Yesterday, 12.09% of Southborough voters weighed in on who should sit in important seats of our Town government. Stephen Morreale and Meme Lutrell were the clear winners for Moderator and Planning Board.
Other seats in the election were uncontested, though apparently some voters wished otherwise.
Candidates for uncontested positions only garnered 69-74% of possible votes. Many left blanks. But there were also write-ins, including 32 for the two Board of Selectmen seats and 12 for the Southborough seat on the Regional School Committee.*
Both Lutrell and Morreale may have partly won their seats through active campaigning. On the other hand, perceptions about activism may have assisted both in contrasting ways.
Lutrell, the current Chair of the Open Space Preservation Commission, is a familiar face at Town Meetings and publicly broadcast Planning Board and Board of Selectmen meetings. She ran against Craig Nicholson, the Chair of two less publicly visible committees: SHOPC and the Recreation Commission.
Both Planning Board candidates had several signs around town. But Lutrell was also frequently seen around Town waving her signs for the past month. (Places that I spotted her include outside Town Meeting, at the Transfer Station entrance on 85, and at the end of Woodward driveway yesterday – the precinct 1 polling station).
In the Moderator’s race, competitors Bill Boland (former selectman) and Desiree Aselbekian (Public Works Planning Board Chair) were probably the most familiar faces and names at the start of the campaign. But Morrealle, former Personnel Board Chair, was the only candidate to put out campaign signs.
At Candidate’s Night, Boland quipped that “signs don’t vote”. He pointed out that the majority of voters should be familiar with all three candidates from past service to the Town. And Aselbekian maintained there are other ways to campaign and reach voters.
Both were responding to a question from Sam Stivers, who posed that candidates should show voters they want the job by publicly campaigning for votes. He pointed out that Morreale had already spent a day at the Transfer Station campaigning. Aselbekian stated that she would be there the following two weekends. Boland explained that other time commitments were keeping him from spending a day at the station.
In the end, Aselbekian only captured 182 votes, followed by Boland with 161 votes. Morreale was elected with 493 votes.
Still, I may be putting too much stock in sign posting and waving.
Morreale’s frequent message to voters was that he would be an objective voice as moderator. He argued that the moderator shouldn’t be an “activist” or take positions on Town matters. That may have resonated with voters who have seen both Aselbekian and Boland argue for and against articles on Town Meeting floor and comment at public meetings.
And Lutrell has been a long time advocate for Open Space, which may have earned loyalty and trust with some. Nicholson tried to convince voters that his experience on the other side of the table was valuable. He argued that his job as a Real Estate Developer didn’t mean he was “pro-development”. But it may have raised concerns for some voters.
Feel free to comment on why you cast your vote yesterday. (But, please keep it civil!)
*Editor’s Note: Those write-ins for the BOS and Southborough seat on the Regional School Committee accounted for less than 2% of possible votes for those seats. But they were significant compared to other positions. The K-8 School Committee had 6 write-ins. Other seats had only 1-3.
Updated (5/10/16 12:10 pm): Fixed typo that reported 12.6% voter turnout.