If the results of the preliminary election yesterday hold true on Nov. 6, there will be 10 women and three men on the new Town Council.
Combined with Mindy Domb’s landslide victory in the state representative primary and Jo Comerford’s write-in State Senate win, it was a good day for female candidates.
Although only 31 percent of the candidates on the Town Council ballot were women, they received 42 percent of the votes. If District 1, where all four candidates are women, had needed a preliminary election, a greater percentage of the votes townwide would have gone to women. Four of the five top vote-getters in the at-large and district elections were women (Mandi Jo Hanneke, Lynn Griesemer, Dorothy Pam and Shalini Bahl-Milne).
Is anyone really surprised? These results expose as baseless the contention by Charter Commission member Julia Rueschemeyer and others that a Town Council would likely have a larger percentage of men than Town Meeting, based on gender breakdowns on other councils in Massachusetts. In fact, the opposite will probably be true.
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The preliminary election also exploded the myth that the Town Council would be dominated by “Big Money,” because of the supposedly urgent need for campaign donations. Candidates’ financial statements, and their answers to a question at last week’s at-large forum, show that personal contact with voters has been much more important than money. We’ll see if this continues in the general election campaign.
The unofficial Town Council vote totals are at the end of this post.
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Of course, we can’t assume that the candidates’ rank will be identical on Nov. 6. With the state representative and Senate races likely to be a non-factor, the composition of the electorate could be different.
District 3 has the greatest potential for a change in the electorate. UMass student John Page survived the preliminary with only 106 votes, finishing fourth of five candidates, but he told me last night that he plans a massive mobilization of student voters for the Nov. 6 general election. District 4 could also be in flux, as the top three vote-getters were separated by only 58 votes.
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In most races, Tuesday’s preliminary election was like a poll. But in District 5 (Precincts 7 and 8, with much higher voter turnout) there were six candidates on the ballot, and thus two were eliminated. They were Aaron Hayden, the former Planning Board and Select Board chair, and Town Meeting member Jeffrey Lee. Either one’s vote totals would have easily come in first in District 3, which had much lower turnout.
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This Town Council campaign has gone pretty much as I had hoped it would. All voters will have choices about who will be making decisions on their behalf, and many capable residents have chosen to run. There are three candidates I would be comfortable with on the council even though they voted differently from me on the new charter.
And more than 300 residents showed up on a hot August night for the district councilor candidate forums, and about 150 attended the at-large candidate forum.
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Shortly before the election, someone created a Facebook page called “Amherst News” and used the town seal to illustrate it. The page displayed a ballot with preferences filled in and it read, “Important information for Amherst voters.”
I don’t know how many readers of the Facebook page thought they were looking at an official document from Town Hall. But I do know that there was a big flap in 2005 when, during the previous charter campaign, the late Larry Kelley did a similar appropriation of the town seal for partisan political purposes. A story in the Gazette at the time cited the law that he violated, according to reporter Scott Merzbach.
The matter was referred to Town Manager Paul Bockelman, and to Facebook. At midday Wednesday, Bockelman said that the town seal had been removed from the Facebookpage.
Kitty Axelson-Berry and Thaddeus Dabrowski admitted involvement with the page.
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Eric Nakajima is a good man, and he’s stabilized the Regional School Committee, but he got overwhelmed by the juggernaut that was the Mindy Domb campaign. I hope that Eric realizes that this wasn’t a vote against him, and that he finds some other avenue to serve the public with his enormous talents.
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Here are the unofficial vote totals in the Town Council preliminary election:
At-Large: Mandi Jo Hanneke, 2,681; Alisa Brewer, 2,460; James Pistrang, 2,438; Andrew Steinberg, 1,826; Robert Greeney, 1,410; Robert Kusner, 1,130; Dillon Maxfield, 570.
District 2 (Precincts 2 & 6): Lynn Griesemer, 855; Patricia DeAngelis, 572; Victor Nunez-Ortiz, 442; Peter Vickery, 434; Juan Ruiz-Hau, 132 (withdrawn).
District 3 (Precincts 4 & 10): Dorothy Pam, 215; George Ryan, 193; Stephen Braun, 157; John Page, 106; Joyce Thatcher, 86.
District 4 (Precincts 5 & 9): Evan Ross, 439; Jacqueline Maidana, 412; Stephen Schreiber, 381; David Reffsin, 271; Niels La Cour (withdrawn), 85; James Roche, 77.
District 5 (Precincts 7 & 8): Shalini Bahl-Milne, 773; Darcy DuMont, 751; Paul Bobrowski, 465; Samuel MacLeod, 460; Aaron Hayden, 396; Jeffrey Lee, 302.