Preliminary election results for City Council showed a nearly clean sweep in favor of incumbents Tuesday, with only vice mayor Dennis Benzan missing from the bench in the next term, replaced by challenger Jan Devereux, co-founder and president of the Fresh Pond Residents Alliance.
Nadeem Mazen had another big night, though: He was top choice among voters, with 1,881 No. 1 rankings on ballots putting him over the “quota” of 1,733 needed to be elected in Cambridge’s proportional representation form of voting. That elected him immediately – the only councillor achieving that distinction this year. Mazen nearly doubled the No. 1 votes from his first run for office, when he got 946.
Election Commissioners pulled the preliminary results from 17,323 ballots counted Tuesday. The city has 11 voting wards and 34 total precincts, and the first box of ballots arrived at around 8:40 p.m. to the counting room at the Citywide Senior Center in Central Square. All ballots had arrived by shortly after 10 p.m.
By a bare minimum, turnout in the council election (but not in the School Committee election) was the highest its been in five years – 17,323 ballots from 63,325 registered voters means a turnout of 27.4 percent, a whole 0.5 percentage points higher than 2009, but 3.1 percentage points higher than during the last election. (See graphic at the bottom of this post.) But Wednesday’s count of auxiliary ballots, made up of any that couldn’t be machine counted, should raise that figure.
Preliminary School Committee results showed challengers Manikka Bowman and Emily Dexter joining four returning incumbents –Fran Cronin looked to be out after a single term based on the count, while Mervan Osborne, who bought a home outside Cambridge late last year, could not run for reelection.
For School Committee, election results Tuesday looked at 16,339 ballots cast and put quota to be elected at 2,335.
While the council rankings of No. 1 votes jumped significantly from two years, the School Committee’s was consistent for the top four vote-getters: Patty Nolan, followed by Fred Fantini, with Richard Harding in third and Kathleen Kelly in fourth.
On the council, though, Leland Cheung dropped to eighth after two elections as top vote-getter, and Tim Toomey dropped to fifth after being in second place two years ago. Mayor David Maher remained in third place, adding 188 top-ranked votes from his previous election.
The loss of Benzan, who had visited the Senior Center ballot count early in the evening with a happy retinue of volunteers – and even Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz – came as a surprise to many.
“This election has been a bit of a mystery,” state Rep. Marjorie Decker, a former city councillor, said during a pre-results CCTV interview with politics watcher Robert Winters and Susana Segat.
Immediately after council results were announced at about 11:35 p.m., Toomey found the reelected Dennis Carlone in the crowd and shook hands, offering his congratulations. Carlone has been an outlier on the council in the past two years with Mazen.
The addition of Devereux to the council changes the balance of power slightly on the council, as she could be a reliable vote with Carlone and Mazen. “The City Council is now 6-3,” tweeted Joseph Aiello, chairman for Ward 1 of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee.
This campaign was unique in having seven incumbents form a Unity Slate, while Mazen formed a “Slate for Cambridge” with council candidates Mariko Davidson, Romaine Waite and John Sanzone, who dropped out amid scandal, and School Committee candidate Jake Crutchfield. Carlone and Devereux held three-candidate campaign events with Mike Connolly, although they were not a formal slate.
While it looks like a big drop in voters from 2013, looks are deceptive. “The increase is partially due to increased voter registration from the 2012 presidential election,” said Lesley Waxman, assistant director of the city’s Election Commission, two years ago. The figures are also “partially due to voter registration for the special elections and tomorrow’s election, and partially due to the fact that we could not do our usual deletion of voters this year due to the number of special elections.”
Voters who have been inactive for two federal election cycles are normally deleted, Waxman said, but state and federal law says there can be no automated deletion within 90 days of an election. The election cycle was so filled with events two years ago – an April 30 primary leading to a June 25 special election, then an Oct. 15 primary – that the automated deletions didn’t happen by the time of the municipal elections in November.