Quantity & Quality, at Electoral Season’s Start in Springfield…
SPRINGFIELD—An early wave of enthusiasm has greeted the start of only the second mayor-less election cycle in the region’s largest city. A sizable clutch of candidates for City Council and School Committee took out papers Tuesday, the first day they were available for the 2017 election cycle here.
It is too early to know if every ward and at-large seat on both bodies will have a race, but the prospect of an open at-large seat in Springfield has plainly upped interest. But more than just unbottling pent-up political eagerness, the early signs suggest this race is attracting several significant intriguing candidates, too.
At-large Concilor Bud Williams, who has been a councilor for 22 of the past 24 years is widely expected to decline reelection after winning a state rep seat last year. That leaves a coveted at-large Council seat at 36 Court Street open. The last open at-large seat was the one Jose Tosado left behind to run for mayor in 2011. Williams won it after a two-year absence following his own quixotic mayoral bid.
By the end of the day Tuesday, seven challengers had pulled for council at-large. Another candidate announced Wednesday. If eleven or more candidates file, a preliminary will be held in September to whittle the field down to 10 candidate who will appear on the November ballot.
The interest in the at-large Council race is not to say the other seats will not feature races.
Ward 2 Councilor Michael Fenton is expected to face his first challenge since winning the seat in Springfield’s first ward-based elections in 50 years. Kency Gilet, a therapist, filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance late last year. Ivelisse Gonzalez, a 2015 mayoral candidate, has also pulled papers for the seat.
Most ward councilors are currently expected to seek reelection. Rematches of the 2015 races are possible in wards 1, 5 and 6. Ward 4 Councilor E. Henry Twiggs, who did not pull papers on Tuesday, could face perennial candidate Lorenzo Gaines. Ward 6 Councilor Ken Shea obtained reelection paperwork, as did Bonnie Paddleford. Though Shea’s 2015 challenger, Kim Rivera, could run again, too.
School Committee members, who serve four-year terms, are also up this year. While at-large member Denise Hurst seems likely to run for reelection, Norman Roldan, appointed last year to finish Calvin McFadden’s term, may not. Lamar Cook, a 2015 council candidate, and LaTonia Naylor have pulled papers.
Zaida Govan, who sought the district seat representing wards 2 and 8, is seeking a rematch with incumbent Peter Murphy. Meanwhile Giselle Vizcarrondo could take on Barbara Gresham in the seat representing wards 4 and 5. Neither incumbent in those races have announced reelection plans.
But the early spotlight goes to the at-large council race. Though not a rule, former councilors and prior unsuccessful Council aspirants have been favored in later bids. Examples include Williams, at-large councilor Kateri Walsh, Domenic Sarno and former councilor Carol Lewis-Caulton. At-large Councilor Thomas Ashe, a one-time School Committee member also falls into this category.
That might give a leg up to Jesse Lederman, who placed sixth in the 2015 race for the Council’s five at-large seats. He raised nearly $20,000 for that campaign and boasts a fairly large following in the city’s activist circles. His kickoff is slated for April 19.
Just pulled papers for the #SpringfieldMA City Council At-Large. I love Springfield and hope to earn your vote for a safer, healthier city! pic.twitter.com/QOLxTqikOq
— Jesse L. Lederman (@JLLederman) March 28, 2017
Lederman will not be the only once and future candidate this year. Ernesto Cruz, an aide to now-State Rep. Tosado, ran in 2013. He placed seventh that year. However that year, like 2017, was a non-mayoral election. The altered political environment helped at-large Councilor Justin Hurst swipe a seat and push Jimmy Ferrera out of the city’s legislature. Cruz will launch his campaign Thursday night.
City activists like Jynai McDonald, a regional manager with Training Resources of America per her Linked In profile, could quickly become top-tier challengers. McDonald has some profile in Springfield on police-community issues and worked on Rep. Carlos Gonzalez’s campaign.
Following Donald Trump’s election, there has been a surge in women officer seekers. Whether that is happening is Springfield is not certain. Nonetheless, McDonald is not the only woman looking to reverse the city’s low ratio of female elected officials.
Other women who got paperwork Tuesday were Marylin Felix and Tracy Whitfield.
Kelli Moriarty-Finn, who works in financial services, declared her campaign Wednesday morning on the steps of City Hall surrounded by a group of supporters. In addition to setting a kickoff event in April, Moriarty-Finn has also taken a key step of registering with OCPF.
Springfield Council candidates must organize a committee and report fundraising and spending with the state agency. Besides Moriarty-Finn, only Cruz and McDonald have done so. Lederman never closed his 2015 campaign account. Of the ward challengers, only Gilet has filed with OCPF. School Committee candidates file campaign finance statements with the city Election Commission.
Rounding out the at-large field so far are Victor Davila and Kevin Green. Both have Facebook pages up. Davila, a business owner and city activist, ran for a ward seat in 2009. Green heads a nonprofit in Springfield. Neither has filed with OCPF, yet.
Besides Williams, no other incumbent has clearly indicated an intent to resign. However, it remains possible. Should more retirements happen, it will only stoke interest further in a city where seductively open seats are few and rare.