BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy turned a few heads yesterday by winning re-election comfortably against a strong challenger.
McCarthy, elected to his third term, beat former Councilor-at-large Steve Pinto, 608 to 422. He swept both precincts and captured 57 percent of the vote.
“I’m happy,” said McCarthy. “It was a spirited campaign. I’m just going to spend the next two years rebuilding the divides and moving in a positive direction.”
Pinto’s decision to run in Ward 1 raised a few eyebrows. It came only months after a marathon and controversial City Council vote in January to fill a vacancy created by the exit of Councilor-at-large Joan Lovely after her election as state senator.
The council vote went more than 300 ballots, with Pinto and former Ward 1 Councilor Lucy Corchado deadlocked 5-5 for most of the rounds. McCarthy cast his ballots for Corchado, a councilor who had defeated him in a past election and later became a friend, rather than Pinto, his former colleague and neighbor.
Pinto denied that McCarthy’s refusal to vote for him was a factor in his decision to run for the Ward 1 seat.
“This is about me wanting to serve,” he said in a July interview. “It’s not about the past,”
This election had the potential to pit neighbor against neighbor, as both McCarthy and Pinto live in Juniper Point, a tight-knit community on the water known for its colorful July 4 celebration.
The interest in this ward fight was reflected in the fundraising. McCarthy raised about $10,000, while Pinto wasn’t far behind, with more than $8,000, according to financial records released last month.
The election took on added importance because Ward 1 is facing a number of important and potentially divisive issues: the power plant development, the National Grid transmission project, the proposed wind turbine on Winter Island and the prospect of larger cruise ships on the waterfront.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.