By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher
The deadline for pulling nomination papers for Peabody’s city election came and went at 5 p.m. on Friday, and it appears that the most-competitive races this fall will be for School Committee and in Wards 1 and 4 for the City Council.
Here’s a quick August analysis of how the field shapes up in the ward races, for councilor at-large, and on the school committee. Incumbent Mayor Ted Bettencourt was the only candidate to pull papers in that race, and for the second straight term, he’ll run unopposed.
City Council ward races
Incumbent councilors in Wards 2, 3, 5 and 6 are each unopposed.
Ward 1 Councilor
It’s a three-way battle for an open seat between Jon Turco, Anne Quinn and Brian Barrett, which will necessitate a primary on Tuesday, Sept. 29th.
What’s interesting here is the race between Turco and Barrett.
Turco’s very active in the South Peabody community, and was instrumental in helping then city councilor Ted Bettencourt carry Ward 1 when the Mayor first beat Sean Fitzgerald for the chief executive seat in 2011.
Barrett, who was once Peabody’s assistant city solicitor, comes from an old South Peabody family, and his dad was a long-time city councilor.
This one is a battle of new Peabody (e.g., those who “emigrated” from places such as Revere, East Boston, Everett and Chelsea) vs. the “old Peabs,” who think anyone whose family hasn’t been here for 100 years is a “carpetbagger.” What’s interesting about that dynamic is that – these days — there seem to be just as many new arrivals as there are old families.
If Turco can get the newer arrivals out to vote in massive numbers (which is always challenging) he’ll win. If not, the Barrett name will be tough to overcome.
Ms. Quinn could also have an impact here. She’s the only woman on the ballot, and half the voting population is female. Typically, that dynamic has more of an effect on the councilor at-large and school committee races. But in a three person ward primary, it could be a factor.
Ward 4 Councilor
School committee members Ed Charest and Jarrod Hochman compete for the seat being vacated by long-time Ward 4 Councilor Bob Driscoll.
This one is too tough to call at this point, and neither one of these candidates has ever run a one-on-one race. We’ll see what develops between now and Nov. 3rd. But it will likely come down to whomever runs the most-effective campaign.
Incumbents Anne Manning-Martin, David Gravel, Tom Gould, Tom Walsh and Michael Garabedian are all huge favorites to win re-election at this point. The old adage that councilor at-large incumbents just never lose will likely hold true again this time. The last time a councilor at-large incumbent lost was in 1998, when then sitting school committee member Jim Liacos beat Bill Toomey by less than 100 votes.
Challenger Peter Bakula, making his second run for an at-large seat, faces very long odds here.
Russ Donovan, a South Peabody resident and frequent candidate for office, has pulled papers, but as of Friday at 5 p.m., hadn’t brought back the required 50 signatures. Donovan has until Tuesday, the deadline for returning papers, to decide whether he’s in or not.
For the first time in a while, Peabody has a wide-open race for a citywide office that is filled with new candidates. That will make this the most-interesting race of this election cycle.
Two of the three seats are open, and Brandi Carpenter is the only incumbent. There are eight candidates overall, with seven bringing back the required number of signatures to be on the ballot.
At this point, here’s this pundits view on how things are shaping up:
Carpenter should be an odds on favorite for re-election, since she is not only an incumbent, but also the only woman on the ballot. Traditionally in Peabody elections, where voters have more than one vote, there’s a huge advantage to being the only female name on a ballot. But it has also been a rough year for the sitting members of the school committee, who have felt the public’s wrath over the FKO afterschool program issue, and the debacle of sticking the taxpayers with a large separation agreement settlement for departed superintendent Joe Mastocola. Brandi should win back her seat, but it’s definitely not as big of a lock as it would have been in most other years.
As for the rest of the field, here’s how I feel it shapes up:
Based on who I feel are the most qualified candidates, educators Brian Addesa and Joe Amico and attorney and CPA John Olimpio should be considered the odds on favorites to compete for the two open seats.
Throwing in Peabody’s penchant for wanting to always vote for candidates with deep roots in the city, also throw Andrew Arnotis into the previous mix. My feeling on Andrew, who comes from a well-connected South Peabody family, is that he’s a bright young candidate with a great future in Peabody politics. But I also feel that he’s not ready at this point. He’s a college student, and my fear is that he’ll be manipulated too easily by the existing school committee members, who haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory this year. It’s not a knock at Andrew, who I feel is a good guy. It’s just that I honestly feel it’s not the right job for any 22-year-old.
At this stage, I really don’t see the rest of the school committee field as being all that competitive.
Michel Bonbon has over the years been very active in the Peabody Democratic City Committee. But I see the key members of that committee supporting Arnotis in this election. Travis Wojcik is another young candidate who could have a bright future in Peabody politics, but his lack of name recognition and inexperience will hurt him this time.
The only other candidate to pull papers is Neil Papamechail, who has until Tuesday to bring back his signatures and get on the ballot. Papanechail pulled papers two years ago, and didn’t bring them back. If he gets on the ballot this time, I feel he’ll be the longest shot in the field of eight.
The school committee candidate field will be trimmed to six following the Sept. 29th primary.