LAWRENCE – He's just weeks into his first term two-year term on the City Council, but already Pavel Payano is considering his next career move: a run for the state Senate, which he said he may announce as soon as March.

She's just completed the first year of her two-year term representing the city's 16 Essex District in Boston. But even before year one was a wrap Juana Matias was moving on to her next big thing: a run for the U.S. House of Representatives.

If they win their contests, Payano and Matias would be the Merrimack Valley's ultimate power couple, a boyfriend-girlfriend duo hoping to catapult out of the seats they only just started to warm at City Hall and in the Statehouse and onto something loftier.

“Some people think they have too much ambition, Pavel and Juana,” said Franklin Miguel, who came in fourth in the race for three at-large seats on the City Council last year, meaning he would be on the council now had Payano not run for the seat he's already considering giving up. “People who were running for that seat could have paid more attention to it.”

Miguel said he'll run for the City Council again if Payano moves on to the Senate seat.

“They're talented, young, educated people with aspirations,” said Marcos Devers, a former city councilor and acting mayor who was coasting to a fourth term representing the 16 Essex District when Matias – with no political experience – came out of nowhere to defeat him in 2016. “That's the game. Everyone has the right to run.”

Devers announced two weeks ago he will run to regain the seat he lost to Matias and will stay in the race even if she abandons her bid for the seat in Congress that Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell, is giving up after a decade. The seat is the 3rd Congressional District.

Standing in the way of what would be the Matias/Payano Merrimack Valley political juggernaut in Washington and Boston is state Sen. Barbara L'Italien.

L'Italien is running for seat in Congress that Matias also is seeking, so the two may face off in a Democratic primary should both stay in the race.

If L'Italien pulls out of the race for Congress and runs instead for re-election to the state Senate, she may find Payano staring her down. She has until March to decide which seat to seek.

Through an aide, she declined to comment.

Payano, 32,  rejected the suggestion that he might seem overly ambitious by considering a run for the Senate this year even as he ran for the council last fall.

In fact, he suggested he's been holding back.

“Some people tried to get me to run for mayor last year,” he said. “I chose not to.”

He said he's heard the criticism before, when he ran first ran for the Senate seat when Barry Finegold gave it up to run for state treasurer in 2013. He lost to L'Italien.

“When I ran four years ago, people said the same thing – 'Just finish one more year on the School Committee and then run,'” said Payano, who served on the Lawrence School Committee for six years until he was elected to the council last year. “I don't think there's ever a sort of right time. These opportunities come along every six or eight years. Some people (stay on) as state representatives or senators for 15 or 20 years.”

Matias, 30, did not return phone calls seeking comment. But in an interview after announcing her bid for Congress, she noted that, like her boyfriend four years earlier, she was dismissed as an overreaching 20-something when she mounted her challenge to Devers.

“When I was running last year, I was told I needed to wait in line and that it wasn't my turn,” she said. “I felt the challenges that families were facing in Lawrence were too important for me to sit on the sideline.”

Like their personal lives, Payano's and Matias' political messages overlap.

“Pavel's family came to Lawrence in the late 1980s in search of the American dream,” Payano says on his campaign website.

“Send the American dream to Congress,” Matias says on hers.

Matias and Payano have something more in common. Both have law degrees but neither practices.

Payano earned his degree from Suffolk University, but has not been admitted to the Massachusetts bar.

Matias has been admitted to the bar, but her membership has been suspended because she has not renewed it, as is required annually, and so she also can't practice.

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