Campaign notebook: Races aplenty shaping up for Northampton election

  • Northampton City Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/7/2021 1:15:19 PM

NORTHAMPTON – A preliminary election is likely as eight candidates collect signatures to run for mayor and contests shape up for several critical elected seats.

If needed, the city’s preliminary election will take place Sept. 28 to narrow the field of candidates.

Each elected office has a different number of candidates that would trigger a preliminary election. For mayor, that number is three.

Eight candidates for mayor

As of Tuesday, eight people have requested nomination papers from the city clerk’s office to replace outgoing Mayor David Narkewicz.

The candidates are City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra; social worker Shanna Fishel; engineer Jared Greenberg; transportation analyst Marc Warner; multicultural organizational developer Rosechana Gordon; former Smith College employee Jodi Shaw; Roy C. Martin, making his 10th run for the office; and former police officer George J. Russell, Jr.

Sciarra and Fishel are certified to appear on the ballot for a four-year term. The other candidates have not yet turned in their nomination papers, according to the city clerk’s office.

Shaw said she is in a “purely exploratory” phase of the campaign. Russell declined to comment.

The mayor’s salary is $92,500 per year.

City Council ward races take shape

Ward 1 City Councilor Michael Quinlan is giving up his seat to run for one of the council’s two at-large spots. To date, there is one candidate, Emily L. Coffin, to replace him for a two-year term as ward councilor.

Ward 2 councilor Karen Foster is running unopposed for reelection, and so are Alex Jarrett (Ward 5), Marianne LaBarge (Ward 6) and Rachel Maiore (Ward 7).

Voters in Ward 3 may be asked to choose between incumbent James Nash and challenger David Kris. Kris is planning a campaign kickoff at Bridge Street School on July 17.

Ward 4 could see a race between Garrick Perry, manager of the downtown music venue Bishop’s Lounge, and Jesse Hassinger, owner of the Main Street restaurant Belly of the Beast. Incumbent John Thorpe is not seeking a second term.

Three candidates running in a ward race would trigger a preliminary election.

Five at-large candidates for two seats

Both at-large city councilors are stepping down from their seats. William Dwight served as the Ward 1 councilor from 1997 to 2005, then rejoined as an at-large member in 2012. He is not seeking reelection, and neither is Gina-Louise Sciarra, the council’s president and a candidate for mayor.

Michael Quinlan, the Ward 1 councilor, is already certified to run for an at-large seat, and so are former Ward 5 councilor David A. Murphy and Jamila Gore, a self-employed writer and former educator from Ward 2.

The others who requested papers are attorney and Planning Board vice chairwoman Marissa Elkins and Michelle A. Serra, a longtime political organizer who has worked with Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity and Progressive Democrats of America, among other organizations.

If all five candidates are certified for the ballot, the preliminary election will narrow the field. The top two candidates in the general election will win the seats and serve two-year terms.

The position pays $9,500 per year.

School Committee field

A total of five School Committee members have announced they will not seek reelection, including at-large member Susan Voss. As of Tuesday, no one has taken out papers to represent Ward 2 or Ward 6 on the committee.

Margaret S. Robbins is running for the Ward 1 seat and Michael K. Stein is running in Ward 4. Both are currently unopposed. Running for reelection are Emily Serafy-Cox (Ward 3), Dina Levi (Ward 5) and Kaia Goleman (Ward 7), all of whom are unopposed.

Committee member Roni Gold is running for reelection to one of the two at-large seats. Gold could face a challenge from former Jackson Street Elementary School principal Gwen Agna and Longmeadow Public Schools teacher Aline Davis, both of whom requested nomination papers and announced their candidacies.

Northampton is the only community in Massachusetts with two local school boards. The School Committee is tied to Northampton Public Schools, while Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School has a separately elected board of trustees.

The board of trustees could see a historic race in November. All three incumbents are running for reelection against three challengers, and if all are certified for the ballot, it will represent the most candidates for the board in at least 22 years.

The incumbents are Michael Cahillane, John Cotton and Thomas FitzGerald. The challengers are Richard Aquadro, former owner of the general contracting and construction management company Aquadro & Cerruti Inc.; Thomas Pease, the commander of Florence VFW Post 8006; and Julie Spencer-Robinson, a Florence resident who spent 27 years as a teacher in Northampton.

One more candidate for a two-year term would trigger a preliminary election.

Key deadlines

Candidates and voters should pay attention to a variety of deadlines that are coming up in the months before the Nov. 2 general election.

By July 30 at 5 p.m., nomination papers are due to the Board of Registrars for certification of signatures. If a preliminary election is necessary, a drawing of names to determine ballot position will take place on Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.

The last day to register to vote in the preliminary election is Sept. 8.

The deadline for a preliminary election candidate to request a recount is Oct. 4 at 5 p.m., at which time a drawing of names will take place for ballot position in the general election.

Brian Steele can be reached at bsteele@gazettenet.com.


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