Worcester’s far-right political bloc was obliterated in yesterday’s elections, when voters overwhelmingly decided to toss council member and Republican City Committee chair Michael Gaffney into the dustbin of history, and then blocked every one of his allies from the city council and school committee. In doing so, Worcester strengthened the hand of the currently leading center/progressive alliance and reaffirmed support for those who have strengthened the ongoing renaissance, as well as given a mandate for policies that have made Worcester, as Mayor Joseph Petty calls it, a “welcoming city.”
Gaffney has since deleted his public Facebook page and deleted the series of bizarre “Cheers Worcester” videos he routinely posted to Youtube. Gaffney severed his ties with the Turtleboy Sports blog, which had previously been something of a house organ for him and his Republican City Committee. Turtleboy desperately attempted to distance themselves from Gaffney, putting forward a “Turtleboy ticket,” which was itself overwhelmingly defeated.
The far-right ticket
Turtleboy has become irrelevant, but it does reflect the views of the Republican City Committee, at least until it is somehow reconfigured now that Gaffney, its leader, is gone. It is worthwhile, then, to see how the TBS/GOP candidates fared:
- For mayor: Konstantina Lukes: lost to Joe Petty, 30 to 70 percent; came in sixth in the council race
- District 3: Davis Asare: lost 27 to 73 percent to George Russell
- District 4: Coreen Gaffney: lost 23 to 77 to the well loved Sarai Rivera
- District 5: Paul Franco: lost 42 to 58 percent to newcomer Matt Wally
- For council at large (before the split): Michael Gaffney: dead last, eighth out of eight, receiving 3,309 votes less than Dante Comparetto did for school committee.
Speaking of Dante Comparetto, he was the candidate that TBS/GOP, Gaffney, and the far right overall wanted defeated at all costs. It’s notoriously hard for a newcomer to get onto the school committee, but Comparetto did, coming in fifth. In doing so, he defeated the sole representative of the extreme-right Republican City Committee, Donna Colorio, who came in last. It should be remembered that Colorio came in second in the previous election.
The Gaffneys might claim they had dropped out of the race, but there is evidence that this was a trick that they used to actually boost their chances of winning. While the Turtleboy ticket fared abysmally, all but one of the candidates this blog endorsed won their elections; the one who didn’t still beat Michael Gaffney. I’m not bragging that I swayed many votes. I am, however, pointing out what I got right: Michael Gaffney and his friends do not represent Worcester.
The need for unity, moving forward
Worcester’s voters rejected the far right, and, in so doing strengthened the hands of progressives in the leading center/progressive alliance. For example, Khrystian King, who won his seat by only about 60 votes in the 2015 elections, came in fourth this time, about five hundred votes ahead of the the next highest vote getter, also an incumbent. Respectable conservative Konstantina Lukes dropped to last place in the at-large race.
Comparetto’s victory on the school committee was also a strong indicator of the electorate’s support of progressive policies. It is, as mentioned, hard for a newcomer to get onto the school committee in his or her first run, harder to come in anything other than last place, and even harder to unseat the second highest vote winner in the previous election. Nevertheless, Comparetto, who ran as a progressive and labor candidate, did all this. His campaign was powered by young people, including an 18-year-old Worcester Tech graduate who managed the campaign, and a team of interns from the city’s public schools.
While the hand of the progressives was strengthened, and many who are more centrist have embraced progressive policies (e.g. Fight for $15, etc.), for now and for some time to come, the strategy has to continue to be for unity of all the democratic forces, progressive and center. There have been, naturally, some disagreements between members of this alliance, both between candidate and elected officials, and between different organizations representing different trends. To some extent, this is to be expected, because there are contradictory political tendencies, representing different interests at play.
Represented in the center/progressive alliance are the city’s multi-racial and multi-national working people, the racially and nationally oppressed peoples as a whole, women as a whole, and now, youth as a whole, as well as small businesses and the more liberal section of corporate interests. Now and for the foreseeable future, as Worcester’s redevelopment continues and in the context of the capturing of the federal government by the extreme right, these different tendencies have common interests. Where there are distinctions, either in the realm of ideological (liberal vs. conservative) or material (wage issues, for example), progressives need to fight for them by building public support in a way that does not jeopardize the alliance. None of this is to say that there isn’t room to push for progress: there is.
For now, though, everyone should take a moment to celebrate victory. The plague of hate that hovered over Worcester is dead.