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Edge of 2017: The Wide-angle View of Valley Election Day…

Edge of 2017 is a series analyzing the results and aftermath of the 2017 elections in the Pioneer Valley and beyond.

Jesse Lederman won a Springfield Council seat after coming up short in 2015 (WMassP&I)

SPRINGFIELD—Though just a blip against a national political earthquakes in New Jersey and Virginia, Election Day in the Pioneer Valley did mark both transition and upset. At the Council level, there was turnover across the region. Open seats in Holyoke and Springfield went to individuals quite different than the ones they replace while challengers upended a number of incumbents.

Among mayor’s races there were few surprises. With uncontested races in Chicopee, West Springfield and Westfield, the focus on Agawam and Easthampton, which had open races. But in Holyoke, Alex Morse enjoyed a decisive victory winning reelection and with it, the city’s first four-year mayoral term.

It is difficult to make a full comparison to the national swing, but broadly speaking many Council races did reflect a shift to the left. However, this was likely due to hard work than ideology. Municipal races in Massachusetts are nonpartisan and several races had no conservative conservative element at all.

Easthampton Mayor-elect Nicole LaChapelle (via Twitter/@nicole140)

For example, in Easthampton, attorney Nicole LaChappelle prevailed against City Councilor Joy Winnie. Both are Democrats. Ideology didn’t seem to play a huge role in Agawam either where former School Superintendent William Sappelli defeated Town Council President James Cicchetti.

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz easily also won reelection.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno is only halfway through his term and did not face election this year. But there were open at-large seats on the City Council and the School Committee.

Cheers filled the event space at Nathan Bill’s Bar & Grill in East Forest Park when Jesse Lederman’s victory was declared. Shortly thereafter, with all precinct in, it became clear former City Councilor Timothy Ryan would also be returning to the body.  Ryan had served as a City Council from 1994 to 2003.

Tim Ryan (via Facebook/Ryan campaign)

Lederman’s win was the culmination of close to three years of work. His bid in 2015 came up short, but he finished a strong fourth behind incumbent Justin Hurst, Thomas Ashe and Kateri Walsh. After thanking supporters and campaign staff, he turned to his partner Emilia Ponikiewski and proposed to her. She accepted.

Wards 2, 3, 4 and 6 had contested races this year, but the incumbents prevailed in all of them. In Ward 2, Michael Fenton, facing his first challenge since his first election in 2009, thumped challenger Kency Gilet. In Ward 4, Councilor E. Henry Twiggs, too, prevailed, but by less than 10 points.

The outcome of the at-large School Committee race was closely watched given former City Councilor Jimmy Ferrera attempt at a comeback to city office. He placed second in September’s preliminary, but newcomer LaTonia Monroe Naylor blocked his way Tuesday.  She took second place behind incumbent Denise Hurst who won reelection on a runaway.

Joel McAuliffe (submitted photo)

In Chicopee, a vacancy in Ward 4’s Council seat meant a new face was inevitable. George Balakier claimed that seat unopposed. But in Ward 1, new faces will be taking both the Council and School Committee seats. James Tanhauser prevailed in the latter over Trina LaBonte. Neither were the incumbent, who fell in the September preliminary. Meanwhile Joel McAuliffe ousted Dino Brunetti, a former City Councilor, whom the rest of the Coucnil had appointed to fill out Adam Lamontagne’s term.

That was not the only dethroning. Derek Dobosz turfed Timothy McLellan from the Ward 6 seat.

Across the river in Holyoke, incumbent mayor Alex Morse scored his most decisive win to date. Former City Councilor Jason Ferreira ran a more humane campaign against Morse than the mayor’s past challengers, but he could not persuade voters to change gears.

Mayor Alex Morse.
The campaign chants, “Four Morse Years” proved right. (WMassP&I)

But perhaps an equally satisfying win for Morse may have come in the City Council results. The Ward 6 seat retiring City Council President Kevin Jourdain is vacating will go to Juan Anderson-Burgos, a Morse ally.

In addition to electing its mayor to a four-year term for the first time, Holyoke had a Council election featuring two fewer seats.  In 2015, voters approved a ballot question shrinking the at-large seats to six from eight. All incumbents and two challengers ran, but Councilor Howard Greaney and Diosdado Lopez didn’t make the cut. Neither were fans of Morse.

With Rebecca Lisi’s survival at-large despite earlier fears, the election may have isolated Morse’s fiercest critics on the Council more than ever. By some measures, the Morse opposition’s veto-proof majority has been broken.

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