Thursday, June 20, 2024

Frantz Pierre and family in a photo posted Monday by a campaign for City Council and School Committee. (Photo: Frantz Pierre via Facebook)

After a slow start to the political campaign season that began officially July 3, races for City Council and School Committee are heating up.

As of Monday, roughly the middle of the month that nomination papers are available, 21 people had taken papers from Election Commission offices to be candidates for council and nine for School Committee.

There’s one name on both lists: Frantz Pierre, who confirmed Tuesday that he intends to run for both bodies.

It’s the only time in election staff memory this has happened, said Lesley Waxman, assistant director of the Election Commission. 

“I know people have taken papers out for both, and I certainly can’t speak going back to 1941, but I don’t remember anyone actually deciding to run for both in the time I’ve been here,” Waxman said Tuesday by phone. Her knowledge of races goes back to 2009.

The commission had been asked about this situation years ago by another candidate, so the research is done from its perspective: “We found that you can run for both,” Waxman said. “If you get elected to both, that candidate would need to find out from the State Ethics Commission and the [city] Law Department whether they could serve on both.”

“But running for both, there’s no issue,” Waxman said.

Pierre, a social worker with experience at the East End House and Margaret Fuller House, said he was told at commission officers that if he won both seats, he would have to pick one to accept – which he’s been explaining to voters. “I’ve been questioned on, ‘Is that possible, is that legal? If you win both, you’ll be split and wouldn’t be able to give both 100 percent.’ When I explain I would have to pick one, I can see they better understand. It’s the unknown,” Pierre said. He’s also met residents who are “excited. They understand what’s going on and they’re telling me to push forward.”

“I’m born and raised in the city of Cambridge,” Pierre said. “I just want to serve the people.”

The November ballot

In the Nov. 7 election, Cambridge voters will elect nine city councillors and six members of the School Committee. All seats are at-large and have two-year terms. The mayor is elected from within the new councillors and leads the School Committee.

Of the 21 council candidates, 11 took papers July 3, the first day the forms were available, while 10 took them between July 5-13.

The council will see at least three new members join its ranks for the first time since 2017, as vice mayor Alanna Mallon and councillors Dennis Carlone and Quinton Zondervan chose to not run. 

The remaining incumbent councillors – Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui and councillors Burhan Azeem, Marc McGovern, Patricia Nolan, E. Denise Simmons and Paul Toner – have all taken papers to run again.

Growth in candidate numbers

Since July 5, several new challengers have also picked up papers, including: Gregg Moree, a lifelong Cambridge resident who is running for the ninth time; Catherine Zusy, the “Magazine Beach Lady” and a former museum coordinator; security consultant Carrie Pasquarello; and Peter Hsu, a Harvard Medical School instructor.

Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, who served as a councillor from 2020 to 2021, also took out nomination papers.

The School Committee field has also grown in the past weeks. Since July 3, when Eugenia Schraa Huh was the only candidate to take papers, eight more candidates have done the same.

Incumbent members Caroline Hunter, José Luis Rojas Villarreal, David Weinstein and vice chair Rachel Weinstein (no relation) have taken papers. Member Fred Fantini is retiring, and Ayesha Wilson has launched a council bid, meaning the School Committee will have at least two new faces. 

The committee challengers include: Pierre; Alborz Bejnood, whose LinkedIn shows him to be a scientist at Tango Therapeutics in Boston; Andrew King, a postdoctoral researcher at the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research; and Robert Travers Jr., a paraeducator involved with the Cambridge Education Association and Massachusetts Teachers Association.

Filiing signatures

As a part of the nomination process, candidates must collect between 50 and 100 signatures to appear on the ballot in November. So far, four candidates have had at least 50 signatures certified by the board of the Election Commission: Siddiqui, Zusy, Toner and Wilson, the School Committee member running to join the council. Many other candidates were close to the 50-signature mark Monday or awaiting final certification.

Travers is the only School Committee candidate who has 50 signatures certified by the Board of the Election Commission, though Rachel Weinstein and Schraa had 50 provisionally certified. 

Candidates in both races must file their papers by 5 p.m. July 31.

This post was updated July 22, 2023, to correct Andrew King’s current professional role.