It’s tough to be an incumbent these days, and the national trend to oust those in office carried over to Chelsea Tuesday night when six new people out of 11 seats – creating a new majority – swept into office on a wave of voter excitement and candidate campaigning that hasn’t been seen here for a decade or more.
There were 2,832 ballots cast for a 21 percent voter turnout.
The most exciting race was the City Council at-Large race, but the most dramatic change came in the district seats, where every contested race resulted in the removal of the incumbent councillor.
But first, the at-Large race was where most of the hard campaigning had been done since the Preliminary Election in September. Old political sidewalk politics such as sign holding, campaign rallies and door knocking efforts, unheard of in Chelsea politics for years, became the norm as voters saw more of the candidates than in many previous contests.
Topping the ticket in the race was returning councillor Roy Avellaneda, who had served previously on the Council and decided to make a run once again after two failed state representative bids last year. The vote tally reflected as follows, with Avellaneda, newcomer Damali Vidot and Council President Leo Robinson.
Robinson was the only Council incumbent in a contested race to be re-elected.
•Calvin Brown, 970
•Todd Taylor, 798
•Deborah Washington, 380
The most surprising news of the night was that long-time Councillor Calvin Brown got knocked out of his seat. He trailed Robinson by only 18 votes, and said afterward he didn’t know if he’d go for a recount.
“That’s something to think about and maybe sleep on,” he said. “You have to take your time with that decision, but it was close.”
Avellaneda said he was very humbled and encouraged by the excitement that the race generated.
“It’s humbling to be honest,” he said. “It’s very exciting to go out there an get the support of the community I grew up in…I’m looking forward to working with our new city manager, our councillors, some of the incumbents, on making Chelsea a better place to live and work. We had a lot of excitement about this race and we haven’t seen that in years. Between School Committee, the district seats and the at-large races, we saw a type of atmosphere we haven’t seen since the first City Council was elected after the Charter passed…We need that excitement now to roll over and keep those people engaged in civic activities.”
Vidot, who had not intentions of ever running for City Council last year at this time, said she was humbled and found it hard to believe she had walked the path she had over the last several months.
She said voters responded to her message loud and clear, that City Hall isn’t representing the people and that there is a disconnect between City Hall and the neighborhoods.
“People clearly want change,” she said. “We have an almost entirely new City Council. The people have spoken and it’s time for us to respond. Until January, I’m going to read up and educate myself on the job and the responsibilities. I’m going to also keep my supporters close by and engaged so we can keep our momentum. I’m really looking forward to working with everybody.”
The District Council races were the most shocking, and where the real wave of new faces will be seen.
In District 2, Chelsea native Luis Tejada beat incumbent Chris Cataldo 160-137.
In District 4, long-time Councillor Paul Barton was beaten decidedly by activist Enio Lopez, 139-59.
In District 5, incumbent Councillor Joe Perlatonda had been edged out already in the Preliminary Election, leaving two challengers. The heir apparent had been Henry Wilson, a long-time community activist and Planning Board member. However, up and coming candidate Judith Garcia, who has youth on her side being in her 20s, surged in the campaign and beat Wilson, 164-109.
In District 7, newcomer Yamir Rodriguez, also in his 20s, beat out incumbent Clifford Cunningham, 155-123.
District 1 Councillor Paul Murphy, District 3 Councillor Matt Frank, District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero, and District 8 Councillor Dan Cortell were all unopposed.
The results will give the Council, as stated above, six new faces in January.
In the School Committee race, Shawn O’Regan flexed some political muscle and cruised to an easy victory over write-in candidate Carolyn Vega, 1,449-390.
The two contested races on the School Committee showed former Chelsea High graduate Robert Pereira beating Kizzi Reyes in District 5, 147-85.
Also, in an open seat, Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez barely edged out Elizabeth Shahinian, 188-177.
Newcomer Diana Maldonado was unopposed in Dis
trict 4 and received 150 votes.
Newcomer Kelly Garcia won District 7 with 63 votes in District 7.
District 1 Rosemarie Carlisle, District 2 Jeanette Velez, District 3 Richard Maronski, and District 6 Ana Hernandez all won in unopposed races.