Vote splits city down the middle

November 11, 2009
By

Judith Flanagan- Kennedy’s 27 vote victory over Mayor Edward Chip Clancy has stunned the city.

Actually, the vote has divided the city more than anything else; which brings to mind Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote made during a speech at the Cooper Union in 1858, “A house divided cannot stand.”

Lynn is a house divided.

It will stand. If Clancy leaves – and all signs point to him leaving – then voters have chosen Flanagan-Kennedy as the city’s messenger of change.

Change causes consternation and fear wherever change is imminent.

In the week following Flanagan- Kennedy’s election, city hall employees appointed by the mayor and loyal to him and his administration have been thrown into a state of absolute despair by his loss.

The generally negative feelings associated with the mayor’s loss by his supporters is taken to a different level by those who have worked with him and for him – although under him – at city hall for the past eight years.

“What happens when she takes over?” is the question of the day inside city hall and around the city wherever city hall’s influence is felt.

Also, will Clancy petition for a recount or not?

Last week, it appeared the mayor did not have the heart for a recount. As he told me himself – the system is almost flawless. It would be difficult to impossible to overturn Flanagan-Kennedy’s victory.

In other words, the mayor has resolved himself to the loss. He is doing the soul searching that every public servant tends to do when they’ve been tossed from office – and compared with what came before, Clancy has been tossed from office.

While the city vote depicts a divided body politic, the division has not come about overnight but rather, over a great deal of time and because of decisions that had to be made.

Like those of us who express our ideas when we write, Clancy expressed his beliefs and those of the people who elected him when he acted.

When you do this, you make enemies.

Clancy never minced words or ideas with those who were against him. There was no ambiguity with Clancy. He tended to do what he felt ought to be done letting the chips fall where they might.

Over time, this modus operandi did him in – that and the fact that he was deserted by thousands of women who tended to flock to Flanagan – Kennedy rather than to cast another vote for the shorter, bald headed guy who tended to make stormy decisions.

Could Clancy have seen it coming?

Yes. He saw it coming before the primary. He felt uneasy going around the city about his relative strength – a situation born out by the primary results.

Flanagan-Kennedy’s write in primary victory was an extraordinary sign that this election would not be cakewalk for the longtime mayor.

In the weeks following the primary, Clancy ratcheted up his campaign. He felt better for his effort but he still didn’t feel certain – although he believed he would win.

Flanagan-Kennedy’s folks worked the grass roots territory unavailable to Clancy and made the most of it.

On Election Day, I was up early. I called my mother, who lives at Ocean Shores on the Lynnway by the ocean. I don’t want to get her upset by discussing her age in the newspaper. Let’s just say she’s a bit over 80 but informed, well read. She knows what’s going on. There are hundreds of voters like her inside that apartment house – and most of them tended to go to Clancy in the past.

“Mom, you’ve got to vote for Chipper and then get your friends to vote for Chipper,” I told her in the early morning.

“That’s going to be a hard one,” my mother replied. “My friends are voting for the woman,” she said. “They want the woman.”

Right there, I knew Clancy was in for a bad day.

I told him so the day after the election.

Clancy was wondering what he had done wrong.

I told him that it wasn’t all about right and wrong.

It was about the cumulative negative effect that all mayors seem to accrue over time – and that his time had come as a result and there was really nothing he could do about it.

“Look. You’ve had a great run. You’re a lawyer. You can do whatever you want,” I said to him.

He agreed – but like most mayors I have known, not enough time has passed so that he can get over having lost when just a few weeks ago, it appeared as though he was going to win convincingly.

That’s the rub for all the Chip Clancys of the world.

They love what they do. They remain loyal to their friends while treating their enemies like enemies.

My mentor, when I was coming up, was an old Irish guy from Chelsea who was the smartest man I knew.

He once told me that when there are more of them then there are of us, that we’d be swept out of the orbit of city hall influence.

This is what’s happened to Chip Clancy – and its all over 27 votes – but of course, its over more than that.

Now the big question is, will Flanagan-Kennedy be prepared for the great challenge that lies ahead or will she be like so many people I’ve watched finally gain the ultimate victory only to find that winning became a bigger responsibility than they had expected?

Some people fight to win.

Some people fight to lose.

There was a bit of all of this in the election last week.

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