Another Lynn election is in the books and the results are, to say the least, a bit shocking. That being said, Election 2011 in Lynn definitely represents a step in the right direction for a city ready to make its mark in the 21st century.
The top-tier race of the election this year, with the absence of a mayoral contest, was the race for 4 At-Large seats on the City Council. The race offered up some surprises, and clearly helped draw the battle lines for 2013.
Tim Phelan, current Council president, topped the ticket after showing up en masse with plenty of sign holders at local polls. Between a barrage of internet advertising, and a show of force at the polls, Phelan is, without doubt, gearing up to challenge Mayor Kennedy in 2013. Mr. Phelan's clear intention was to put himself into position as the inevitable challenger. Topping the ticket certainly helps his cause in that department, but, in my opinion, it probably wasn't the slam dunk he was looking for.
I think everyone knows of the little push-and-shove relationship between Phelan and the equally, if not more, popular Councilor at Large, Dan Cahill. Between under-the-radar political jousting, to Cahill's insurgent, yet ultimately unsuccessful, bid to replace Phelan as Council President, there does appear to be a rift of sorts. Both men might deny it in public, but I think it be so. And, beyond that, I believe another chief goal of Phelan's was not only to top the ticket and position himself for 2013, but also to trounce Cahill. Unfortunately for him, the margin between himself and Cahill was probably not as wide as Phelan would have hoped for. This says to me that Cahill is on the rise in this city, and will probably be a force for decades. It might be Phelan's time in the near future, barring a surprise entrant into the mayoral foray in 2013, but Cahill has the wits and know-how to have true staying power.
The other two At-Large councilors that will be sworn in in January are Buzzy Barton (not surprising), and Hong Net ( a bit surprising). Buzzy seemed like a shoo-in from the get go. He began campaign operations relatively early in the political calendar, and built up a strong committee that seemed poised to push him into City Hall. Incumbent At-Larger Steve Duffy seemed resigned to the fact that Buzzy would find a place on the council, likely at his expense. Solid prediction from Mr. Duffy.
Hong Net worked his tail off and it has clearly paid off. During the summer, his campaign signs began sprouting up across the city, and from that point on, Mr. Net's candidacy seemed to catch fire.. While he finished outside the top 4 in the preliminary election, there was clearly some momentum, and by the time election day rolled around, Mr. Net was too big to ignore. In knocking off incumbent Paul Crowley, Net accomplished something many would have deemed impossible not too long ago. While Paul Crowley has put in hours on behalf of the city, Mr. Net's candidacy and victory represent a giant leap forward for Lynn. His victory, in tandem with Mr. Barton's, help to showcase the dynamic makeup of our city.
In the most topsy-turvy race of the night, Rick Starbard and my friend Charlie Gallo shocked many by finishing 1 & 2 respectively in the vote for School Committee. Starbard and Gallo finished 7th and 8th in the preliminary, making their top of the ticket performances all the more surprising. In perhaps the most surprising defeat of the night, Vin Spirito will not be returning for another term, losing by 120 votes to sixth place finisher Maria Carrasco. Gallo, at 28, is another refreshing victor from election day. I say this as often as I can: there are not many from my generation who are yearning to stay in Lynn. Who are willing to fight for Lynn. The fact that Charlie had the courage to come back 4 years after a devastatingly close loss for this same seat to finish so strongly shows what kind of man Lynn elected. Returning to the Committee are incumbents Donna Coppola, Patricia Capano, John Ford, and Carrasco. Dolores DiFillipo, who after the primary looked to be in good shape, finished in eigth, about 160 votes behind Carrasco for the final slot, with Spirito between them. It has to be a tough one to swallow for DeFillipo, but she seems likely to run for a 3rd time sometime in the future.
The Ward races, largely (and frustratingly) ignored, offered no real surprises. Of the seven Ward's, all incumbents ran, and all incumbents will return to City Hall in January. Only two, Wayne Lozzi in Ward 1 and Richard Collucci in Ward 4, faced an opponent. Both men won relatively comfortably. The power of incumbency is strong here, but the lack of candidates in these races is truly upsetting. It isn't about whether or not Rick Ford or William Trahant or Pete Capano are good guys who do good work. It is about hearing from different voices and finding new ideas to help continue to make Lynn a 21st century city. Seeing the incumbents declare victory because they returned a signature sheet is, frankly, undemocratic. That being said, the citizens of Lynn need to strap it on and have the guts to get out there and offer up their ideas. This is not the Presidency. These races are local and perhaps the purest we have. I had a conversation on election day with School Committeeman John Ford about this very issue. He told me that, back in his father's time, there would be 8 or 9 candidates for these seats. That, to me, is a beautiful thing. Too often, Lynners are more resigned to complain amongst each other, or on the Item message boards. Cynicism can not, and will not, help our city improve. When Lynn can get back to that point, where its citizens are aching to represent it in a positive way, we will know Lynn has made true progress.
Feel free to share your reactions to the results. Also, how does 2013 shake out now? Interesting times in Lynn politics!