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Newcomers take seats in elections

By Denebola
Published: November 2007
By Chris Erspamer
While the majority of current School Committee and Alderman members held onto their seats after the November 6 election, one School Committee member and two Aldermen were voted out of their seats.
The most hotly contested race was between Gail Glick and Geoff Epstein for the School Committee seat in Ward 1. Epstein defeated Glick by a margin of about 1000 votes. Epstein previously lost to Glick in 2005.
Epstein believes that he was able to achieve victory mainly because of dissatisfaction among Newton residents over the funding for math and science programs in the schools. Epstein believes that the experience he gained from his previous campaign allowed him to run a more effective one this time.
The other newcomer on the School Committee is Kurt Kusiak, who ran unopposed in Ward 3 after the incumbent, Ann Larner, stated that she was Kusiak, who ran unopposed in Ward 3 after the incumbent, Ann Larner, stated that she was not running for another term.
Another unexpected result occurred in the Alderman-at-large race for Ward 1, where incumbent Carleton Merrill was able to retain his seat.
Merrill had fared poorly in the primaries, coming behind all three of his challengers, mainly because his health prevented him from campaigning. After seeing the results of the primaries, however, Merril put more effort in his campaign and attended every election meeting. His determination ultimately paid off, and he won the race handily. Allan Ciccone Jr. came in second and will replace the retiring Ben Weisbuch.
Another seat change came in the Ward 5 Alderman race, where Bill Brandel defeated 14-year incumbent Christine Snow Samuelson. In the Ward 3 Alderman-at-large race, Greer Tan Swiston narrowly beat incumbent Leslie Burg. The other serving Alderman-at-large for Ward 3, Ted Hess-Mahan, retained his seat.
Swiston owes her triumph to her well-organized campaign, as well as to her increased name recognition since 2005, when she last ran for Burg’s seat. Like Epstein, Swiston sees her victory as a vote for change.
Defeated incumbents Samuelson and Burg said they thought voter dissatisfaction led to their defeat. During the past term, Newton has been faced with a rising amount of problems that still need to be solved, including a massive budget deficit, an expiring contract with garbage collectors, and inadequate funding for various public buildings and programs.
In an election in which only 17 percent of city’s population participated, Burg feels that most of the people who voted were those who were most frustrated with these difficulties, while people who were more content with the current situation were discouraged from going to the polls by the harsh weather on election day.
Most incumbents were less affected by the voters’ dissatisfaction. Mitchell Fischman retained his Alderman-at-large seat in Ward 8. The newly elected Alderman John Freedman, who won Richard Lipof’s open seat, now joins him. Anthony Salvucci won reelection for Ward 3 Alderman against his opponent, Anatol Zukerman, while challenger Jeff Seideman failed to unseat either incumbent Verne Vance or Sydra Schnipper in the three-way Ward 7 Alderman-at-large race.
Although most of the newcomers believe that there currently is a strong movement for change, the reelected incumbents do not feel pressured by this. Alderman Merrill, while acknowledging that Newton has to cope with an increasing amount of difficulties, said that the Board should move cautiously. “We should wait and see how things turn out before making any considerable changes to our policies,” he said.

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