Bill Clinton’s reelection led the ballot in 1996. His Republican opponent, Bob Dole, had won his party’s nomination despite finishing second in the Massachusetts Republican Primary that March. In Lowell, Pat Buchannan received 827 votes, Dole 659, Steve Forbes 241 and Lamar Alexander 146. Clinton, of course, won the November 5 presidential election. In Lowell, he received 16,912 votes to Dole’s 5896 and Ross Perot’s 2911.
The big statewide race in 1996 was for the US Senate seat. Republican governor Bill Weld challenged two-term Democratic incumbent John Kerry in that race. Statewide, Kerry received 1,334,345 votes to Weld’s 1,142,837. In Lowell, the percentages were about the same with Kerry receiving 13,781 votes to Weld’s 11,267.
In the First Middlesex State Senate District, incumbent Dan Leahy’s decision not to seek a third term set of a furious fight in the Democratic primary between State Representative Steve Panagiotakos and city councilor Matt Donahue. Panagiotakos prevailed, 8836 to 4043. In the general election, Panagiotakos received 35,909 votes to Republican Ken Dwyer’s 12,049.
Panagiotakos’s senate run left an open state representative seat in the Highlands. In the Democratic primary, Kevin Murphy (1702 votes) defeated Joe McNamee (1010 votes) and Don LeBlanc (353 votes). In the general election, Murphy prevailed over Lowell school committee member Tim Golden, 4213 to 3578.
In other races, Marty Meehan was reelected to a third term in Congress by defeating Patrick Raymond of Clinton in the Democratic primary, 23,405 to 4156. Meehan was unopposed in the general election. Cynthia Creem was re-elected to the Governor’s Council without opposition as were state representatives Tom Golden and Ed LeLacheur. In the 16th Middlesex District, incumbent Republican Carol Cleven defeated Democrat Patrick Sparks of Carlisle, 12,818 to 4156.
Two contested county offices spiced up the bottom of the 1996 ballot. Republican Brad Bailey had been named by Governor Weld to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Middlesex County Sheriff John McGonigle and now Bailey was running for the the balance of the six year term. In the Democratic primary, State Representative Jim DiPaola of Malden won with 32,577 votes to the 21,091 received by Ed Kennedy of Lowell (former city councilor and Middlesex County Commissioner), the 10,500 votes of Ed Rideout of Cambridge and the 5613 votes of Leonard Golder of Stowe. DiPaola defeated Bailey in November, 310,699 to 247,397.
In 1990, Republican Donna Lambert had shocked the Massachusetts political world by defeating Tom Larkin in the Middlesex Register of Probate race. In 1996, her reelection drew a large field of Democratic challengers whose countywide and then Lowell vote totals are shown below:
Robert Antonelli of Woburn – 11,916 – (1261 in Lowell)
John Buckley of Medford – 11,122 – (1495 in Lowell)
Frank Flaherty of Arlington – 11,035 – (1229 in Lowell)
Marie Howe of Somerville – 10,135 – (886 in Lowell)
Diane Poulos Harpell of Acton – 6829 – (1509 in Lowell)
Joyce Hurley of Framingham – 6349 – (698 in Lowell)
Wanda Milik of Carlisle – 6091 – (709 in Lowell)
Ronald MacDonald of Winchester – 2926 – (308 in Lowell)
In the general election, Antonelli defeated Lambert, 272,922 to 249,181. His edge in Lowell was smaller – 11,382 to 10,337.