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The Short List Counts The Days 'Til Local Preliminary Elections

A voting sign.
Shannon McGee
Creative Commons / flickr.com/photos/shan213
A voting sign.

As we review news of the week, we look ahead to the local election season in western Massachusetts.

A mayoral preliminary will be held in Springfield on Tuesday, September 10, as Mayor Domenic Sarno starts his bid for another term. He'll be facing Yolanda Cancel and Jeffrey Donnelly, with the top two vote-getters moving on to November's general election.

Turnout has been low in recent years for city elections, including just barely 7% in 2015, the last time there was a preliminary for mayor.

City Councilor Adam Gomez is looking for that to improve.

"We need people to go out and make sure that their grandmothers are getting to the poll, and their grandfathers," Gomez said. "We have to make sure that kids that are 18 years of age know that they can vote, and we need to tell our returning folks from incarceration that felons can vote in the state of Massachusetts."

Panelist Mike Dobbs doesn't see any reason to think that'll change on Tuesday.

"Here's the problem," Dobbs said. "You've got a mayor's race that is not generating a lot of interest. You've got an at-large City Council race that is going to be interesting. And you have a very interesting Ward 4 City Councilor race in which Councilor E. Henry Twiggs has given up his seat. So it's an open seat. There's four contestants for that particular position. Those City Council races may generate more interest among voters than the mayor's race."

Pittsfield's mayoral preliminary election is Tuesday, September 17, as Mayor Linda Tyer seeks her second term in office. She'll face three others: City Councilor Melissa Mazzeo, retired police officer Karen Kalinowsky and businessman Scott Graves. The top two in the voting will move on to the November election.

Crime has become an issue in the Pittsfield race.

Panelist Larry Parnass said challenger Mazzeo is "pretty credible" — and on crime, has raised an important issue in her campaign. But he said incumbent Tyer still may not have too much to worry about in the preliminary race.

"There's way too much gun violence in Pittsfield, and even over the summer, it kind of heated up," Parnass said. "So I think [Mazzeo is] right to say that people are concerned about that. And yet, when she put this out recently as a campaign move, I was not struck by the solutions that she's offering to this — just not convinced that she was presenting to people ways that she could reduce crime."

Parnass said Tyer has a record of addressing Pittsfield crime, including introducing ShotSpotter technology that helps police quickly find locations where guns have been shot.

"There've been five shootings in a month," Parnass said. "Not all with injuries, but there was a fatal shooting in late August. I think Tyer's going to do OK on that issue."

Also this week, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healeyapproved a dozen potential ballot questions, 10 of which could eventually go before voters in 2020. They include measures on immigration law enforcement, liability for gun crimes, ranked-choice voting, and access to vehicle repair information, among others. 

The next step will be for supporters to gather more than 800,00 signatures from registered voters by early December.

As the MGM Springfield casino has now passed its one-year anniversary, services to help problem gamblers are just getting started. Springfield has secured state money to hire community health workers to focus on gamblers, but they are not yet hired. 

Listen to The Short List Podcast.

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Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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