Mayor keeping energetic schedule
Some question Senate campaign
In the month since announcing his candidacy for US Senate, Newton Mayor Setti Warren has made stops in Belchertown, Brockton, Greenfield, Ipswich, Lowell, New Bedford, Norton, Pittsfield, and Worcester, along with several communities closer to home.
During the same period he has been to Newton School Committee meetings, at least two appreciation breakfasts for local volunteers, Waban Village Day, the city’s Memorial Day Parade, and several graduation ceremonies.
When his second child was born on May 29, he took off four days.
Some are impressed by his ambitious schedule. Others are wondering whether he can keep it up. His travels can be tracked via two Twitter accounts, @settiwarren (which chronicles campaign activities) and @MayorWarren (for city happenings). Between them, he has been tweeting up to six times per day.
Warren, 40, says he’s up to the task. “Balancing all of this, all that I’m doing, will require hard work,’’ the mayor said in an interview Wednesday. “But I’ve devoted my whole life to service, and I’ve never shied away from the hard work necessary to do what I’m doing.’’
But Claire Sokoloff, the School Committee’s chairwoman, is in wait-and-see mode. She said she has been impressed by Warren’s schedule — so far. He showed up for the School Committee meeting the night he announced his candidacy, Sokoloff said, and spoke at graduation ceremonies for three of the city’s alternative high school programs, in addition to ceremonies for Newton North and Newton South high schools.
“He has remained engaged in city and school matters since declaring his run for Senate,’’ she said. “He’s actually been quite involved in a number of school-related issues, much as he was before announcing his candidacy.’’
On the other hand, November 2012 is 17 months away.
“I think it’s obviously going to be a challenge for him to do both jobs,’’ Sokoloff said. “I know Setti is hard-working and capable. . . We’re all going to take it one day at a time.’’
Warren is in a Democratic primary field with six other candidates seeking to unseat US Senator Scott Brown, the Republican who won the seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy in a January 2010 special election.
January 2010 was also Warren’s first month as Newton’s mayor, and with only a year and a half in his first elected office, he has been criticized as using the city for a stepping stone.
Alderwoman Greer Tan Swiston, who has called for the mayor to step down, says Warren shouldn’t be cut any slack.
“Between his new baby and Senate campaign, I suppose we should be impressed he has any time for us at all,’’ she said. “People say you can’t fault someone for ambition, but, yes, I can.’’
Swiston, a Republican, acknowledged that Warren has been highly visible in Newton, but doesn’t think that’s enough.
“I think he’s making an effort to try to prove to people that his Senate campaign isn’t impacting his ability,’’ she said. “But I don’t think it’s where he is physically, it’s where he is mentally.’’
And Newton has plenty of issues to keep him busy, Swiston said, including 15 union bargaining units, between the city and the schools, in contract negotiations, and a wide range of capital-improvement needs.
Warren listed those same issues and added a few others, including Needham Street improvements and the “village coffees’’ he started to bring together residents and business owners to talk about neighborhood needs. He also noted that the lack of a capital improvement plan was among his mayoral campaign issues, and one is now being developed.
The mayor says he will be able to run the city and campaign for the Senate. “I am very confident in our capacity to do it,’’ he said.
As mayor, Warren has 20 vacation days this year, of which he took four for campaigning right after he announced his bid for the Senate. The four days he took off for his son’s birth don’t count as vacation days, according to spokesmen for both the city and his campaign.
Alderman John Rice interacts with the mayor both politically and via his role as executive director of the Hyde Community Center in Newton Highlands.
“I think he’s been doing a very good job of balancing the city and the campaign,’’ said Rice. “What I’ve seen is there is even more of a commitment from the mayor on the community activities. He’s made himself available even more than he did last year.’’
Paul Coletti, who was an alderman for 32 years until he joined Warren and others running for mayor in 2009 but lost in the primary, said he is concerned that some city business will slip through the cracks, and he called Warren’s year so far “lackluster.’’
He pointed out that Warren will have to raise millions to compete against Brown, who took in more than $15.2 million for his Senate campaign, and finished with more than $6 million still in the bank. “I think he’s underestimated how much time it’s going to take to run a statewide campaign,’’ said Coletti.
Still, Coletti, who endorsed Warren in the final election, said he might just make it all work.
“He is a very capable person,’’ said Coletti. “Because of his age and his willingness to go the extra distance, he, if anyone, could pull this off.’’
Lisa Kocian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.