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Briefings: Ward 6 Has the First Contested Ward Race of 2023 in Springfield…

Ward 6 Springfield

Ward 6’s boundaries this year, in greens. This map received approval in 2021 but did not take effect until after the election that year. (via Springfield Election Commission)

As it stands, most of the political action in Springfield this year will be in the mayor’s race and the at-large Council race. Mayor Domenic Sarno faces three high-profile challengers and two are vacating at-large seats on the municipal legislature. No incumbent in the ward seats appears to be bailing and there have been few rumblings about challenges.

A noted exception is Ward 6, where rumors of a challenge to Councilor Victor Davila have circulated for months. On Tuesday, the first official opposition appeared when Forest Park Heights Historic District resident Humberto Caro filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance. The city Election Commission had yet to certify him for the ballot, but he confirmed to WMP&I he was running.

“This year I made the decision to run fort [sic] city council for ward 6 because we need to improve on safety, specially car break ins in the area,” Caro emailed. He said he has been a victim himself.

In addition, he said he wanted to focus on youth, mental health and liaising between City Hall and neighborhood associations. It did not change much in redistricting.

Ward 6 consists of most of Forest Park south of Belmont Avenue. From the X, the ward runs easterly mostly along Sumner Avenue to the intersection with Allen Street, encompassing a portion of East Forest Park.

Caro may not be the only person to enter the race. Ward 6 mirrors the city itself, featuring a spectrum of ethnicities, incomes, and housing stock. At one time, mayors and multiple at-large councilor lived there even after Ward 7 eclipsed Ward 6 in election turnout. The Forest Park Civic Association is one of the most active neighborhood groups in the city. This leaves a deep well of potential candidates should they be moved to run.

For his part, Davila said he did not know Caro but welcomed him to the race.

Victor Davila

Davila is the first Springfield ward councilor to face a challenge in 2023. How serious remains to be seen. (WMP&I)

“If he wants to run, it’s his right to do so,” Davila said in an interview. “I am going to continue to engage the community and the neighborhood that I love.”

In an email to WMP&I, Caro confirmed that he is new to Springfield politics. Like Davila, Caro is a native of Puerto Rico, although he came to Springfield from the island only 11 years ago. Davila came to the city with his parents as a young man. However, Caro said he was active in Puerto Rican politics.

“The politics in Puerto Rico are a bit different since is mostly motivated by the Political status of the Island,” he wrote. “At the end of the day, we all want what is more beneficial for our constituency.”

Caro indicated he had mostly lived in the Forest Park area since moving to Springfield. He moved to the historic district with his husband Jesus in 2015 where they now live with their children.

While ward representation did not hike turnout much, it did prompt competitive elections across the city. Not surprisingly given its active and diverse makeup, Ward 6 has been among them.

During the first ward elections in 2009, Ward 6 hosted a spirited preliminary (Davila first ran that year, but did not advance to the general). The subsequent general was among the most fraught contests that year in which Keith Wright defeated Amaad Rivera, though Rivera became the councilor a year later when Wright resigned.

In 2011, one-time School Committee member Ken Shea walked into an open seat and never lost reelection. He faced opposition only once, in 2015, from Rivera’s mother, Kim, who is this year a candidate for at-large councilor. Two years later, he would face perennial candidate Bob Collamore. However, to call Collamore, the son of the late councilor Leonard Collamore, opposition does violence to the word “opposition.”

Shea’s retirement in 2019 had seemingly set the stage for another big preliminary but at-large councilor Timothy Ryan opted to drop down to the ward seat. That cleared any talk of other candidates, save Davila, who narrowly snagged a surprise win over Ryan, the son of the late Charles Ryan.

In 2021, Collamore would resurface to take on Davila. Yet, by then frequent filer Collamore was facing charges of actual violence, that is destruction of property. As Shea had in 2017, Davila defeated Collamore handily.