The most attention a Massachusetts congressional race experiences is often in the first 24 hours after news breaks of an open seat.

By next summer you might be hard pressed to find anyone talking about the upcoming election to succeed Niki Tsongas, but people were burning up the phone lines last Wednesday and Thursday, following her unexpected retirement announcement.

I, naturally, took part in it, trading names of potential candidates along with other reporters, elected officials, political consultants, fundraisers, operatives, and party kingmakers. And, in trying to assess those candidates’ chances—and in particular, those who might vie in the Democratic primary—I asked for thoughts of how the dynamics of this race might differ from the one in 2007, when Tsongas won a special election for that House seat.

And then one of my best-connected, most-entrenched Democratic sources—who had been working the phones as much as anybody—posited that all of these conversations might be a complete waste of time. “It’s such an outsider year that we could all be wasting our time talking about politicians,” the operative said.

In other words, all of us on these hundreds of criss-crossing phone calls within traditional political circles might be completely unaware of the person who will ultimately win the Democratic primary, and then likely win the general election and head to Congress to represent the Massachusetts 3rd district in January, 2019.

That winning candidate for these times might very well be somebody far enough outside of those political circles to credibly run on a message of fighting the system.

This longing for new champions isn’t just about Donald Trump, although his election both reflects and exacerbates it. Several of the Bay State’s most recent election winners—and currently most popular office-holders—had never held elected office before: Charlie Baker, Elizabeth Warren, Maura Healey, and Seth Moulton.

Voters, according to this same political operative, are feeling frustrated, angry, and scared. They are looking to connect with a candidate who they believe will fight hard for people like themselves, on issues they care about, against the maddeningly intractable forces of obstruction, bureaucracy, corporatism, and indifference.

An elected official, running for higher office, can potentially fill that role. But part of the frustration is the sense of “us” against “the government.” As the above examples—and of course Trump—demonstrate, it’s easier to sell yourself as part of the “us” side of that equation if you’re not holding a government title.

That mood cuts across ideological lines, and according to some is largely independent of ideology. To put it one way, people want to believe you’re going to try hard to fix things in a way that helps them, more than they care about what approach you’ll take to do it.

But, of course, it also expresses itself through increasingly rigid opinions along a growing ideological divide—especially among Democratic voters, in a state that gave 48% of its 2016 Presidential primary vote to Bernie Sanders.

 “There’s more of a hunger for progressive leadership” now than 10 years ago, says state senator Jamie Eldridge, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2007 on a platform of single-payer health care and ending the Iraq War.

Eldridge, who is looking into running for the seat again, also points out that the progressive grassroots movement was still young in 2007; today, they are a widespread, experienced, savvy network ready to have a say in choosing a new member of the state’s Congressional delegation.

Those progressive activists can occasionally get excited about a career politician—many are already giddy at the prospect of volunteering for Eldridge if he runs—but they are more often drawn to outsiders: Don Berwick in the 2016 gubernatorial race, and Deval Patrick before that.

Oh, and another thing: “Democratic primary-voting women are pissed,” says Scott Ferson, Liberty Square Group president, who consulted for Eileen Donoghue in the 2007 special election that sent Tsongas to Washington. Others I’ve spoken with share that analysis.

It all adds up to a palpably different feel than that when the seat last opened up 10 years ago, upon Marty Meehan becoming chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. Yes, Tsongas was a first-time candidate, but she was seen far more as a link to the legacy of her late husband, U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas, and someone with ready-made D.C. connections, than a gate-crashing outsider.

The district itself has changed as well, thanks to redistricting based on the 2010 census. The biggest difference is the addition of roughly 100,000 residents along a stretch of northern Worcester county: Ashburnham, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Lunenberg, Westminster, and part of Winchendon. That’s a quite different electorate than the Merrimack Valley anchored by Lowell; the poverty-plagued Lawrence region; and the upper-middle-class liberal enclave in and around Concord.

That’s four distinct regions, with at least four different kinds of discontent.

Even though Democrats were plenty angry with George W. Bush at the time, Democrats were looking forward after regaining the U.S. House and Senate—and the Governor’s office, in the optimistic form of Deval Patrick—in the 2006 elections. The looming economic crash hadn’t yet fully hit. Occupy and Black Lives Matters movements were still in the future.

“In 2007 the issues weren’t framed as “George W. Bush is horribly wrong,” Ferson says. “Now, it’s just ‘I’m sick and tired of the whole thing.’”

Without an obvious dominant frontrunner ready to bigfoot the primary, it sure looks like a race where the right non-politician outsider can emerge.

Among the 20-plus Democrats whose names I’ve heard floated—among the insiders’ telephone-tag conversations—a few could potentially pitch themselves for that role.

Ellen Murphy, former wife of Marty Meehan, could audition for it. This will be her first time running for office, which provides a clean slate, and some think she can be an impressive and compelling candidate. But, there’s no getting around her connection to the long-time holder of the seat before Tsongas. There are also indications that Tsongas might be encouraging Murphy, who co-chaired her 2007 campaign.

There’s also Daniel Koh, who would be making his ballot debut and certainly carries the look and attitude of a new, Moulton-esque candidate. That might be a tough sell, however, for the chief of staff to the mayor of Boston.

Even some of the state legislators looking at the race could pick up the populist mantle, if they can tell their story right.

But I’ll be on the lookout for someone else: a veteran, perhaps, or a business or non-profit leader, or a former government appointee.

One political consultant points out that the Concord side of the district is chock full of Harvard Kennedy School graduates, many of whom fancy themselves potential members of Congress. (Or perhaps Harvard Business School, from which both Moulton and Koh graduated in 2011.)

There are also quite a few former members of the Deval Patrick and Barack Obama administrations in the area. One is Samantha Power, Obama’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who lives in Concord.

“For a lot of Democrats who have been in the service, or worked for Obama, the Trump administration presents a problem of what your role is,” says Juliette Kayyem, who served for both Patrick and Obama before running for Governor in 2014. “For some, it’s going to take the form of running for office,”

Heck, I even brainstormed on social media for celebrities with ties to the district. Suggestions included Tom Bergeron of Haverhill, Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt of Hudson, Steve Carrell of Acton, Michael Chiklis of Lowell, Chris Evans of Sudbury, Peter Gammons of Groton, Steve Kornacki of Groton, Jay Leno of Andover, Paula Poundstone of Sudbury, Jim Rice of Andover, Mickey Ward of Lowell, and Rob Zombie of Haverhill.

OK, maybe those are a little far-fetched. I’m just saying, Massachusetts Democrats might need to stretch their imaginations beyond the usual state legislators and political namesakes.

“Even more than when I ran, people want a new face,” Kayyem says. “A new generation Democrat who can bear the possibility of defeat should really jump in.”