Friday, July 12, 2024
By shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, Cambridge ballots are piled up in the Central Square Senior Center and election workers had begun to sift through results. (Photos: Marc Levy)

By shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, Cambridge ballots are piled up in the Central Square Senior Center and election workers had begun to sift through results. (Photos: Marc Levy)

Here are some first-draft observations from Election Night in Cambridge, as dozens gather in the Senior Center in Central Square to see ballots counted (although the significant number of write-in ballots — undoubtedly for incumbent City Councillor Majorie Decker — means there will be no reliable results tonight). Read from the bottom up.

12:40 a.m. The stragglers are kicked out of the Senior Center. The count of auxiliary votes begins at 9 a.m.

12:33 a.m. Larry Ward’s aide, Andy Farrar, is still waiting for the 40-page vote printout that will help him better assess what will happen tomorrow. A lengthy huddle with friends, aides and family leaves Ward with a chance to return. “It’s going to be a tough climb tomorrow, but it’s very possible,” Farrar says. It depends on the sequence in which the votes roll over, which will differ from tonight’s sequence.

“Larry, you’re used to being on the razor’s edge,” Henrietta Davis tells Ward, having sat down as others have left his table. Toomey is also there to offer some comfort, pointing out it’s all different tomorrow. Finally, dapper election commissioner Ethridge A. King Jr. — mussed not at all after a long night — reassures that the “dynamics” tomorrow will change again, and as he leaves, Mayor Denise Simmons also arrives at Ward’s table.

When Davis says, “We love to play this game, but this information’s totally useless,” referring to the vote breakdown, Simmons calls back while leaving, “We do not love to play this game.” And she got in solidly in the first round.

12:24 a.m. And click here: 110309i committee for the preliminary breakdown of the council election.

12:12 a.m. Click here: 110309i council for the preliminary breakdown of the council election.

12:03 a.m. Preliminary figures for the School Committee (but likelier to stick, despite 1,018 auxiliary votes) give 2,135 each to Tauber, Harding, McGovern, Fantini, Nolan and Turkel.

11:53 p.m. Preliminary figures give Toomey, Davis, Simmons, Maher, Reeves, Kelley, Cheung, Seidel and Sullivan seats on the council, at 1,248 each except for Sullivan, who has 1,215. There are 3,590 auxiliary votes, the election commissioners estimated, and quota tomorrow is expected to be 1,610. Larry Ward’s people are huddled around a table contemplating the figures. The line earlier in the evening had been that staff for Ward — a replacement for Brian Murphy when he went to work for the state — was “cautiously optimistic.”

“Sir, there seems to be a mistake — we weren’t supposed to have that many votes,” Sherry said. He believes it’s now between Cheung, Sullivan and Decker.

When Cheung approaches the crowd a minute later, he is surprised by the news.

11:32 p.m. Deputy City Manager Richard Rossi says turnout this year is slightly up, over 15,000 from last election’s 13,721.

11:31 p.m. “The under-5 and the dog vote — mine,” quips School Committee challenger Alice Turkel.

11:24 p.m. Tabulated votes and anticipated votes didn’t match up, apparently. That’s been addressed and you know, soon, soon …

11:22 p.m. All expectations surpassed. Not in a good way; in the way, unfortunately, that keeps things a total mystery. But the crowd is cheerful.

10:55 p.m. Nothing. The crowd is deep in a dozen conversations, with Winters leading on on the esoterica of proportional representation: how it works, why to use it. (It ensures representation for political minorities, obviates the need for gerrymandering and — my contribution — avoids the awarding of presidencies by Supreme Courts.) Winters is sure the election workers have numbers and are “lording them over us.”

10:45 p.m. Is the inevitable lack of resolution tonight keeping people away? Council challenger Tom Stohlman notes the crowd is smaller than in past years.

10:35 p.m. City Councillor Tim Toomey arrives — one of the few, like challengers Charles Marquardt and Cheung, in a suit — to watch ballots be counted to ensure his incumbency, and the question is: Why? Because you always have some anxiety. He hoped to at least come away with tonight knowing how many people voted and how many auxiliary ballots there are as spoilers. Challenger James Williamson passes by, expressing hopes he at least gets 50 votes this year from the incumbents. Maybe 75.

10:26 p.m. A crowd of election workers is caucusing in the corner. This could mean quota and first-round results soon. Maybe before 11 p.m.!

10:03 p.m. Still no results, and no candidate has enough information to even guess where things will wind up. At least School Committee candidates will have some resolution tonight. Incumbent Patty Nolan and challenger Alan Steinert Jr. kiss, then she moves off to the main room while Steinert sits with his daughter, a schoolteacher, to await results. “I’m an old man. I’m an old man,” he says. “But I’m by God running for office and spent a considerable amount of money and a significant amount of time doing this, not simply to make a statement.” Citing a nearly 50 percent failure rate on city standardized test results, he says a change agent is needed — and he can be it, if enough ballots go his way. “But I have zero idea. I know incumbents have a major advantage.” (Although if you ask incumbent Nancy Tauber’s family, incumbents are nervous too. Tauber isn’t at the Senior Center, although her brother and father are.)

9:41 p.m. Cheung is here, watching the count, and clarifying how he campaigned. Asians weren’t a main factor, he says, being too disparate to exploit as a political force and not reliable enough as voters. (Campaign manager Mike Sherry, a recent Tufts graduate, agrees they have large numbers in the city but “don’t punch their weight.”) Students also weren’t a focus. “Being a student is a disadvantage in some ways,” Cheung says. “Residents assume you’re a student, and students just don’t vote.” What Cheung and Sherry did was straightforward, old-fashioned door knocking, reaching, by their estimate, some 20,000 people. How do they feel the vote is going? “No idea,” Cheung says, but anecdotally things look good.

9:20 p.m. Politics guru Robert Winters has arrived, and he’s made clear I’ve understood his message about the “Leland Cheung factor,” meaning what effect this graduate-student challenge will have on the campaign. Winters believed Cheung could have a major impact by contacting Asian voters in the city, not his fellow university students, aided by the fact Asian names are more readily identifiable than those of many other ethnic groups. Asians make up about 12 percent of the city, as do blacks.