Northampton voters give Narkewicz strong endorsement


  • David Narkewicz GAZETTE PHOTO

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz takes a congratulatory call after departing city hall for a victory party at Fitzwilly's to celebrate his reelection to a third term on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, right, his wife, Yelena Mikich, center, and Northampton Democratic City Committee Chair Elizabeth Silver, left, watch the results of the municipal election posted on a large screen at city hall on Tuesday, November 7, 2017. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, center, and his wife, Yelena Mikich, await results of the municipal election at City Hall on Tuesday. Behind them is Northampton City Council Vice President Ryan O’Donnell. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David Narkewicz swept to easy victory in Tuesday’s election, as Northampton voters gave him 5,351 votes to challenger John Riley’s 1,440.

“I’m gratified to win,” Narkewicz said. “Obviously, gratified by the large margin.”

The margin was 79 percent to 21 percent, a commanding victory rarely seen in contested elections.

“My people didn’t show up,” said Riley.

First elected in 2011, Narkewicz, 51, easily won a third term taking the vote in all seven wards and all 14 precincts of the city. Riley, meanwhile, did best in Ward 6, Precinct A, winning 233 votes to the incumbent’s 365.

“It’s really humbling and I’m really grateful to the voters of Northampton for allowing me this opportunity to serve a third term,” Narkewicz said. “It’s a great city, and we’ve got a lot of really incredible stuff going on.”

He spoke about sustainability, infrastructure, supporting downtown businesses and keeping Northampton open and welcoming in terms of his future priorities.

Riley said that he called Narkewicz to congratulate him on election night.

“We had a nice conversation,” he said.

He said that they had enjoyed getting to truly meet each other during the campaign, and that they both appreciated that they’d run a clean campaign.

“We did Northampton proud,” he said.

Riley, 67, was a leading opponent of the stormwater fee, which he has called an illegal and regressive tax. Repealing it was a major reason behind his decision to run for mayor.

He said the number of people opposed to the stormwater fee wasn’t reflected in his electoral support, and he is considering further legal recourse.

“I’m like a dog with a bone,” he said.

A Northampton resident of more than 40 years, Riley owns Gabriel Books and was one of the founders of the Iron Horse Music Hall. He also put forward plans to make the city into an international destination, and to do more to promote Northampton as a tourist destination by capitalizing on its historic significance.

Despite praising the mayor’s administrative skill, Riley took a number of swipes at Narkewicz, hitting him particularly on the stormwater fee issue and his attempt to assert municipal control over the library.

Narkewicz chose not to engage much with Riley’s attacks, instead focusing on his record as mayor.

First elected to a two-year term in 2011, Narkewicz won re-election to a four-year term following city charter reform. Narkewicz has also served as president of the City Council, and once enjoyed a career as a congressional aide.

In the campaign, Narkewicz highlighted his administration’s ability to secure outside funding, such as with the $1.7 million federal grant to expand the efforts of Hampshire HOPE to fight the opioid crisis countywide. He also noted his management of the budget, and how the city had achieved a AAA bond rating under his watch.

Narkewicz also highlighted the moral issues the city had taken a stand on under his stewardship, such as being open to taking in refugees and declaring Northampton to be a sanctuary city that offered no help to federal agents seeking to deport otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants.

Reflecting the results, most voters interviewed at the polls Tuesday favored Narkewicz, with a number expressing enthusiasm for him.

“We have a good mayor, I(’d) like to see him stay on the job,” Gordon Coates said.

“I just think he’s done a lot for this city,” Mary Beth O’Connor said.

“Just trying to keep the momentum going,” said Mark Jewell, voting with his young daughter in tow.

“I’ve been very impressed with his positions and his demeanor,” Mary Rothermich said. “He seems to be doing a good job.”

Sally Conway shared how Narkewicz had personally helped her with an issue.

“I just thought he was incredibly friendly and competent,” she said

Stephen Quigley chose to vote for Riley chiefly because of the stormwater fee issue.

“There’s nothing wrong with David Narkewicz, he’s a great mayor,” Quigley said. “But, in me, there’s always the underdog mentality.”

Leigh Merriam also gave Narkewicz support for the stormwater fee as a reason why he was backing Riley.

“I’m a property owner,” he said.

A Sanders supporter himself, Riley said that he appreciated the Vermont senator’s tenacity. He also didn’t rule out running for mayor again, although he said that he would be devoting himself more to his painting, writing and video work now that he had more free time.

“I would think about it again,” he said.