Preliminary elections on Sept. 12 in Worcester signaled what could be a resounding defeat in November for the Trump-allied faction of the Republican Party around city council member and Worcester Republican City Committee chair Michael Gaffney. Also apparently losing influence is the notorious Holden-based alt-right blog Gaffney supports, Turtleboy Sports. Gaffney, it should be remembered, is the candidate who has been busy lately telling the press that “there are consequences” for articles that don’t glorify him.
By any account, Worcester’s center and progressive forces moved forward, while those Gaffney and Turtleboy Sports supported took, as George W. Bush once put it, “a thumpin’.”
Two districts in Worcester, District 1 and District 5, had enough people vying for a the seat that a preliminary election was held. In District 1, Sean Rose, Ed Moynihan, Gerardo Schiano, and Bill Coleman were vying for the seat being vacated by the popular incumbent Tony Economou, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. In District 5, Gary Rosen left the seat he holds open as he vies for an at-large council seat. Hoping to fill his place were Doug Arbetter, Matt Wally, and Paul Franco (there was also a guy named Ben Champagne who did bother to campaign and announced too late to be removed from the ballot that he didn’t want the seat).
In District 5, Doug Arbetter was the progressive favorite, while Matt Wally, who works in philanthropy, was the candidate representing the center. Wally and Arbetter, both Democrats, are also to the left of the right-of-center Gary Rosen. Paul Franco, on the other hand, is a member of the Trump-aligned Worcester Republican City Committee, along with Michael Gaffney and school committee candidate Donna Colorio, and was supported by the GOP, Gaffney, and Turtleboy Sports.
While progressives were disappointed not to have Arbetter in the general elections, the real loser was Franco, who beat Arbetter by a mere 69 votes. The breakdown was:
Wally, with about 45 percent of the votes, was just a few points short of an outright majority. Arbetter and Wally, representing the center-left, scored a total of 1,670 votes, compared to Franco’s 673, meaning, in terms of ideology, the center-left scored about 70 percent, and the far right just 28 percent.
Given that Gaffney, Turtleboy Sports, and the GOP did as much as they could for Franco, it was a huge defeat for them. And the far-right suffered an even bigger defeat in District 1:
In this race, the progressive was the clear frontrunner: Sean Rose won 43 percent of the vote in a four-way race. With no clear “bad guy” running, though, Gaffney and company hitched their wagon to the person they thought most amenable: Bill Coleman. More than anyone else (except maybe his wife), Gaffney campaigned for perennial candidate Bill Coleman.
Coleman is well-known in Worcester, but what irks many people about him is that it is hard to know
where he stands on issues, and this has been the case for decades. Still, his name is known and he usually receives some votes. In the 2015 preliminary election for an at-large seat, Coleman received 2,072 votes. To be sure, the results were not directly analogous. For one, there was a slightly higher turnout in 2015: 11.2 percent compared to 10.34 percent. Also, it was a different type of election, and there were different dynamics. it does seem that Coleman would have expected to do better. District 1 has a higher turnout rate than others, but even if they were all equal, he would have pulled 518 votes out of his home district. Of course, in 2015, a voter was allowed six choices in the preliminary instead of just one, but, even still, Coleman beat four other people.
While it’s hard to make a definitive statement because of the vagaries mentioned above, it does seem that Coleman did worse in this election than he did in 2015. He hasn’t changed; the only thing that has is that he’s campaigned more – which should bring him more votes. However, he campaigned with Michael Gaffney and came in dead last, with Gerardo Schiano, who came in third and is new to local elections, taking almost twice as many votes. It’s worth noting that Turtleboy Sports attacked Schiano explicitly during their “coverage” of a non-scandal regarding the Citizens Advisory Council, on which Schiano sits.
This strongly suggests that the association with Gaffney and Turtleboy Sports cost Coleman votes. What is more than certain, though, is that the progressives and centrists – the people Gaffney and Turtleboy hate, the types they accuse of being part of some “crime family” – received far, far more votes than any of the candidates supported by the alt-right.
The Takeaway: Turtleboy and Gaffney can be defeated
All of the above bodes well for November. If these trends continue, and there’s no indication they won’t, Gaffney and company can be defeated. To be clear, this includes: Michael Gaffney, running for city council-at-large and perhaps mayor; Coreen Gaffney, challenging Sarai Rivera; Donna Colorio, running for school committee; and still includes Paul Franco in District 5, as well as a few nearly unknown candidates.
But that won’t happen if the united center-left in Worcester doesn’t work, and work hard, for victory.