Breanna Lungo-Koehn, Will Mbah lead in Medford and Somerville mayoral preliminary elections

Breanna Lungo-Koehn and Will Mbah lead all candidates in Medford and Somerville preliminary mayoral elections. Alexander Thompson / The Tufts Daily

Somerville

Two Somerville city councilors look set to face off in the November’s general election for mayor to replace longtime Mayor Joe Curtatone after an extremely close preliminary election that saw first and third place separated by only 415 votes.

At-Large City Councilor Will Mbah led the field with 4,498 votes, 30.07%, followed by Ward 7 City Councilor Katjana Ballantyne with 4,162 votes, 27.82%, according to preliminary results released by the city’s elections department.

Ballantyne edged out former City Auditor and Cambridge Health Alliance executive Mary Cassesso by just 79 votes, less than one percentage point.

William Tauro, the publisher of the Somerville News Weekly, picked up 2,215 votes, 14.81%.

Only the top two candidates, Mbah and Ballantyne, both Democrats, will advance to the general election on Nov. 2.

Slightly more than 15,000 people voted in the preliminary election, nearly three times the number of voters who turned out in 2019 when Curtatone and a left-wing challenger advanced into the general election.

Somerville’s Ward 7 city council seat, which includes much of the Somerville half of Tufts’ campus, also saw an intensely competitive race with Judy Pineda Neufeld (A’05), a consultant for nonprofits, leading Becca Miller, who works for a food policy nonprofit, 934 votes to 902 votes, or 37.2% to 35.9%. Alex Anderson, a healthcare researcher, was eliminated from the race after receiving 354 votes, 14.1%.

This is the first local Somerville election in 26 years in which Curtatone’s name did not appear on the ballot.

The mayor was first elected to the city council, then called the Board of Aldermen, in 1995, before being elected mayor in 2003.

Mbah, who appeared to be in position to replace Curtatone on Tuesday, has positioned himself as the furthest left in a deep-blue city that gave  over 85% of its votes to Joe Biden. Mbah is touting endorsements from the Sunrise Movement, Boston Democratic Socialists of America and Our Revolution Somerville, a Bernie Sanders-affiliated political group.

Mbah has pledged to up the percentage of affordable housing units developers are required to include in development projects, cut the police budget and implement a mandatory recycling and composting program.

Mbah immigrated to the United States from Cameroon in 2011 and would be the first Black person to lead the city. He was elected to the city council in 2017.

Mbah thanked his supporters early Wednesday morning and said he would continue to share his vision for the city in the lead up to the general election. 

“My heart is full Somerville,” Mbah wrote in a tweet. “Thank you to everyone who put their time and energy into making this result possible.” 

Ballantyne was elected to the city council in 2013 and has since served two terms as the body’s president.

Ballantyne, who immigrated to Somerville with adoptive parents from Greece as a young person, has tried to position herself as the climate candidate, frequently highlighting her work authoring the city’s Green New Deal and stringent building energy efficiency requirements while on the city council.

In a statement on Tuesday night, Ballantyne thanked Somerville voters and said she looked forward to the campaign for the general election.

“We’ve shown that Somerville voters want the next mayor to share our progressive values, be an inclusive leader, and have the skills and experience to lead our dynamic city on day one,” she said.

One barometer of the candidates’ political position in left-wing Somerville, Ballantyne supported Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary while Mbah backed Bernie Sanders.

Tauro, a fierce critic of Curtatone who wielded his newspaper as a cudgel against the mayor with little regard for fact-checking or journalistic convention, said that he voted for Donald Trump in 2016, though he later said he regretted the vote, according to Boston.com.

Tauro’s central campaign planks were the removal of a bus-only lane on Broadway and an increase in the number of parking spaces.

Tauro, though he received less than 15% of the vote, announced on Facebook that his campaign will contest the primary election results due to alleged fraud.  

“Due to the many discrepancies and alleged mishandling of the election ballots and results, the Tauro Campaign is pursuing legal action and an investigation into the several matters that appear questionable,” Tauro wrote in a post. 

Medford

Incumbent Breanna Lungo-Koehn and City Councilor John Falco came out on top of Tuesday’s three-way preliminary election and will advance to November’s general election for the Medford mayorship.

Lungo-Koehn netted 3,968 votes, 47.3%, to Falco’s 2,896 votes, 34.5%, according to unofficial results from the city clerk’s office. John Petrella, a retail consultant, received 1,431 votes, 17.1%, and was eliminated.

“I am grateful for the strong vote of confidence from the people of Medford in today’s preliminary election,” Lungo-Koehn said in a statement Tuesday night. “In every corner of the City, people from all different backgrounds responded to our positive message of progress and possibilities for our entire community.”

Falco said that the results reflected the city’s desire for change in a tweet after the results were announced.

“I can’t wait to continue to share my vision for a better Medford with you as we make our way towards the election in November,” he said.

Almost the entirety of Lungo-Koehn’s tenure has been dominated by the city’s response to the pandemic after she narrowly beat the previous mayor, Stephanie Muccini Burke, in 2019.

The incumbent has touted that response in her election campaign, focusing on the support her administration gave to small businesses.

However, Lungo-Koehn’s administration has also been wracked by a number of scandals in recent months, including the resignation of the budget director, a Black woman who accused the mayor of creating a hostile environment, as reported by the Medford Transcript .

The city’s director of veterans’ services also accused the mayor’s administration of not paying him for five months of work and demanded an ethics investigation around the same time, the paper reported.

Falco, who served on the city’s school committee from 2010 to 2015 before being elected to the city council, has focused on the city’s development and how it will spend millions of dollars in federal money from the American Rescue Plan.

Medford voters chose between 14 candidates for school committee. Each voter chose six candidates, and 12 advanced to the general election. 

Incumbents Mea Quinn Mustone, Jenny Graham, Paul Ruseau and Melanie McLaughlin, as well as newcomers Sharon Hays and Andrew Milne, led the election with between 8.2% and 5.41% of the vote.

Notably, all six of those candidates are backed by the progressive group Mobilize Medford.

Incumbents Kathleen Kreatz and Paulette Van der Kloot placed seventh and eighth and will advance to the general election along with Robert Emmett Skerry, Cheryl Rodriguez, Colin Walsh and William Giglio.

Darlene Mattuchio and Kerry Laidlaw placed 13th and 14th, respectively, and were eliminated.

View our election results for a breakdown of every preliminary municipal election held on Tuesday.


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