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Just one announced candidate for mayor in Easthampton

  • Karen L. Cadieux, Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik's administrative assistant, works in the mayor's office Wednesday. Tautznik said he will not seek re-election in November and Cadieux has said she will run for the position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Karen L. Cadieux, Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik's administrative assistant, works in the mayor's office Wednesday. Tautznik said he will not seek re-election in November and Cadieux has said she will run for the position.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik's office Wednesday. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik's office Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik's desk Wednesday. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik's desk Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Karen L. Cadieux<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Karen L. Cadieux
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Karen L. Cadieux, Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik's administrative assistant, works in the mayor's office Wednesday. Tautznik said he will not seek re-election in November and Cadieux has said she will run for the position.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik's office Wednesday. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Easthampton Mayor Michael A. Tautznik's desk Wednesday. <br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Karen L. Cadieux<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

Mayor Michael A. Tautznik, who won that mayoral contest — and went on to win every one since — announced in October that he is not seeking re-election this fall.

Despite the early notice, only one candidate so far has announced an intention to run for his job — Tautznik’s assistant of 17 years, Karen L. Cadieux.

Former city councilor James P. Kwiecinski, who came in second to Tautznik in a four-way mayoral contest in 2009, said he thinks it is “unfortunate” that no one has come forward to run since Cadieux’s announcement in October.

“It’s a matter of civic pride that people in the community be interested in how things are run,” he said.

Any number of factors could be contributing to the dearth of candidates, ranging from Tautznik’s endorsement of Cadieux to the fact that the election is still more than seven months away. But it’s also likely that Easthampton, like much of the country, is suffering from a lack of interest in political office, one expert said.

Michael Hannahan, director of the UMass Donahue Institute’s Civic Initiative, a program to research and promote democracy, said unopposed candidacies or noncompetitive races are becoming more the norm these days.

“There’s a bunch of things going on,” Hannahan said Tuesday. “One is that it’s increasingly hard to get people to run for office at all.”

He said the number of competitive races for state representative or U.S. Congress last year was abysmal.

Michael D. Tiskus, who served on the City Council for two terms starting in 2002, said in his mind, the problem in Easthampton goes beyond the mayor’s office.

He has repeatedly been disappointed by “a lack of real choice in the ballot box” in Easthampton elections.

“Based on my own experience on the City Council ... I’ve seen a scarcity of candidates for those posts,” he said. “So the mayor being unopposed for years may not be as much about Tautznik as a mayor, but a general lack of enthusiasm for people to step up and run for office.”

Still, he thinks that in the coming months at least two or three other candidates will join the race. “It would be exciting to have a big race,” he said.

Residents hope for choice

Albert J. DiCarlo, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009, is among those who fervently hope more candidates come forward. If no one else does, he said, he would probably run himself.

“Voters should have a choice,” he said. “I think a lot of candidates are better for voters and the stronger candidates will come out ahead. One individual shouldn’t be able to capitalize on it just because no one else wants to spend the time and money to run.”

He predicted that at least one or two others would make a run for the city’s top job. “I think people at the moment are suffering under the doldrums of winter and they’re not worried about the election yet,” he said.

Former longtime Easthamp-ton resident Andrea Burns, who served one term on the City Council before moving to Boston in 2012, said she is surprised that there is only one candidate so far. “Rarely do we get to do a job in which we can have such a direct impact on things that matter most to people,” she said in an email to the Gazette Wednesday.

“I believe it is always better — for the candidates and the community — to have a competitive race,” she said. “Races are about vision, questioning the status quo, debating ideas. A competitive race engages the residents, builds excitement, and brings attention to Easthampton.”

Tautznik maintains that a large pool of candidates is not always necessary to elect a good candidate.

“Having a flush of candidates — a large number of people who can’t do the job — won’t help. Having a few candidates who understand where the community is and where it’s going is more important,” he said.

“But I’m looking forward to a campaign that talks about the issues, the challenges that face the city and the opportunities,” he said. “When any candidate is running for office, I think especially mayor, those things ought to be vetted and talked about.”

He declined to speculate on whether his choice not to run again will lead to a big field of candidates, as in the 1996 mayoral race. “I don’t know. This is another first for us to have a vacancy,” he said.

Calling all candidates

Other than the general lack of enthusiasm for running for office, Hannahan said the shortage of mayoral candidates in Easthampton could be due to Cadieux’s ties to the mayor. That means, he said, that though she is a new candidate, she has a long history of working in the mayor’s administration, giving her some of the momentum of an incumbent.

“You’ve got two kinds of people who run for office. One is the professional politician ... who looks at the race and evaluates their chance of winning. And they might say, ‘I don’t think so’” if the odds aren’t in their favor, he said. That may be happening with Easthampton’s “professional politicians,” he said, since Cadieux has the mayor’s backing.

He said the other type of candidate is “angry and has a cause, and they usually lose.”

And if people think that the city is on the right track, they don’t have much reason to challenge an incumbent, or in this case, a member of his administration.

For whatever reason, Easthampton residents have seemed reluctant to challenge Tautznik in his 17 years in office. After being elected in 1996, Tautznik was unopposed in four of seven mayoral races.

City Council Vice President Joseph P. McCoy said he suspects that a bureaucratic “city issue” may be in part to blame for the lack of candidates coming forward this early in the year. Nomination papers to run for office are not available until July and are due in September.

“That’s compared to other communities, where papers tend to come out in the spring and are due in the summer,” he said. In both Northampton and Holyoke, nomination papers are available in April and due in July. “I think opening up that window earlier would help get people thinking about running.”

He also said he thinks the mayor’s salary, which currently stands at $70,000, could deter some prospective candidates who would have to take a big pay cut if elected. “I know it’s a bad time financially, but I think we need to look at the mayor’s salary to make sure that we can attract good candidates,” he said.

At-Large Councilor Chester A. Ogulewicz said Tuesday he thinks some people might wait to announce their intentions to run until closer to the election. “I think it’s still early,” he said. “I think some good candidates will come forward in the spring or summer.”

Hannahan said he doesn’t buy the theory that being a “surprise candidate” is a good campaign strategy.

“I think if you’re going to run, the earlier you come out the better, because you’ve got to start raising money,” he said.

Since speaking to the Gazette last October about her plans to run for mayor, Cadieux has kept her head down politically. She said Tuesday that she plans to formally announce her candidacy and her platform at an event in May.

Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Brough and Kwiecinski both said they have not decided whether to challenge Cadieux for the top position.

City Councilors reached by the Gazette said they did not intend to run for mayor with the exception of Ogulewicz. He said he is undecided but added that it is a “long shot” that he will run himself.

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

Related

Easthampton City Council needs candidates

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

EASTHAMPTON — At least one City Council seat will be a wide open field come Jan. 1 and councilors are hoping new candidates will consider a run. City Council President and District 2 Councilor Justin P. Cobb announced Feb. 20 that he is not seeking re-election. He said he hoped to encourage more people to run by making the announcement … 0

Leave it to a city councilor to bring up the UNDERpaid mayor's salary. That position started out at 40K. It has increased 30K over 16 years. Not too shabby. I'm sure most people in the private sector haven't seen that kind of increase in their pay. Northampton's population and operating budget is twice the size,and their mayor's salary is 80k. If someone has to take "a big paycut" to take the job, that's their choice.

If Cadieux is not going to announce that she is formally running for mayor until May, why would anyone else be behind the eight ball if they wait until May?

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