Poker provides untraditional path to council race for Eckstut; Siddiqui, Nolan also ante up for runs
A new challenger has declared a run for a City Council seat in November, and three more council incumbents.
Robert Eckstut, a Lesley-educated life coach who’d earlier been a professional poker player, declared Thursday. This week also saw declarations from councillor Patty Nolan on Tuesday and Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui on Wednesday.
Councillor Dennis Carlone said at a June 17 housing rally at City Hall that he too would run for reelection. The decision was signaled as far back as December, but the campaign had yet to send out a formal announcement since, he said.
Housing, food insecurity and institutional racism were highlighted as key issues for Eckstut as a candidate, who said he planned to look to root causes for solutions. It’s an approach suggested by the problems people share with him in his work as a life coach. “What I realized,” Eckstut said, “is that a greater share of problems my clients faced were due to societal issues; these require societal solutions.”
For nearly a decade beginning in 2007, Eckstut had been a professional poker player; he wrote and published “Bobbo’s Bible of No Limit Hold ’em” early in his career.
“Although a poker background is not the traditional path to working for the people, there is no better training … Poker is entirely about incomplete information, making calculated risks and understanding the people behind their actions,” he said on his campaign website.
As a renter in Central Square, Eckstut joins challengers Theodora Skeadas, executive director of the business organization Cambridge Local First, and Dana Bullister, a data scientist, in seeing that as a boost to electability in a city where around two-thirds of Cantabrigians rent, but most of the incumbents own.
Eckstut is at least the fifth challenger in the race, following business owner Nicola Williams and educator Paul Toner. At this point, seven of nine incumbents have also declared, with only longest-serving members E. Denise Simmons and Tim Toomey holding out.
The mayor’s “in case you missed it” note that she was running for reelection referred to her accomplishments of the past term – one dominated by grappling with the pandemic but that also saw a citywide affordable housing zoning overlay become law, the introduction of a guaranteed-income test and other non-pandemic initiatives – and said she plans a 5:30 p.m. Wednesday campaign kickoff at the Artifact Cider Project, 438 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square.
In announcing her own excitement for “another round,” Nolan had several examples of the work she’d been doing over her first year and a half on the council, including “meaningful actions to address the climate crisis, taking an important step toward municipal broadband, providing ways for more neighborhood input, insisting on planning as a prerequisite for development, opening up streets and working on better governance.”
Nolan’s planned campaign kickoff is an “open driveway” event at 7:30 p.m. July 1 at her 184 Huron Ave., Observatory Hill, home.
“I love the job, I’m honored to have it and I have been effective and played an important role on council,” Nolan said in an email that reminded supporters that council incumbents are not “safe” – that in 2019 she did not have enough No. 1 votes to win outright in the city’s ranked form of voting. “I needed a lot of No. 2s and No. 3s,” she said. “I expect this election to be more challenging.”
Nomination papers for the Nov. 2 municipal elections don’t become available until July and are usually due back at the end of that month; 50 confirmed signatures qualifies a resident to run. The 2019 election saw 23 people run for council (including eight of nine incumbents), dropping to 22 by the time of balloting, and 11 for School Committee (including three of six incumbents).