At-large council candidates meet with Northampton voters as election nears

  • Pam Powers, the Northampton City Clerk, and Jack Favaro, an election worker, close the Northampton Senior Center after Powers had collected the early voting ballots at the end of the day Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021. The last day for early voting was Friday, Sept. 24.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/26/2021 8:19:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Polls will open Tuesday morning at 7 for voters in the city’s preliminary election, and with the race down to the wire, the five candidates for City Council at-large met with voters in Leeds over the weekend to ask for their support.

The Ward 3 and Ward 7 neighborhood associations hosted the candidates for an in-person meet-and-greet outside Leeds Elementary School on Sunday afternoon. The roughly 40 attendees and the candidates wore masks and sat in circles of eight to ten people.

In the order they will appear on the ballot, the candidates are Michael Quinlan, David Murphy, Marissa Elkins, Jamila Gore and Michelle Serra. Voters will choose four candidates, and the fifth will be eliminated from the Nov. 2 general election.

Quinlan is the incumbent Ward 1 councilor; Murphy served as Ward 5 councilor for 14 years until he was ousted in 2019. Elkins is a defense attorney and vice chair of the Planning Board. Gore and Serra are longtime progressive activists and political organizers.

Jo Ella Tarbutton-Springfield, a member of the Northampton Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners, suggested to Serra that incumbent city councilors and candidates should visit affordable housing developments and talk to the residents face-to-face.

“People who need help are not getting help,” Tarbutton-Springfield said. “They want to meet you. They’ve got something to tell you.”

Prospective voters asked candidates about recent calls to reallocate police department funding, their ideas for redesigning Main Street, the general election ballot question that would allow the city to offer municipal broadband and the balance of power between the mayor and City Council.

City Councilor Rachel Maiore of Ward 7, which encompasses Leeds and part of Florence, asked Elkins for her thoughts about potential charter changes that could shift some power away from the mayor; Quinlan engaged with seniors about their needs for parking downtown and his idea for a city dog park. Murphy described his financial expertise and described positions that he laid out in guest columns for the Gazette.

Gore fielded questions about her own experiences riding public transportation and lamented that a public bus does not service Leeds. When Heidi Stevens, president of the Leeds Civic Association, said that the PVTA’s R42 route runs into Leeds, Gore said she would “take a bus tour” with Stevens.

“Sometimes the councilors don’t think that what’s happening in Leeds is as important” as the needs of Northampton, Stevens said. “People do come here to recreate. It’s a lovely place.”

Voters on Tuesday will also narrow down the field of mayoral candidates to two. The candidates, in the order they will appear on the ballot, are Gina-Louise Sciarra, Rosechana Gordon, Roy Martin, Shanna Fishel and Marc Warner. Although she will appear on the ballot, Gordon dropped out of the race in August due to “health and personal reasons.”

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. A list of polling locations is available on the city clerk’s website.

Mail-in voters must leave enough time to ensure their ballot arrives at City Hall by the close of polls on Tuesday. Ballots can also be dropped off, before polls close, in the gray box below the front steps of City Hall, 210 Main St., or inside at the city clerk’s office.

Brian Steele can be reached at
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