In Holyoke Prelim, Morse Emerges Strong, Ferreira Lives to Fight..
HOLYOKE—Facing their first ever election to choose a mayor to serve four years, voters here displayed a mix of blah and Morse-mentum catapulting the incumbent Alex Morse and former city councilor Jason Ferreira into the November election. That face-off headlines a Fall campaign season which will also implement significant governmental changes Paper City voters approved two years ago.
Morse captured 57% of the vote according to results from the Holyoke City Clerk. Yet turnout was meager, reflecting relative calmness of the race. That the mayor and Ferreira, who once represented Ward 4, advanced surprised few. They were the only two candidates with broad name recognition and any money to speak of. By comparison, two years ago, Morse faced two high-profile challengers.
In an interview with WMassP&I at his campaign headquarters on Route 5, Morse said voters “know my leadership style” and the results reflect that. “They’re confident that I have Holyoke’s best interests at heart.”
Morse noted, correctly, that he faced moderately to lavishly financed challengers in prior preliminaries. Last time, home healthcare mogul Francis “Fran” O’Connell dumped nearly $80,000 into his campaign account before the preliminary—and more after. The presence of a sitting City Council, Anthony Soto, also goosed turnout in the prelim.
Not quite 26% turned out on September 22, 2015, while turnout just missed 14% Tuesday.
The nature of the mayoral race was not the only factor in Holyoke’s low turnout. The city had only one other preliminary race, Ward 3’s council seat. Incumbent David Bartley will face longtime activist Darlene Elias, who narrowly beat our Anne Thalheimer for second place.
Despite the factors weighing down turnout, Morse’s showing remains impressive for a city that has endured fraught and fractured preliminaries for the last several cycles. A combination of fatigue and complacency might have yielded a narrower result. Instead the mayor’s reelection bid a shot in the arm.
However, Ferreira was not deterred.
“We put in a lot of hard work and time,” Ferreira said at his results watch party down the street from Morse’s. “I feel good about our chances in November.
Despite periodic flare-ups, Ferreira has not run an apoplexy-fueled campaign as Morse’s previous challengers have. In addition to his term on the Council, Ferreira has run citywide before, making his success Tuesday unsurprising. Paul Bowes and Michael Siciliano, both on the ballot for mayor, simply lacked the firepower to break through. At-large Councilor Diosdado Lopez also launched a quixotic write-in campaign Saturday that garnered 53 votes.
But the challenge of dislodging Morse remains daunting. Ferreira indicated he was hopeful to get some big-name support that sat out from the preliminary and would continue to plug the policy and platform he has offered.
“I think they make sense for Holyoke,” he said.
Where Ferreira can consolidate support over the next six weeks will have an impact on how the race shapes from here.
Morse and company have an eye on that as well. Mindful of the low turnout, the mayor said his campaign often found many of his voters skipped preliminaries. However, they showed up in the general, suggesting he expected a boost come November.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” Morse said.
If he’s right, then that gives him and his organization more room to maneuver elsewhere, too. Allies of Morse, like councilors Gladys Lebron, Rebecca Lisi, and Jossie Valentin—who is unopposed—and Juan Anderson-Burgos, candidate for Ward 6’s open Council seat, could benefit. Morse’s campaign will be “working to get their message out as well,” he said.
The mayor’s race notwithstanding, shifting attention to the Council races could be worth watching. With Ferreira somewhat to the left of Morse’s past challengers, many of his voters could be casting ballots for Morse’s allies, too. Between the two mayoral campaigns—and the reduction in two at-large Council seats—many changes could be in store for Holyoke come January.