Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election done, what did we learn?

Well that was fun. Election 2011 has come to an end, with at least a few surprises. Strong victories by Josh Turiel in Ward 5, and Todd Siegel in Ward 3 signaled that residents in those two wards were ready for some change. Incumbents John Ronan and Jean Pelletier were soundly defeated in each of their precincts. Ward 5 voters were also quite intensely interested in the ward race. It featured easily the lowest number of write-ins (2) or blanks (18) of any of the ward races. I'm thrilled for Josh, and think he'll be a great councilor. He definitely ran a hyper-focused, targeted campaign. He owes his victory, at least in part, to the work that Matt Veno put in. Matt put his name on the line, penning a letter to 600 likely voters in the ward, strongly endorsing Josh. They saved it for the final week to limit the opportunity to respond. It generated more buzz than anything else the campaign produced. I don't know Siegel at all. I can tell you what was on his website, and what he told Salem Patch. I'll be interested to see what kind of councilor he'll be. I'm reserving judgment.

I'm convinced Josh Turiel will be an excellent councilor in Ward 5. He has the common sense, problem solver approach that I saw in Darek Barcikowski, as well. I think he'll play it pretty down the middle, as well. You won't be able to assume his vote is with the administration, or against it. Exactly as I'd prefer it. One note, John Ronan saw Josh outside of one of the polling stations just after the polling station results had been posted inside. He went out of his way to very graciously approach Josh, shake his hand, and congratulate him on his victory. Very classy (with a C) of him.
When it came to the at-large race, ward 3 was much less cohesive, but rather, was a tale of two precincts. The downtown precinct was very much in favor of change, with Darek Barcikowski placing second. The Swampscott road end of the ward seemed to be about two things. Status quo, and the transfer station. There, Barcikowski finished seventh, behind everyone but the Matts. (Yes, even Teasie nipped him by 3 votes.) Sargent and Pinto, who've both expressed reservations or opposition to the transfer station, finished second and third, behind Joan Lovely, who finished first everywhere except for in 6-1, where Kevin Carr carried his home precinct by 9 votes. Nice job by him. Tom Furey placed 4th, indicating that 3-2 wanted all of the at large councilors back.

Ward 4 cost Darek Barcikowski a seat. It also voted more old school than other wards. The order of finish in 4 was Lovely: 500 votes, Pinto: 390, Sargent: 388, Furey: 367, Carr: 339, Barcikowski:196, Riley-Goggin 187. The difference between Carr and Barcikowski here was more than the difference in the election. Darek needs to focus on getting the ward 4 numbers up if he hopes to be elected city-wide down the road. Teasie even beat him in ward 4-1 by 10. I'm sure the transfer station played a huge role in this ward as well. He bested her everywhere else, including her own neighborhood. 4-1, further from the transfer station, had Pinto 4th. 4-2, near the transfer station had Pinto, a solid no vote, second. Darek said after the election that he had probably spent the smallest portion of his campaigning time in ward 4. Lesson learned. I'm sure we will see plenty more from him. Best campaign I've seen in Salem.

Kevin Carr joins the city council, and I'm not sure what to make of him, either. The fellowship of the miserable (Salemweb, Patch, Salem News commenters) have labeled him as a toady for the mayor. The school committee doesn't seem like it covers an awful lot of controversial stuff for him to throw down with her about. I watched plenty of school committee. I didn't really see anything that made him stick out, positive or negative. Like Siegel, I'll wait and see. He ran very strong in 6 and 7. The 78 votes that separated 4th and 5th could have flipped any number of places. Really, every vote mattered. I don't understand why 5399 blank votes were cast. Steve Pinto goes home. I'm absolutely shocked after his strong primary showing. I guess his supporters were rabid, but not big enough in numbers.

So that's what happened, of interest. What do we learn from it? What are the implications?

I think this election eventually goes down as either a blip, or the beginning of a shift in Salem voting patterns, where ideas matter more than lineage. New school starts to compete with old school. A lot of the "old guard" was at least winged in this one. Jim Fleming expects to top the ballot (doesn't he always), but finished 3rd, behind Deb Amaral (first time candidate tops the ticket) and Nate Bryant. Primary results tell us that Fleming and Pinto have plenty of die-hard support, and that they mobilized well. Their widespread support is dwindling. I can't imagine Deb Amaral being the choice of the crusty old Salem voter, yet she topped the ticket. Bryant doesn't seem that type either, and he was right on her heels. "Newcomer" Josh Turiel (only 19 years) beats a candidate whose father's father was born in Salem. A Siegel beats a Pelletier. A two-year resident gets more votes than another "born and raised" incumbent. I hope it's not a blip. If it's not, candidates, especially after they are elected, will really have to practice more self-reflection than some of the current crop has displayed. One now deposed candidate actually threatened me outside the polls yesterday. (Guess the world's worst-kept secret finally reached him.) I wish I could take credit for his demise, but he definitely owns it himself. He must be even madder now that the results are in. They were his actions of course, and not anything I wrote, that led to him losing his seat. If not for those actions, I'd have never written about him at all. If only I had the kind of influence necessary to change elections. (Someday ... dare to dream ...) It was just another example of his lack of self-reflection. Clearly this couldn't be his fault. Must find someone to blame.

Teasie Riley-Goggin's ship has sailed. Fifth last time, seventh this time. Officially irrelevant as a candidate. Seventh in her own precinct. Not a threat to a mediocre candidate. I assume we'll see her at council tonight. Isn't there something we can find to let her contribute to the city? A board seat or something? She clearly wants to serve. Let's put her to work.

Matt Fraser and Matt Richard could have mattered in Wards 2 and 1.

The mayor's office on the ballot really must matter. Turnout, with a truly blah field, was 27% in 2009, with a much more interesting race, it was 21% this time. That said, I think I favor a 4 year term for the mayor's office. I'd rather not have a mayor who is constantly in campaign mode.

Will any of this matter much? Probably not.

We also learn that the mayor is still wildly popular, and the Salem News matters a lot more than the fellowship of the miserable would have you believe. They endorsed change in support of the mayor's agenda (really blatantly), and they definitely got some. The two whipping boys of Benton and the News are gone. (I'm not saying I was easy on them.) Ronan lost half of his support from his first election. She lost one of her own in JP, but I'd bet she's pleased today. Two other city officials I happened to see last night were clearly pleased with the results. Also, we learn that the fellowship of the miserable (including me) aren't a good indication of public sentiment. (Though it was a hoot to see Patch's/Salemweb's "Windpower" out campaigning yesterday. Ahoy!) This election didn't really go the way they seemed sure it would.

I got a few of my predictions right. Lovely topping the ticket, winning by at least 500 votes (actually almost 1000), turnout being far below the city clerk's hopes of 32%, and landing at 21, right in the range I predicted. I was right that at least 3 at-large councilors would return. I was wrong about which one wouldn't. I had Pinto second, he ended up sixth. I was right that Prevey would win in a rout, that McCarthy wouldn't be unanimous, and Big Metal Box did in fact get some votes.

I was far off base on ward 3 and 5, where I clearly gave too much respect to the incumbents, especially in 5. They also weren't close, as I had predicted. I also predicted Jim Fleming to finish first, not a distant third. He wasn't in danger of losing his seat, just his bragging rights. Times are changing in Salem?

A few consequences: Siegel's election likely dooms any chance of a transfer station deal. We're also unlikely to see any potentially controversial proposals from the administration before the new council is sworn in come January. I assume they'll hold as much as they can until the changeover, and take their chances with the new lot. Kevin Carr's election means that the council and school committee will have to meet to appoint a new member to the school committee. His vote totals don't support it, but his resume does, they should appoint Francis Vigeant to the seat. He seems like a quiet guy, and I'm sure campaigning came very hard to him, but seriously, he's completely qualified. Finally, it was expected, so I'm told, that Steve Pinto would assume the council presidency in January. Who takes it now? It has to be Joan Lovely, right? How painful would an O'Keefe or Furey presidency be? Sargent is quiet, I can't imagine him volunteering. Don't think it would be fun to watch, either. McCarthy and Prevey have done it recently. I can't picture Sosnowski wanting it, but maybe. You aren't going to make a newbie do it, right? Gotta be Lovely. She hasn't done it in quite a while, and the newbs will need the guidance.

Final note: Salem Patch has had great coverage of this election. Yesterday was the perfect example of the new kid absolutely wiping the floor with the traditional news guys. It was what Patch should always strive to be. Quick, agile, broad, and first. The Salem News was getting its at large totals off of my calculator before results were handed out. If I ever go again I'll do a spreadsheet ahead of time and save myself the math. It was chaos while they were trying to calculate who made it.


  1. Good analysis. Though voting patterns might be changing, name recognition is still huge. Carr's numbers in wards 4 and 6 had little to do with where he stood on issues. For me, most votes cast was based on where I stood on issues. Back in 2 years for sure! This has been the election's greatest dissapointment for so many throughout the city. We campaigned for change and delivered change, I tell them. Though not personal, it was a big victory for Salem.

  2. Ward 4 is WitchCraft heights and the "Lynn" part of Salem.


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