision for what lies ahead, and to demonstrate to the public how excited I am for the chance to keep representing the district.”
Email Grace Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org.