Nailbiter in District 8 Council race highlight of city election

A close race in District 8 and an upset of an incumbent City Councillor in District 7 highlighted Tuesday’s municipal election in Chelsea.

In District 8, unofficial results showed incumbent Calvin T. Brown squeaking past challenger Maria Belen Power by a four vote margin, 221-217, however Belen Power said there were still some votes left to count that could potentially tip the contest in her favor.

In District 7, challenger Tanairi Garcia defeated incumbent Yamir Rodriguez 119-79.

In the other contested District council races, Norieliz DeJesus beat School Committee member Marisol Santiago for the District 3 seat currently held by Naomi Zabot, and in District 2, incumbent Melinda Vega Maldonado held back a challenge from Olivia Anne Walsh.

Calvin T. Brown.
Norieliz DeJesus.
Leo Robinson.

District 1 Councillor Todd Taylor, District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez, District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia, and District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero all ran unopposed in the general election and were returned to office.

In the race for the three at-large council seats, the incumbents held sway, while former councillor Joe Perlatonda failed to make the cut.

Leo Robinson topped the ballot with 890 votes, followed by current Council President Roy Avellaneda with 875, and Damali Vidot with 866. Perlatonda tallied 425 votes.

While Belen Power had some powerful outside support, with an endorsement by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Brown said he was grateful that he had the support of the voters in his district.

“I’m grateful for the residents of Chelsea that made the decision,” said Brown. “It wasn’t the outsiders, it was the people who live in District 8 and know what’s going on.”

Brown said his supporters appreciate the work that has been done during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that he looks forward to getting Chelsea residents back to work and the community back up and running during his next term, if his slim margin holds.

Power thanked her supporters, and said it was still too close to call the race late Tuesday night as there were still absentee and provisional ballots left to count in the district.

Vega Maldonado, Garcia, and DeJesus campaigned as a unified slate, and the work paid off as all three were victorious in contested elections for the council.

Garcia said she didn’t initially see herself as someone who would run for public office, but said she saw a gap that she could fill in and was ready to serve this year.

“My main focus is on the children in the community, we need more programs for them to keep our youth occupied, we need more employment for them,” said Garcia.

She said there also needs to be a focus on affordable housing in Chelsea that is truly affordable for Chelsea residents.

Vega Maldonado said she is excited to serve a second term in office, especially with Garcia and DeJesus joining her on the City Council.

“I’m thrilled for what we are going to do for our city together as a united front,” said Vega Maldonado.

DeJesus said that despite the low voter turnout on Tuesday, she was grateful for the support she received and for the many constituents she met face to face during the campaign.

“I ran a campaign of complete grassroots, face to face connection with the community, door knocking, phone banking, flyering, and engaging with our families in the common areas of our district,” said DeJesus. “Although the turnout rate for our city was low yesterday, I am extremely grateful for those I was able to talk to in person and share my goals for the district and listen to their concerns.”

Avellaneda said he ran on his long record of public service.

As the council president for the past two years, Avellaneda said he’s known for pushing through legislation, and during the coming term, he said he would like to see an emphasis on economic development and increased affordable home ownership opportunities in the city.

“I will continue to push for home ownership opportunities, whether it is through legislation, city funds, or CPA money,” said Avellaneda. Increasing home ownership in Chelsea will help economic development, keeping more money in the city rather than having it go to landlords who live outside Chelsea.

In the race for the School Committee, the incumbents came out on top, with several districts waiting for the results of write-in votes. Both districts 3 and 4 had no official candidates on the ballot.

In the at-large School Committee race, incumbent Roberto Jimenez-Rivera defeated challenger Alexis Balcarcel.

In District 1, former School Committee member Shawn O’Regan will replace longtime committee member Rosemarie Carlisle, who did not run for reelection.

Incumbents Jeanette Velez in District 2, Ana Hernandez in District 6, Kelly Garcia in District 7, and Yessenia Alfaro in District 8 all ran unopposed and were returned to office. In District 5, incumbent Henry Wilson, who is facing criminal charges, was on the ballot and received more votes than the write-ins.

Kelly Garcia said she was happy to be returning to the School Committee, and also excited for her sister, Tanairi Garcia, who is the new District 7 City Councillor.

“You can never be too comfortable,” said Garcia about running unopposed. She said she campaigned hard, drove voters to the polls, and worked the phone banks to make sure her constituents knew she was still working hard for them.

While Avellaneda said he was happy to be voted in for another term, he was disappointed in the low voter turnout.

Unofficial results had 1,784 of the city’s 15,911 registered voters casting ballots, for a total of just over 11 percent turnout.

“There are some questions that need to be talked about for what we want to do as a community to get more people involved,” he said.

Avellandeda said issues such as low home ownership rates and the lack of a big ticket race such as mayor could contribute to the low turnout.

While not pushing to have Chelsea return to a mayoral, rather than city manager, system of government, Avellaneda said he would support a future ballot question gauging community support for the initiative.

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