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Briefings: Sciarra Rules Noho Prelim, Warner Lives to Fight in General…

Warner Sciarra

Warner makes it into prelim, but Sciarra dominated the Northampton mayoral preliminary. (via candidates sites)

NORTHAMPTON—Nearly nine months after Mayor David Narkewicz announced he would bounce at the end of his current term, the race to replace gained him considerable clarity. City Council President Gina-Louise Sciarra stomped toward the general election on Tuesday, taking 60% of the preliminary election vote. Joining her in the general election will be civic figure Marc Warner.

The Paradise City had its share of problems before the pandemic, but the last 18 months have put many into sharp relief. It also accelerated trends that could upend the city’s economy. How Sciarra or Warner propose to tackle these matters will define the next six weeks. Still, the Council President moves into the general election with tremendous momentum.

“We’ve worked so hard for months and months and months, so I was really, excitedly surprised,” Sciarra said. Pointing to her broad grassroots campaign, she added, “To see those results, to see it come to fruition in this way tonight feels really good.”

Sciarra met supporters at Fitzwilly’s outdoor space in downtown. Both Warner and third-place finisher Shanna Fishel appeared at City Hall after 8pm to receive results. Warner departed before WMP&I could approach him for comment.

After this piece was published, Warner told WMP&I he was quite pleased with the results. He said he would be knocking doors and reaching out to the 75% of registered voters who did not vote Tuesday, whom he suspected were “less ideological.”

“I’m delighted to make it through the preliminary election, and I hope that the voters throughout Northampton will now recognize that I’m a serious candidate, and will take a closer look at what I have to offer,” he emailed.

Roy Martin and Rosechana Gordon were also on the ballot.

The latest unofficial results show Sciarra nabbing 3195 of the 5252 votes cast. Behind her was Warner with 1147, Fishel with 734, Martin with 81 and Gordon with 31. Gordon withdrew too late to remove her name from the ballot.

Both at-large City Council seats, including Sciarra’s, are open, too. Voters slimmed the five-person field to Marissa Elkins, Jamila Gore, David Murphy and Ward 1 Councilor Michael Quinlan.

Unlike the contest last week in Holyoke, there was a clear favorite here. Supporters have long called Sciarra a workhorse, but the result surprised even some in her camp. Still, she had the backing of a swath of city luminaries, confident she would continue the quiet competency that had made Narkewicz all but electorally bulletproof. Labor has also rallied to her.

Over eight years on the Council, Sciarra built up her own reputation, too. In an interview, she pointed to her Council experience and progressive record as key to the result.

“I think that it’s a reflection of the hard work that I’ve done and my commitment to Northampton I’ve been involved in,” she said of the result.

Sciarra’s victory reverberated beyond Noho. In a release, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts extolled her finish and Elkins and Gore’s. The organization identified them and three candidates who did not have preliminaries as municipal supporters of reproductive freedom, inclusive sex ed, and other priorities.

“Northampton’s city government is poised to be led by an excellent group of pro-choice champions. This kind of leadership will have a very positive impact on the lives of all Northampton residents,” NARAL Mass’s Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder said in the release.

Northampton City Hall

The race to here got a lot less crowded Tuesday. (WMP&I)

Sciarra said she had not heard from any of her opponents, but she wished them well. She acknowledged the difficulty of running for office and admired their willingness to run.

As the results literally rolled into the Noho Clerk’s office, Sciarra quickly took first place. The battle between Fishel and Warner went back and forth, varying from precinct to precinct. Warner pulled away near the end.

This surprised some. Although Warner has been a figure in city affairs, he entered the race late. By comparison, Fishel announced almost simultaneously to Sciarra. The Fishel campaign was canvassing and had notable support in the city.

“Of course, I’m disappointed with the results,” Fishel told WMP&I. “But the campaign has been powerful experience, very joyful. I’ve really taken pride with all the volunteers and the staffers that have worked tirelessly towards our shared our shared vision for progressive Northampton.”

Fishel did not close the door on another run for office.

From here the race will turn to November. In addition to turnover in the mayor’s office, several Council seats are open. Being a prominent node of progressive politics, the atmospherics of  Northampton politics may not change with this election. However, the mayor’s race could turn on issues more practical matters like reconstructing downtown.

Despite the margin between her and Warner, Sciarra is not taking the general for granted.

“We’re just going to get up tomorrow and keep working as hard as we have been,” she said.