Voters head to the polls to decide contested races in Northampton, Easthampton, Southampton

Tuesday, November 05, 2013
Voters in three Hampshire County communities will head to the polls Tuesday to decide competitive races for mayor, City Council, School Committee and state senator.

Among Northampton, Easthampton and Southampton, the highest voter turnout is expected in Easthampton, where there is a four-way race for mayor to fill the spot held for 17 years by the city’s first mayor, Michael A. Tautznik.

Voters in the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire state Senate district will choose between Democrat David K. Bartley of Holyoke and Republican Donald F. Humason Jr. to fill the seat Michael R. Knapik vacated Aug. 9.

The district comprises Easthampton, Southampton, Westfield, Holyoke, Southwick, Agawam, Tolland, Russell, Montgomery, Granville and parts of Chicopee.

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Easthampton City Clerk Barbara LaBombard said she expects 45 or 46 percent voter turnout for election day. If her estimate is correct, the turnout will be one of the highest Easthampton has seen for a city election since its first mayoral election in 1996, which drew 58 percent of voters. In 2009, also a four-way mayoral race, voter turnout was 46 percent.

Based on the 11,464 registered voters in Easthampton, that means between 5,159 and 5,273 are expected to vote.

Officials in Northampton and Southampton predicted much lower voter turnouts, estimating between 20 and 25 percent.

Southampton Town Clerk Eileen Couture estimated the turnout at around 25 percent because the special Senate election is the only thing bringing voters to the polls.

Inclement weather is not likely to play a role in voter turnout, with the forecast calling for a partly sunny day with temperatures around 50 degrees.

“The weather is going to be nice,” said Northampton City Clerk Wendy Mazza. “There can be no excuse than to get out there and vote. Come on now.”

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in all three communities.

The contests

Voters have a lot of reasons to come to the polls in Easthampton. In addition to choosing someone to succeed Tautznik, the ballot also includes the first contested City Council race since 2009 and the first contested School Committee race since 2007.

Voters will also get a second ballot at the polls because of the concurrent special state election to fill the open Senate seat.

LaBombard based her voter turnout estimate on the number of absentee ballots she received by the deadline Monday at noon. This year, 163 voters turned in their city ballots by the deadline, close to the 166 who filled out absentee ballots in 2009 when turnout was 46 percent. “I think turnout is going to be similar to 2009,” she said Monday.

Candidates vying to be the city’s second mayor are Nancy L. Sykes, Karen L. Cadieux, David G. Ewing and Herbert M. Glazier.

Sykes plans to watch the election returns with supporters at 8 p.m. at the Apollo Grill in the Eastworks building, while Cadieux plans to do the same at the Brass Cat, a bar on Cottage Street where Tautznik often waited for returns. Ewing said Cadieux invited him to join in the election party there, and he will either do that or meet with supporters at The Hideaway Lounge in Eastworks. Glazier said he will watch the results with friends in the common room of the John F. Sullivan Housing for the Elderly apartment building, where he lives.

The seven people running for four at-large City Council seats are incumbents Joseph P. McCoy, Nathaniel P. Ziegler, Donald L. Cykowski and Chester A. Ogulewicz Jr., and challengers Tamara L. Smith, Donald C. Emerson and James “J.P.” Kwiecinski.

Seven are vying for six School Committee seats. They are incumbents Peter T. Gunn, Lori J. Ingraham, Deborah B. Lusnia and Laura N. Scott, and newcomers Wendy G. Bloomenthal, Daniel R. Carey and Kelley S. Hopkins.

In Northampton, where incumbent Mayor David J. Narkewicz is running for re-election unopposed, Mazza predicts the turnout in the 20 to 25 percent range, considerably less than the 49 percent of voters who cast ballots two years ago when Narkewicz defeated Michael R. Bardsley. There are 19,778 voters registered for this election, meaning that about 3,000 to 4,000 people are expected to hit the polls.

“The driver of turnout is a mayor’s race,” Mazza said. “The percentages in the individual wards where there are contested races will be higher, but I don’t think that will change the overall percentage too much.”

Voters will decide six contests, including competitive races for City Council seats in Ward 6, where incumbent Marianne L. LaBarge is being challenged by Yvonne C. Keefe; in Ward 7, where incumbent Eugene A. Tacy faces a challenge from Alisa F. Klein; and in Ward 2, where current councilor Paul D. Spector squares off against Jason T. Foster.

Two caveats that could bring the citywide turnout up are contested races for two at-large council positions and three trustee positions at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Mazza said.

In the at-large council race, incumbents William H. Dwight and Jesse M. Adams and challenger Anthony L. Patillo are vying for the two seats, while the Smith Vocational trustee race pits five candidates against each other for three seats. Those candidates include incumbents Michael T. Cahillane, John E. Cotton and Thomas M. FitzGerald and challengers John V. Lind and Dennison J. Wolfe.

The School Committee’s lone contested race is for two at-large seats, where voters will choose from among Kari Nykorchuk, Samuel Welson and incumbent Blue DuVal.

Voters can choose two candidates in both the at-large races, and three candidates in the Smith Vocational trustee race, though Mazza said they are not required to do so. A voter who casts a ballot for one candidate can leave a second or third option blank and their sole vote will still be counted.

“No ballot gets invalidated,” Mazza said.

Though this year’s biennial municipal election in Northampton may not be generating the same type of interest as in 2011 and 2009, when hotly contested mayoral races drove people to the polls, it is unique in one respect. Voters for the first time will be electing a mayor for a four-year term instead of the traditional two years. The change is a result of the city’s new charter, which voters approved a year ago. Narkewicz, with no challengers, will most likely remain the city’s 44th mayor through at least 2017.

Additionally, voters in Ward 7 will have no candidates to choose from to represent them on the School Committee. Incumbent Downey Meyer did not return his nomination papers, but has said he would like to serve another term and is asking voters to write his name in.

To follow the results of the election as they become available, check back to GazetteNET after 8 p.m. Tuesday or follow staff writers Chad Cain and Rebecca Everett on Twitter at @CainGazette and @GazetteRebecca.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.