BOSTON (SHNS) – Eighty Massachusetts communities will complete elections on Tuesday, with several choosing new mayors, during a cycle that usually produces lower turnout due to the lack of big name up-ballot federal or statewide races.
Though most votes will be cast for municipal leaders, there is also a special Senate election in central Massachusetts where voters in 22 communities will choose who will replace former Sen. Anne Gobi, who resigned in early June to become the state’s director of rural affairs.
The election could inflate the Senate Republican caucus from three to four members if Republican Rep. Peter Durant of Spencer defeats Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, a Gardner Democrat who has a chance to again give Democrats 37 out of 40 Senate seats.
“This particular district, by enrollment, has a fairly higher number of Republicans than many of the other legislative districts around the state,” Secretary of State William Galvin, who oversees elections, said during a press conference on Monday. “The opportunity for any candidate is to bring out their supporters, whatever their enrollment is, and vote for them. And that’s what we’ll see tomorrow.”
This will be the first major election where a GOP candidate has the opportunity to flip a legislative seat under the new chair of the state’s Republican Party, Amy Carnevale, who started in February.
“Congrats to Rep Peter Durant, the #GOP nominee in the upcoming MA State Senate special election. It will be all hands on deck at the @massgop to flip this competitive seat in Nov #mapoli,” Carnevale tweeted after Durant won his primary election in October.
Worcester and Gardner — two of the largest municipalities in the Worcester and Hampshire Senate district — also have municipal elections on Tuesday, likely drawing out more voters in those two communities.
In 2019, the last comparable election year with no presidential or gubernatorial races, just 17 percent of registered voters filled out a ballot in Worcester, Radio Worcester reported at the time.
That was also the last time the city re-elected Mayor Joe Petty, who on Tuesday faces four challengers: Councilors-at-Large Khrystian King and Donna Colorio, chair of the city’s Human Rights Commission Guillermo Creamer Jr., and perennial candidate William Coleman.
Galvin said he is “hopeful” for good turnout in the Senate contest and in the 55 communities that are holding annual municipal elections, choosing local officials such as mayors and local council members.
Six towns are holding special municipal elections, including Arlington, where voters will decide the fate of a tax increase under Proposition 2 ½ and could vote to provide local property tax relief for seniors.
Galvin said anything from 30 to 50 percent turnout is “reasonably acceptable” for municipal races.
“It’s going to vary dramatically depending on the intensity of the races, but generally speaking, for municipal races anything from 30 to 50 percent is considered reasonably acceptable. It’s not acceptable to me. But that’s the range, historically,” Galvin said.
Secretary Galvin Pre-Election Presser – Nov. 6, 2023
In 2019, the secretary said a turnout rate of 30 percent to 40 percent in any community would be “exceptionally high” during an election cycle without statewide and presidential contests.
Galvin on Monday identified some hot spots in cities with open mayoral races, including in Revere, Springfield, Waltham and Windsor.
In Revere, Acting Mayor Patrick Keefe — who took the helm in April following Brian Arrigo’s departure to serve as commissioner of the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation — is looking to retain his mayoral post. His opponent, former mayor and current councilor-at-large Daniel Rizzo, has criticized Arrigo’s administration, and by extension his ally, Keefe, during the lead-up to the election.
Rizzo said the Arrigo administration allowed rampant residential development at the expense of city services, during a recent debate covered by the Revere Journal. Keefe said Rizzo spent his time as mayor “chasing down a corrupt casino and failed and lost and cost the city millions of dollars.”
In Springfield, the incumbent mayor of 16 years Domenic Sarno is facing longtime city councilor Justin Hurst.
City council races in Watertown and Newton boil down to housing and development, Charles River Regional Chamber CEO Greg Reibman wrote in his newsletter last week.
Controversial city council races in Boston display the growing divide amongst progressives and moderates in the city’s leadership.
Two of the leftmost members of the council, Kendra Lara and Ricardo Arroyo, were ousted in preliminary elections in September, and now both districts will have a contest between progressive candidates supported by Mayor Michelle Wu and more moderate options.
A similar dynamic is playing out for the seat Councilor Frank Baker left open, with one candidate supported by the Democratic Socialists of America and another who has the backing of former Mayor Marty Walsh. For an open at-large seat Wu is supporting Henry Santana against self-described “right of center” candidate Bridget Nee-Walsh.
“These races, obviously, as I said, are significant at the local level. And this is where historically our communities have made their decisions on education or local leadership, development, about housing, about taxes. These really are the elections that affect people where they live. So they’re extremely important to participate in,” Galvin said.
He added that each municipality sets its own hours for the local elections, and encouraged voters to check the times they can vote.
Galvin also warned that those who requested ballots to vote by mail who haven’t sent in their ballots yet should either drop them off in drop-boxes or at voting centers.
“At this present moment, literally tens of thousands of ballots are as yet unreceived. That is to say, they are still currently in the custody of the voters” he said Monday morning. “It’s very important these ballots get counted. These people took the time to participate, we want to make sure their ballots are counted.”