Someone’s Going to Be the One: an At-large Councillor is Likely to Be Unseated in City Council Race

November 1, 2011
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The at-large race is where it is at if you live and breath Lynn politics.

There are no vacancies but one first-timer running for a seat is going to get one.

So this means that someone currently serving doesn’t make it back to the at-large board.

Except for determining whom wins the seat and whom loses it, and what the order of finish is, all the candidates are essentially talking the same language in an attempt to play to their individual bases, which aren’t very different from one another when everything is added up.

The incumbents are: Attorney John Timothy Phelan, 49; Attorney Dan Cahill, 32; Paul Crowley, 51; and Stephen John Duffy, 52.

The hopefuls wanting to capture a seat are: Gordon “Buzzy” Barton, 59; Hong Net, 42; Robert Clay Walsh, 34; and Miguel Funez, 53.

Without a mayor’s race to propel the election next week, Lynn election officials are expecting a lower turnout of voters which has implications for those hoping to capture a seat as well as for those running for re-election.

It is a given among those who track such things that Buzzy Barton is going to capture a seat.

He is popular. He is well liked. He is well known. He is on the upswing during this, his first real attempt at public office. If all things are equal, Barton will score well throughout the city and will likely come in third or fourth. Of course, nothing is guaranteed in politics and especially in political handicapping.

But here’s why I think he comes in third or fourth.

First, he does not have the base of Phelan or Cahill.

For that matter, he does not have Crowley’s base or even Duffy’s.

True, he did top the ticket in the primary but the primary doesn’t even tell half the story that is told when the full flush of voters comes out in much larger numbers to issue their ultimate verdict.

Unless something extraordinary takes place, Phelan should top the ticket and Cahill should be second.

This leaves a third-place finish for Barton which brings us to the fourth place finisher.

Who will that be?

Will it be Crowley or Duffy?

The edge must be given to Crowley as Duffy is perceived as not being as strong as Crowley – and previous votes have shown it.

In other words, the battle is for the fourth seat.

This battle can be written about conveniently as being a battle between Crowley and Duffy.

In reality, it is a contest between Crowley, Duffy, Net, Walsh and Funez.

Mind you, this election has virtually nothing to do with political stands, or qualifications in the last analysis.

After all, every candidate is for public safety, better education, concerned about taxes, empty properties, attracting new business, making useful long dormant commercial spaces and on and on.

It is not as if the hopefuls have launched extraordinary new political platforms or have advocated for radical change.

This, above all, is an election of fairly well informed individuals who take an interest in the city and its people.

But above all, it is a popularity contest.

Even though Lynn is a city of  90,000 people, it is in the last analysis a place where everyone in politics knows everyone else and their supporters know one another and they are all brought together by the same imperatives.

Before folks go into the voting booth on Tuesday, they will ask themselves:

“Who am I going to give a vote to? Do I know that person? How long have I known that person? Has he done anything for me lately or is he just asking me for their vote? Do I like that person? Do I like his wife and kids? Has he done anything against me and mine?”

For the newcomers trying to knock out an incumbent to get an at-large seat, I know this: you are all building your bases and getting known.

That takes a few runs in a city like ours.

When the smoke has cleared and the ultimate verdict has been rendered by the voters of this city, the newcomers will find out how tough it is to capture one of these seats.

And one incumbent will find himself out of city government in January.

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