SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 8, 2013

Column: New people in high places

Nelson Benton
The Salem News

---- — Voters opted for change in Salem and Beverly Tuesday. In the former community, the broom swept the City Council clean of most of those councilors who’d viewed thwarting Mayor Kim Driscoll’s progressive agenda as a kind of sport. In the latter, voters opted for the candidate who was the departing incumbent’s least-favorite choice to succeed him.

Former Beverly state representative and city councilor Michael Cahill promises to be a good listener, as well as someone who gets things done.

Keeping the budget in check while at the same time delivering big projects like the Cummings Center and a new high school were the hallmarks of Bill Scanlon’s administration. But the former USM Corp. executive’s style could be imperious at times, which cost him an election early in his 18-year tenure and very nearly did the same in 2011.

Cahill, Scanlon’s opponent in the last election, will have two years to prove that even as he gives everyone a chance to have their say, he can keep the ball rolling on projects like the development of the waterfront, downtown revitalization and construction of a needed new interchange at Route 128 and Brimbal Avenue.

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Peabody’s Ted Bettencourt has gotten off to the same fine start in the political realm as he did when playing basketball for Holy Cross. The lack of an opponent, therefore, came as no surprise.

But the absence of a mayoral contest definitely impeded the effort of others on the ballot to get voters motivated to go to the polls Tuesday. Turnout was only 24 percent, slightly lower than what City Clerk Tim Spanos had predicted.

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These elections are nonpartisan. Nevertheless, attaining municipal office is a good first step for those who dream of going to the Statehouse or beyond.

Thus, local Republicans have good reason to hail the election of Matt St. Hilaire to one of the three at-large seats on the Beverly City Council whose returning president, Paul Guanci, is also a member of the Grand Old Party. St. Hilaire worked for former Republican governor Paul Cellucci and served on the campaigns of several Republican candidates, including Richard Tisei and Charlie Baker.

Elsewhere the news was not so good. Former GOP state representative candidate Brett Schetzsle surrendered the Ward 6 seat on the Beverly City Council he’d held for the last two years. Salem’s Sean O’Brien lost his bid for the open Ward 4 seat in that city. And in Peabody, businessman Scott Frasca wasn’t able to crack the at-large field on the council.

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Lawrence Mayor Willie Lantigua has succeeded in fooling a lot of the people for a very long time. But Tuesday, he finally got his comeuppance, losing his office by the thinnest of margins to City Councilor Daniel Rivera.

Police were immediately posted to keep the ballots secure in the event of a recount. Is it premature to suggest they lock City Hall in the event Lantigua is declared the loser?

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Big Labor scored another big win with Marty Walsh’s election as mayor of Boston, which means taxpayers there should hold on to their wallets.

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The Bay State’s not-so-senior senior senator, Elizabeth Warren, is receiving plenty of national attention. Earlier this year, a speech decrying Republican tactics that led to the shutdown of government went viral. And this week’s Time magazine highlights a recent comment Warren made in defense of increased funding for the National Institutes of Health: “Refusing to invest (in health research) ... is the budgetary equivalent of cutting off your feet to save money on shoes.”