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Briefings: Holyoke Voters Cull the Campaign Herd to Garcia & Sullivan…

Sullivan Garcia

Sullivan and Garcia ready to Rumble. (created via candidate photo and WMP&I)

HOLYOKE—The first completely open race for mayor in 12 years crossed its first threshold as voters whittled down a powerhouse seven-person field to two contenders for November. At-large Councilor Michael Sullivan and Blandford Town Administrator Joshua Garcia will go on to the general election. Unofficial results the City Clerk released show Sullivan leading Garcia by 304 votes with 18% turnout.

The race was a relatively quiet affair. Even before Delta swaggered onto the scene, an exhausted population did not appear to be digesting the election until quite late. Yet, Garcia’s success in the preliminary puts this majority-Latino city one step closer to electing its first Puerto Rican mayor.

“Although we feel good about tonight’s results, we have to continue to just press forward and bring our neighborhoods together bring our community together for the greater good of the city of Holyoke,” Garcia said at his watch party at Fiesta Café on Main Street.

Sullivan will enter the race in a strong position. Some support among the unsuccessful candidates will gravitate toward Sullivan, who shares a first and last name with a well-liked former Holyoke mayor. The city’s conservative conclave has largely consolidated around him, too.

Speaking to WMP&I at his watch party, Sullivan projected confidence.

“Obviously, it was a landslide, we won by a big margin.” Gesturing to the room on the 4th floor of Open Square, he continued, “As you can see, I got a great team, very energetic and just did a fantastic job. And we’re looking forward to November.”

The final order, behind Sullivan and Garcia, were at-large Councilor Rebecca Lisi, at-large School Committee member Devin Sheehan, former mayoral aide Billy Glidden, academic Gloria Caballero-Roca and Chris Kosinski. By 8:45PM the results had rippled out among the campaigns.  Then, candidates began conceding. Both Garcia and Sullivan had said they had spoken to some of their former rivals.

The winner in November will take office immediately, granting the city an elected mayor for the first time since March when Alex Morse resigned. The City Council had selected Terence Murphy, the Ward 2 Council, to serve as acting mayor.

Sadly and as expected, turnout was abysmal. Both surviving candidates lamented the turnout. Full results by precincts were not immediately available, but generally Holyoke’s whiter upper wards dominate the overall result. The lower wards are more Latino and usually have lower turnout.

Some here wonder if, counterintuitively, the disappointing turnout militated in Garcia’s favor, at least in a seven-candidate preliminary. Friends and supporters of his were working the city’s Latino precincts, pulling out to voters until the last minute.

He got into the race late relative to Glidden, Lisi and Sheehan and his fundraising was relatively low, too. A late Garcia surge did always seem possible, though.

Despite drawing much of his electoral support from more old Irish order here, Sullivan has made inroads among as least some Hispanic voters. He has a reputation of working with youths from across the community. His watch party was hardly monochromatic.

Still, Garcia was not deterred. He acknowledged Sullivan had a presence in the community. Yet, Garcia made clear he was prepared to square off on his background in local administration.

“I’m happy to share that background up against Mike any day, but what Mike doesn’t have compared to me, is municipal management experience,” he said.