HOLYOKE – Election season has arrived in Holyoke and voters will select their favorite mayoral candidates on Tuesday in a preliminary seven-a-side race that will decide which two go to the November general election.
Early voting is already underway at City Hall ahead of the September 21 preliminary elections. The race will narrow the field to two candidates, who will compete on Nov. 2 to be sworn in immediately as successor to Alex Morse, who spent nine years as mayor before leaving in March to become general manager of Provincetown.
For many in Holyoke, change is in the air. This is how Carmen Ocasio, president of the South Holyoke Neighborhood Association, feels. She said the election is important to her and everyone in the city.
âWe have to have change here at Holyoke and not just have someone there for a title,â Ocasio said. “Someone who’s really going to get the job done and really clean up Holyoke.” You have to start by solving the problems that have been constant for so many years and are getting worse, and try to make them better. “
The seven candidates who made it to the ballot for Tuesday’s preliminary municipal election are: academic and activist Gloria Caballero Roca; Joshua Garcia, City Manager of Blandford; writer William Glidden, who was an assistant to the walrus; businessman Christopher Kosinski; member of the Devin Sheehan school committee; and city councilors in general Rebecca Lisi and Michael Sullivan.
The preliminary election comes less than two months before the general election, when voters will decide not only a new mayor, but at least five new city council members. This is the number of incumbents who refused to stand for municipal elections. And there are contested races for the six general seats of the city council and five of the city’s seven wards.
“This is definitely a time of transformation,” said Matt Szafranski, editor of the Western Massachusetts Politics & Insight blog and a longtime follower of Holyoke politics.
Szafranski said that many Morse opponents over the years have rallied behind Sullivan, but not entirely. Those who have supported Morse over the years seem to be drawn to the other candidates, he said. Some people will choose the municipal or administrative experience of Sullivan, Lisi, Garcia or Sheehan, while others will be drawn to the philosophy of bringing together the people Glidden and Caballero Roca married during the election campaign, he said. .
In campaign materials, Glidden said he intends to stand up for the city’s schools, work with the Police Department to build on their ‘exemplary’ community policing, and work with Holyoke Gas & Electric. to keep the city away from fossil fuels. He said he wanted to promote Holyoke’s assets to make the town a prime location for business and provide affordable and market-priced housing in part by rehabilitating the existing housing stock.
Lisi highlighted her 14 years on city council, as her work to revitalize the city’s urban core by bringing in new businesses, including the cannabis industry. She advocated for a municipal broadband internet network, planning to take back control of the city over its schools from the state, and working to implement “budget-conscious, evidence-based approaches to reduce crime âwhile limiting the costs of overtime in the police department and empowering a citizens’ commission to ensure transparency and accountability.
Garcia shed light on his experience in managing municipal finances as an administrator for the City of Blandford. He said his priority would be to improve city hall operations to protect public funds and local assets. He said he would tackle the city’s deficits and increase free cash balances, develop sound financial policies, establish a capital improvement program and increase the city’s stabilization accounts.
Sullivan touted his economic development plans, promising to support industries such as cannabis manufacturing, hydroponics and robotics seeking to move downtown, as well as to rehabilitate buildings and build new ones there. infrastructure. He said he would work to end a moratorium on natural gas in the city, improve hydropower capacity and implement more active monitoring of commercial properties in the city.
In a candidate forum earlier this month, Kosinski spoke about his background in marketing, sales and negotiation. He said he intends to focus on education and tackling crime, which will help attract businesses to the city. He also said he wants to improve the way city departments communicate and work together, and is committed to getting public feedback from city residents.
Caballero Roca often spoke of investing in the people of the city. Its platform includes investments in housing across the city, preserving and expanding green spaces, improving transport, and prioritizing green energy and food sustainability in the context of climate change. As an academic and educator, she vowed to fight for local control of the city’s schools and the expansion of educational opportunities.
Sheehan made his central campaign plots renewing the city’s commitment to city infrastructure, economic development and community building. He said he would fully assess the city’s properties and create an advisory committee on capital improvements, and work with city council and the Office of Planning and Economic Development to streamline ordinances and commercialize the city. city ââin order to attract new businesses.
Some mayoral candidates have already raised and spent significant sums as Tuesday approaches.
In August – the most recent month for which data is available for all applicants – Glidden raised by far the most money with $ 11,122. Lisi raised $ 4,335 in August, Sheehan $ 2,725, Caballero Roca $ 1,625 and Sullivan $ 1,115, according to data from the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
Some candidates, however, have filed more up-to-date campaign finance data with the state, also covering receipts for September. Glidden raised $ 3,213, Lisi $ 2,459 and Caballero Roca $ 275 in September.
Available state campaign finance data shows that Sullivan raised the most money this year: $ 59,317, of which $ 20,000 was transferred from his previous campaign account. Glidden raised $ 49,501, Lisi $ 41,276 including $ 7,916 from a previous account, Sheehan $ 26,664 including $ 8,044 from a previous account, Garcia $ 8,260 and Caballero Roca $ 5,444.
Kosinski did not raise any money and did not launch any official campaign.
Of the $ 196,411 that has been raised in total so far in the race, $ 150,257 has been donated by donors who have identified their profession. Of that $ 150,257, about 40% was donated by retirees, business owners and managers, developers and lawyers.
As the preliminary elections approached, candidates spent substantial amounts of campaign money.
As of August 31, Sullivan had spent $ 40,442 – the highest amount of any candidate. Much of that money was spent on video ads and advertisements, including $ 20,500 spent with the Northampton campaign advertising company Horgan Associates and $ 5,000 on Facebook advertising.
During this period, Lisi spent $ 31,777, including $ 4,505 on billboards, $ 3,600 on political consultation with the firm Almquist and Associates and $ 2,782 on lawn posters and stickers from the union printing company The Blue. Deal.
Glidden’s $ 27,007 expenses included $ 8,750 paid to campaign manager John Dolan of Northampton, $ 3,475 on signage for a Texas-based company, $ 2,754 on direct mail and $ 2,500 on campaign launch video.
Sheehan spent $ 11,562 through August, including $ 2,938 on direct mail, $ 2,300 on advertising and $ 828 on garden signs. Garcia spent $ 9,303, including $ 2,683 at LGR Production, for video advertising and Facebook advertising services. And Caballero Roca spent $ 3,705, including $ 800 for campaign consultant Juan Sanchez, $ 505 on road signs and $ 459 on flyers.
Some candidates have gone public with the approvals they have received and local groups have shown support for their preferred candidates.
The A Better Holyoke for All group – formerly the Keep Holyoke Affordable for All committee, which successfully opposed a 2019 tax exemption vote issue to fund the construction of two new colleges – approved Sullivan. He is part of a list of candidates that the group has supported.
Lisi, meanwhile, has gained approval from a handful of city officials and unions, including the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Western Mass Area Labor Federation, as well as the only two Latinas who currently sit on city council: Councilor. long-time resident of 1 Gladys LebrÃ³n district. -Martinez and Libby Hernandez from Room 4.
Garcia received the endorsement of State Senator Adam Gomez, D-Springfield, the first Puerto Rican to ever serve in the state Senate.
Dusty Christensen can be contacted at [email protected]