- Associated Press - Saturday, January 6, 2018

BOSTON (AP) - For Massachusetts politicos, the past year has been something a breather after the tumultuous 2016 presidential contest.

But 2018 should more than make up for the lull with big contests on Beacon Hill and in Congress - along with the promise of a handful of high-profile ballot initiatives, from a higher minimum wage to paid family leave.

For those trying to keep score, a political cheat sheet:

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GOVERNOR’S RACE

Gov. Charlie Baker has been riding high in the polls, but the Republican isn’t taking any chances as he seeks re-election in a state that typically elects Democrats.

Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito head into 2018 with a lopsided cash advantage.

As of Dec. 31, Baker and Polito reported a combined total of more than $10 million in their political piggy banks.

That’s compared to a combined total of about $160,000 for their three Democratic challengers: Jay Gonzalez, a top budget official under former Gov. Deval Patrick ($87,000), former Newton Mayor Setti Warren ($57,000) and environmental activist Robert Massie ($18,000).

Baker has benefited in part from a change in state campaign finance laws that doubled the maximum annual donation from $500 to $1,000.

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SENATE RACE

Another political heavyweight facing re-election is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

It’s the first time the Massachusetts Democrat will go before voters since she defeated former Republican U.S. Sen. (and current U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand) Scott Brown in 2012.

Like Baker, Warren remains a formidable political presence in Massachusetts and has built up a campaign war chest of more than $12.8 million as of Sept. 30.

Warren, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, is anticipating a flood of Republican money from outside the state, both to keep her tied down in Massachusetts and to paint her in a poor light ahead of any 2020 contest.

Her Republican challengers include one-time Mitt Romney aide Beth Lindstrom with $42,576 in her account as of Sept. 30, state Rep. Geoff Diehl, with $281,139 in his account and businessman John Kingston, who has poured $3 million into his own campaign. Technology entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, running as an independent, reported $74,343 in his account as of Sept. 30.

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BEACON HILL

Other statewide officials are also on the ballot.

Attorney General Maura Healey is up for re-election and has drawn a couple of GOP challengers, including Dan Shores, a Boston-based attorney. Shores has faulted Healey for spending too many resources suing Trump and not enough focused on statewide issues. Healey has said the lawsuits are meant to protect the state’s interests.

Healey had $1.5 million in her account as of the end of December. Shores had more than $7,000. A second Republican - attorney James McMahon - is also hoping to unseat Healey. He had about $4,000 in his account.

The other Democratic statewide officials up for re-election this year included long-serving state Secretary William Galvin, who is facing a primary challenge from Democratic Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim. Galvin has faced just one Democratic challenger since he first won the office in 1994.

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CONGRESS

Every member of the all-Democratic Massachusetts U.S. House delegation is also up for election.

The race gaining the most attention - and candidates - is in the state’s 3rd congressional district where Democratic U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas has announced she won’t seek re-election. About a dozen Democratic candidates and a handful of Republicans are vying for the seat.

In the state’s 1st Congressional District, Springfield attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud is launching a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who was first elected to Congress in 1988. Neal also serves at the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

And in the 8th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch is fielding a primary challenge from Boston-based software engineer Brianna Wu. Lynch was elected to Congress in 2001.

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BALLOT QUESTIONS

As in past years, some of the fiercest contests on the ballot may not involve candidates.

Six initiative petitions have been officially cleared to go before Massachusetts lawmakers - and perhaps the state’s voters - including two versions of a proposal calling for strict nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals.

Also advancing are proposals to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, require paid family leave for workers, lower the state’s sales tax and create a permanent sales tax holiday and establish a commission to explore a constitutional amendment on corporate campaign financing.

Voters will also be asked if they want to repeal a 2016 state law barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity in public accommodations.

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