Somerville attorney undecided on party as he runs for Middlesex probate seat

Auditi Guha

With John Buonomo facing more than 30 criminal offenses, potential challengers are now eyeing the chance to run against the Middlesex County Register of Probate.

Among them is Somerville attorney and Ward 5 Alderman Sean O’Donovan, who is undecided as to which of the four ballots he will run on.

Asked if he plans to give up the Democratic Party he said, “Right now we’ve ruled out the Republican Party, but we are trying to figure out our options. We are doing a lot of research and are talking to people in the county to come up with the best possible scenario.”

He has to make a decision before the Sept. 16 primary. O’Donovan is a registered Democrat who announced last week that he will run against Buonomo, potentially as a Working Families Party candidate.

He is sure about not giving up his current seat. Asked about his duties as an alderman, he said, “I would never abandon the city and I am not precluded from (continuing as an alderman). I would carry on my duties until we as a city were prepared to find a new alderman.”

O'Donovan did note he would have to give up the legal practice he has had since 1993. “The Register of Probate is not allowed to practice law so if I win, I will have to cease practice by January,” O’Donovan said.

Despite charges of pocketing cash from his Cambridge office's copy machines, Buonomo still plans to run for reelection in November. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently on unpaid administrative leave.

“I am running because I want to restore professionalism and integrity to the office,” O’Donovan said. “It’s part of the judiciary and in my practice of law I have dealt with probate matters. I love the court system and I hope I can make it better.”

According to Brian McNiff, a spokesman in the secretary of state's office, Republican candidates who opt to mount write-in or sticker campaigns, must receive at least 1,000 votes to have their name placed on the November general election ballot. Democratic challengers must also receive at least 1,000 votes to have their names placed on the ballot.

“On the Democratic side, if somebody decides to run, they have to beat Buonomo, who is on the ballot,” McNiff said.

As a Working Families Party candidate, O’Donovan's votes would have to come from either fellow Working Families Party or those voters unenrolled in any party, McNiff said.

If Buonomo wins, however, there's no guarantee the incumbent's name will stay on the ballot.

Following the primary, Buonomo could still withdraw from the race by Sept. 22, McNiff said. In that case, he said, Democratic committees would have until Sept. 25 to caucus and put forward a candidate.