After Ed LeLacheur’s passing last week, I began researching his electoral history and was reminded that prior to 1978 there were four state representatives for Lowell. That all changed as a result of a Constitutional referendum that appeared on the state election ballot in 1974. The question addressed the redistricting process, but also asked whether the state’s House of Representatives should be reduced from 240 members to 160. Statewide, the measure passed by a vote of 1,128,315 to 302,008. In Lowell, the margin in favor was 16,786 to 5239. The redistricting would not be implemented until the 1978 election.
In the 1976 election – the last one prior to redistricting – Phil Shea was reelected without opposition to the 45th District which consisted of Ward 6, Ward 8-Precincts 2, 3 and 4 plus Chelmsford’s Precincts 2 and 7. Ed LeLacheur was reelected without opposition to the 47th consisted of Ward 2-Precinct 1; Ward 4-Precincts 1, 2 and 4; all of Wards 10 and 11; and Chelmsford’s Precincts 4 and 11. Bob Kennedy was the incumbent in the 46th District which consisted of Ward 2-Precincts 2, 3 and 4; all of Ward 3; Ward 4-Precinct 3; Ward 5-Precinct 1; all of Ward 7; and Ward 8-Precinct 1. Kennedy had no opposition in the Democratic primary and defeated Independent Anna Martin in the general election, 6514 to 2707.
The 44th District, which consisted of all of Ward 1, all of Ward 9, and Ward 5-Precincts 2, 3 and 4, had a contested race in the Democratic primary. Leo Farley won with 1653 votes followed by Bruce Desmond (1512), Dennis O’Dea (1325), George Gath (365) and Marie Hurley (203). Farley faced no opponent in the general election.
The 1978 redistricting caused a shake-up in Lowell’s political landscape by pitting strong incumbents against each other in two races. The new 19th Middlesex District merged the seats held by Phil Shea and Bob Kennedy. Shea prevailed in the Democratic Primary, defeating Kennedy 3591 to 3407. Shea faced no opposition in the general election. Incumbent Leo Farley also had a race against another office holder when his district was merged with the Dracut district of incumbent Nick Lambros. In that election, Lambros defeated Farley, 4181 to 4067. While Ed LeLacheur’s district changed, he was not forced to run against another incumbent. He was challenged in the Democratic Primary, however and received 4378 votes to 2691 for Bruce Desmond and 772 for Edward Cahill.
The 1978 redistricting reshaped Lowell’s state house delegation and sowed the seeds of alliances and rivalries that shaped the city’s politics for many years.