School Committee election shock waves
Tuesday’s city elections were indeed tumultuous.
Despite one of lowest voter turnouts in recent history — an election dynamic that usually favors incumbents — challengers vaulted into winning positions in all three races — City Council, School Committee and Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee.
You can attribute much of the upheaval to the last two years of the zany School Committee.
Budget cuts, labor unrest with the United Teachers of Lowell and a real messy departure of former Superintendent Chris Scott in June created a bitter, disjointed committee whose members were distrustful of each other.
Just look at the results. The ticket-topper was Kim Scott.
Did anyone even know Kim Scott existed prior to this election cycle?
Finishing second was Kristin Ross-Sitcawich. She has a little more name recognition than Scott, but not that much.
These two School Committee member-elects must have been saying ‘holy cow’ Tuesday night once the tally was known.
Incumbent Dave Conway, who proudly topped the ticket the last two elections, dropped to third. This is a guy that considered running for City Council this year, based on his strong performances in 2009 and 2007.
Incumbent Jim Leary hung on for fourth. The last challenger, Robert Gignac, whose youthful appearance — he’s only 22 — triggered plenty of good-natured campaign trail chatter, grabbed fifth.
Incumbent Connie Martin squeezed out sixth.
Kicked out were incumbents Jackie Doherty and Alison Laraba.
If there had been more challengers in the race, pols speculated Tuesday night and Wednesday there would have been an entire committee transformation.
If the electorate ever gave the School Committee a wake-up call, it was Tuesday.
School Committee tremors also were recorded in the City Council contest. Mayor James Milinazzo, the chair of the School Committee, got the boot, finishing 12th.
It’s not the first time a sitting mayor has lost re-election — it’s happened to Ellen Sampson and Armand LeMay — but it hasn’t happened recently.
Milinazzo’s defeat, some pols speculated, could also be traced to his gavel: he used it too often to silence colleagues who questioned the administration during City Council meetings.
And despite his large, political family, John Leahy found out it’s not easy to make the jump from School Committee to City Council. Leahy finished a very-disappointing 11th.
Other election observations:
• Incumbent Rodney Elliott, who is used to finishing at the bottom of the pack, vaulted to 2nd with his persistent questioning of the administration, has the inside track to be the city’s next mayor. It’s a post Elliott has desperately wanted for years. But it’s proven elusive primarily because his colleague’s didn’t like his politics. The stars, however, may now be aligning in Elliott’s favor.
• After running unsuccessfully for School Committee three times, Vesna Nuon is finally elected — but to the City Council!
Has Nuon’s nasty lawsuit against the police department been resolved?
Nuon has potential to do great things on the City Council. He must be careful, however, to avoid the fatal mistakes made by Rithy Uong, the first Cambodian elected to the City Council in 1999.
Nuon’s election will create a vacancy on the Zoning Board of Appeals, as he’s served on that committee for several years.
• City Manager Bernie Lynch should be okay. If Elliott is mayor, Lynch won’t have to worry as much about Elliott banging him around as he’s done the last several weeks. Lynch still has Councilors Kevin Broderick, Bill Martin and Patrick Murphy.
Lynch better remember, however, the basic tenants of Plan E government. If he doesn’t, Councilor-elect Ed Kennedy will surely remind him.
• A slick campaign backfired on council candidate John “Sal” MacDonald. Bus tours, robocalls and impractical proposals did him in.
• Incumbent Greater Lowell Tech committee member Dave Laferriere got what he deserved: defeat. Winning that race was Tech grad Erik Gitschier.
Gitschier, the insiders said, worked it hard. His candidacy probably got a bounce, too, from those who felt his wife, assistant city clerk Angela Gitschier, got a raw deal after clerk Richard Johnson resigned in July, accused of stealing city funds.
• Normally the Blue Shamrock is packed on election night. This year, however, there was plenty of room to move around the Market Street bar. Turnout at the BS matched turnout at the polls.