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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hot Topic of 2011: Elections

The rumor mill begins to gain momentum in January of an election year. Who is running? What are they running for? Why are they running? These questions always send shivers down the spines of elected and create speculation as to how the political landscape will look when the dust settles.

2011 was no different before or after the dust settled except in Ward 4. Alderman Walter Pero decided not to seek re-election, PDS put a candidate up as they always do, and the third turned out to be the charm for Tony LaFuente as he walked away with the victory.

The head hunting in Ward 7 continued as PDS waged war on their least favorite person, Bob Trane, with PDS heavy weight-supported Katjana Ballantyne. After a brutal battle with a little Joan Puglia in the mix, the main stage would be set for a Bob/Kat showdown in November. With 40 votes separating, the Trane will continue to roll on for the next two years in the Tufts saturated ward.

Tom Taylor had an immensely difficult year, medically, but election season didn’t bring any new headaches. His constituents saw through his challenger and his lack of real campaigning and kept their man in office for another term. How did the Board of Alderman feel about that? Pretty good, actually, as they elected him President for the upcoming year.

The Alderman At Large race brought out candidates from all along the political spectrum. Ward 5er, Todd Easton, seemed to be the target for the obviously-threatened incumbents. Sean Fitzgerald and Mike Nionakis ran clean, viable campaigns and even traveled the fundraiser scene throughout 2011. As November closed in, the Connolly/Desmond/Sullivan/White foursome locked arms and regained their seats at the horse shoe.

Round and round it goes
Somerville awakens on January 1st of an odd-numbered year, rubs its eyes, and listens closely as the rumbling of potential candidates begins to ripple out. Granted, everything is speculation until papers are returned and validated by the elections department, but how much fun it is to keep the rumors circulating on the media scene until then. I’ll be honest; my coverage of the rumor mill gained me the highest page view numbers and comments in Ward 5 Online history, coming in at over 900.

Similarly to our neighbors, elections time in Ward 5 was all talk and no action. Alderman Sean O’Donovan hosted a few fundraisers, one in Magoun Square, but no candidate stepped forward to challenge him despite rumblings from a Porter Square woman. School Committee Representative Mark Niedergang held one fundraiser, but was able to cruise through election season unscathed.

…and on a personal note
I can’t write about elections in Ward 5 without acknowledging the rumors that swirled around my possible candidacy. Thanks to Andy Metzger over at the Somerville Journal, these rumors made the mainstream, Somerville-based news scene. In the past I did work on one city- wide campaign, and after that experience, I promised myself (and have verbalized publicly) that the next campaign I work on will be my own. The position and time are two things I have decided to keep to myself.

Complainers don’t run…
What do the Mayor, the School Committee, and Alderman from four wards have in common? They all ran unopposed in 2011. One person did pull papers against Ward 3 School Committee Representative Adam Sweeting, but never returned them with signatures, solidifying a pretty easy campaign season for the entire board. For all the flack she receives on some blogs, Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz progressed right back to her seat with no roadblocks and, it seems, that residents are pretty happy with Mayor Joe as he was able to campaign for others because he didn’t have to do it for himself this past year.

Does this mean that residents are content? Not if you read comments on news articles discussing city initiatives and major decisions. The criticism is there and includes very realistic and feasible suggestions, but nothing major has propelled anyone to challenge City Hall from the top down.

Break out star of the 2011 Election Season…
He was the most distinct looking candidate with a full beard and diamond earring. His approach to Somerville politics and campaigning in general was a breath of fresh air to those of us who have repeatedly navigated Somerville elections throughout our life. With earth-tone bumper stickers and amazing approachability, the 2011 Election Season game changer for me was my Ward 5 homey, Todd Easton. Todd Easton has been on the Somerville scene is such capacities as soccer Dad, illuminations tour guide, and mustache/beard festival poster boy. The fact that he is not a loony activist or political opportunist gives me hope that this might be the new frontier of politicians in Somerville. Todd gained media attention when he admitted that, if stuck in an elevator with Governor Deval Patrick, he would not let him leave until he informed the Governor how he felt about the Green Line delay and would “remind him of his duty.” Todd has three children in the Somerville Public School System and has promoted such great ideas as a “Vote Local” campaign and how Trum Field should be opened to Saturday morning soccer games to increase foot traffic in Magoun Square. What struck me, oddly enough, was his Twitter feed. When other candidates took on a robotic tone and/or went the dreaded Facebook linked to Twitter route, Todd had personal and original tweets documenting his campaign trail. Unlike some former candidates, Todd has also remained involved and visible, most recently, surrounding the proposed second charter school discussions. Mark my words, Todd will be elected in this city one day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Courtney, i love your run-downs of the local scene. They're always thoughtful and entertaining (todd easton's earring!). I'm sorry to see none of the challengers break into the BOA, but I'm not sure any one of them really could have.

Easton may not be a loony activist, but the irreverence of the beard and earring probably turned a lot of long-timers off because he LOOKED like one. Fitzgerald was too tied to Dorothy Kelly Gay, and Nionakis came across as uninformed and angry in the one big TV debate.

Puglia also came across as angry, and Ballentine often didn't have specific answers to questions.

There were a few potential candidates who were rumored to be running that could have done MUCH better (yourself included!) but unfortunately did not run.

So what are the rumors for the state/federal races this year?