Curtatone cruises to 9th term as Somerville mayor

Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone celebrates his reelection over opponent Marianne Walles at Olde Magoun's Saloon on Nov. 5. Alexander Thompson / The Tufts Daily

Incumbents did well in yesterday’s municipal elections in Somerville, with voters returning Joe Curtatone to the mayor’s office for the ninth time since 2004 over his challenger, Marianne Walles, a social worker and union organizer backed by Our Revolution Somerville. Voters also reelected all four incumbent at-large city councilors by healthy margins in a hotly contested eight-candidate race.

When the preliminary results came out around 9 p.m. last night, they were met by raucous applause and cheers at Curtatone’s election night party in Olde Magoun’s Saloon. Curtatone received 8,052 votes, or 59.78% of the vote, to Walles’ 5348 votes, or 39.74%, with 0.48% write-ins, according to the preliminary results.

“We’ve had a good debate, but the results have spoken loud and clear,” Curtatone told his supporters shortly after the results were announced. “Thank you for putting our record on the line and showing that we have the greatest city in the world.”

The mayor told the Daily that this victory was the “sweetest” of his career because it reflected Somerville voters’ commitment to progressive values despite increasing division on the national stage.

Curtatone said he took the election campaign as an opportunity to listen to the concerns of Somerville residents, who he says are happy with the direction of the city but want to see more done to accomplish progressive policies on everything from immigration and affordable housing.  

“I’ve been reminded about that constantly in the 4,500 doorbells I rang throughout the summer and fall months, you believe me I’m listening,” Curtatone said. “We can’t just strive to do more. We need to take the opportunity to lead; lead not just here locally but in the region and in the Commonwealth.”

Curtatone’s message seemed to be resonating with voters yesterday afternoon.

Susan Foley, a long-term Somerville resident, said she was pleased with the city’s direction and that she voted for incumbents.

“This community has really grown in the time I’ve been here, and I appreciate the decision-making,” she said after casting her vote at the West Somerville Community School yesterday afternoon.

Walles, Curtatone’s opponent, called Curtatone shortly after the results were announced to concede and congratulate him. In a tweet, Walles thanked her supporters and indicated she would keep working on community issues in Somerville.

“Let’s continue to fight for working families in every corner of this great city,” she wrote.

Walles posted a better score against Curtatone than any of his challengers have in the last decade and improved on her September preliminary election performance.

Voters also demonstrated their confidence in Somerville’s political status quo in yesterday’s key race for four at-large city council seats. Councilors Stephanie Hirsch, Will Mbah, Mary Jo Rossetti and Bill White  all retained their seats on the Somerville City Council.

The two councilors made impressive showings in their second election. Hirsh, elected in 2017, came first in the eight-way race, netting 18.55% of the vote, followed closely by Will Mbah, who was also elected for the first time two years ago, with 18.42%.

Mary Jo Rossetti and Bill White, two fixtures of Somerville politics, came third and fourth with 18.28% and 17.18% respectively. 

Kristen Strezo, co-chair of the Somerville Commission for Women, pulled 10.46% of the vote, while Jack Connolly, who served on the council for more than 30 years before losing his seat narrowly in 2017, came in sixth with 9.51% of the vote.

Joann Bocca-Rivieccio and Kevin Jura rounded out the results with 4.5% and 2.61% of the vote.

Somerville voters were able to vote for four candidates, so the percent of total votes does not tell the whole story. For instance, 62.29% of voters cast one of their votes for Hirsch, the top vote-getter.

All seven ward councilors were reelected unopposed.

White, a local attorney who has served on the City Council since 1998, said the result was proof that voters are pleased with the performance of the incumbents.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so close a grouping of all the city councilors at-large,” he told the Daily last night.

He attributed his success to the get-out-the-vote efforts by both the mayor’s campaign and Our Revolution Somerville, which had endorsed and campaigned for all four incumbents.

Turnout, however, did decline slightly to 25.33% of registered voters from 31.66% in the last municipal elections.

Mbah was jubilant upon finding out he had been reelected. He said that it was the result of the months he spent campaigning across Somerville and building the trust of voters.

“Coming all the way from Cameroon, and being here for just a short space of time, then you have the community put you in leadership with the understanding that I wasn’t born and raised here. They were like ‘Yes, this is who we want to lead us,’” Mbah, who immigrated to Somerville a decade ago, said. “It’s incredibly humbling.”

Mbah attributed his success to his focus on equity and environmental justice.

Despite his excitement, Mbah was already focused on a Legislative Matters Committee meeting tomorrow on a wage theft ordinance.