Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Precinct counts for Ward 5 are posted at the Armory on election night Tuesday in Somerville. (Photo: Ryan DiLello)

It was a year for incumbents in Somerville. Ballot counts from election night indicate Mayor Katjana Ballantyne will see another term, joined by familiar faces on the City Council and first-timer Naima Sait, who triumphed over Jack Perenick in an open contest for Ward 5, as well as by Will Mbah, who regained his seat as a councilor at large.

A quiet election season failed to inspire political forums or debates, getting a jolt only in October when councilor at large Charlotte Kelly said she wouldn’t run for reelection – with the only result being a guaranteed return for Mbah.

Voter turnout was consistent, albeit low.  Somerville cast 17,115 ballots on Tuesday – only 1,100 fewer ballots than during the 2021 election season. And for a race that weighed constituent services against time spent at City Hall, votes suggest Somerville is willing to prioritize the latter.

Mayor Katjana Ballantyne won against challenger William “Billy” Tauro with a solid 13,592 votes to 3,010.

Ward 1 council incumbent Matthew McLaughlin won with 1,281 votes against challenger Matthew Hunt, who got 365.

Ward 3 incumbent Ben Ewen-Campen won against challenger John Fitzpatrick, 2,071 to 577.

And in Ward 6, incumbent Lance Davis had 1,896 votes that safeguarded his seat against challenger Jack Connolly, who had 749 votes.

Connolly ran on a promise to restore his ward’s voice, accusing Davis of slacking on constituent services and failing to advocate for the neighborhood. But Davis cruised to victory with double Connolly’s votes. According to Davis’ website, he’s focused on making additional zoning changes to increase equitable development, addressing the threats posed by climate change, and helping plan Davis Square.

The unopposed candidates were Ward 2’s J.T. Scott; Ward 4’s Jesse Clingan; and Ward 7’s Judy Pineda Neufeld.

For at-large seats, with Kelly out Mbah sauntered back to the position he held from 2017 to 2021 before a run for mayor. During his time on the council, Mbah helped advance the Office of Housing Stabilization and Community Land Trust. He said he plans to continue his work on housing and green initiatives and accelerate police oversight. The most pressing issue for Mbah is the city’s growing homelessness crisis. “It might not be as flashy as bike lanes,” he said, “but I don’t hear enough about it from other [colleagues].”

The contest with perhaps the most eyes on it was in Ward 5, where councilor Beatriz Gomez Mouakad dropped out in June to handle a family health emergency; it looked at first like the seat would be filled without a race by Perenick, the president of the Massachusetts Young Democrats and a former campaign adviser of hers.

But Sait, a French teacher at Somerville High School, decided to run for after noticing how communitywide issues affected her students. Those include the mental health crisis, municipal infrastructure, and language justice.

But the city’s biggest issue is affordable housing, Sait said. “I will push for a rent stabilization policy that will reduce the number of people who are being pushed out of the area, a real estate transfer fee that will raise the money to build more affordable housing and increase inclusionary requirements for developers to include more affordable units in new developments,” Sait said in response to a questionnaire from Patch.

Sait won against Perenick, 2,043 to 1,071.