3 mayors facing unknown rivals
Incumbents have edge in campaigns
For three first-term mayors in the suburbs south of Boston, no established or well-known politicians are standing in the way of their reelection.
In the Nov. 8 election, Braintree’s Joseph C. Sullivan, Linda Balzotti of Brockton, and Susan M. Kay of Weymouth all face challengers who have not held high-level elective office before.
The challengers - Paul M. Walsh in Braintree, Ron Matta in Brockton, and Robert Montgomery Thomas in Weymouth - are hoping spirited door-to-door campaigns and a conservative message can overcome the incumbents’ advantages in name recognition, organization, and fund-raising.
Walsh, who runs his own machine tool sales and service company, said he has not held any campaign fund-raisers in his bid to unseat Sullivan. “I’m a conservative, so I am taking a conservative approach,’’ he said.
In Braintree’s mayoral balloting four years ago, Walsh received 12 percent of the vote and was eliminated from contention in the September preliminary election, which narrowed the field from four to two candidates.
This year, Walsh and Sullivan are the only candidates.
Matta, whose only previous bid for elective office was an unsuccessful 2009 run for Brockton School Committee, took 16 percent of the vote in this year’s Brockton preliminary election, while Balzotti won 75 percent.
“I’ve been out pounding the street, talking to people,’’ said Matta, a semiretired contractor. “I’m in this for my love for the city.’’
Montgomery Thomas was an elected Town Meeting representative in Weymouth and also a member of the bylaw review committee before the town shifted to a mayor-council form of government. Montgomery Thomas ran for mayor four years ago, capturing 6 percent of the vote in a preliminary contest. He has run unsuccessfully for state representative twice.
In Massachusetts cities, strong mayoral challengers often come from the ranks of city councilors, state legislators, or school committee members. But none of the challengers this year has held those positions.
Michael Kryzanek, a political scientist at Bridgewater State University, said the absence of strong challengers for mayor in some cities is not surprising.
“There is a smaller and smaller base of people interested in the job,’’ Kryzanek said. “Running a city is demanding and difficult. The pay is not that good, and the amount of criticism you get can be great.’’
John McGarry, executive director of the Brockton Elections Commission, said, “People . . . don’t have time to run for office.’’
In Quincy, Mayor Thomas Koch does face an established local politician in his bid for a third term. Anne Mahoney, a member of the Quincy School Committee since 2006 and now vice chairman of the committee, is challenging the incumbent.
State Senator Robert L. Hedlund, a Weymouth Republican, noted there are few challengers for any elective office in Weymouth this year. “I think there is a growing sense of apathy in our society,’’ he said.
There were no preliminary mayoral elections this year in Weymouth or Braintree.
Brockton did have a preliminary election, which narrowed the field of mayoral candidates from three to two. Turnout was just under 5 percent.
In their previous mayoral races, Sullivan, Balzotti, and Kay waged highly visible, all-out campaigns against well-known opponents. In Braintree’s first-ever mayoral election, Sullivan defeated Selectman Joseph F. Powers in 2007. That year, Kay defeated former Weymouth councilor Colin McPherson to replace David Madden, who stepped down.
Balzotti unseated James E. Harrington in Brockton in 2009.
Kay said she and her supporters have had sign-holding standouts recently, as well as other campaign events, but she has not done door-to-door campaigning. “I believe if a mayor is doing her job well, that is campaigning for reelection,’’ she said.
Balzotti said she understands why other elected officials decided not to run for mayor this year. “I think people recognize what a difficult job this is to do in this economy,’’ she said.
Matta has made public safety the centerpiece of his campaign. He has said he would trim unnecessary spending and give himself a 20 percent pay cut in order to hire more police officers. Balzotti has characterized Matta’s plans as unrealistic and said she believes Brockton citizens are satisfied the city is moving in the right direction.
Montgomery Thomas has criticized Kay for raising taxes and poor maintenance of streets and town-owned properties. Kay said she took office as the economy was falling into recession and has managed to maintain town services, and now is looking to expand programs.
Sullivan, meanwhile, says that his administration has stabilized the town’s finances, maintained services, and launched improvements to the town’s schools, parks, and roads. But Walsh said Sullivan has raised taxes and gone forward with wasteful spending. He promised a businesslike approach to running the town.
Robert Preer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.