Good morning, Clam Nation! As you know, we’ve got connections here in our Top Secret Gloucester Clam Underground Lair to people all over Essex County, including Salem and Beverly! Our reach is just, wow. Since we know a lot of our readers live down the line and the Clam is all about togetherness, we decided to lock our Gloucester Clam Actual Politician™ into the basement (even more underground, we’re not sure he’s getting enough air but we’ll check later), and we want to prove to you that we’ve been paying attention. We let Josh give us some info on people but we then proceeded to at least partly ignore him. So wrapping up the grand Clamback, below are our Clamdorsements in the Salem City Council and School Committee elections, because you guys are no fun and only make your mayor run every four years instead of two.
In the City Council race, they’re super polarized right now. A bunch of the Councilors have gotten the reputation of being total mayor suckups. A bunch more have gotten the reputation of being totally against her. We like Driscoll up here in Gloucester – if Salem gets tired of her feel free to send her our way. We like Sefatia too (hell, we love her), but competition would be nice. Anyhow, in Salem they’ve been fighting over zoning and all kinds of crap all year, and the Councilors from Wards 4 and 6 give each other death stares every meeting. We’ve seen video. It’s bad. And this writer deals with toddlers all day, that’s nothing compared to this crew. We’d like to fix it, so here’s our picks (Clam choices in Bold).
City Council At-Large:
Vote them out. All of them. At least, all three incumbents that are on the ballot (Sargent, Milo, and Dominguez – Tom Furey is stepping down after a long career as an elected official without having used email once). That leaves us five non-incumbents to pick from, and they’re a good lot pretty much. Here’s our four top ones.
Conrad Prosniewski (that’s a frigging mouthful) is a recently retired police captain. Everyone in Salem loves him, he’s gonna win. Vote for him anyway, he’s a good guy. Conrad isn’t on any particular side and that’s healthy, we think. Progressives love him, conservatives love him.
Alice Merkl ran for office a year ago, losing closely a race for Southern Essex Register of Deeds, a job you’ve never heard of. She’s slumming with this race, but we like her a lot. Super progressive, empathic, and for years has been an active volunteer all over the community on top of her work teaching music. It’s also a lot of fun in Salem when we have majorly progressive people on the City Council because it makes Facebook explode with annoyed conservatives.
In that same vein, we like Jeff Cohen. He ran for City Council two years ago, and came in last. This time maybe he’ll do better. He is the kind of progressive who needs you to know how progressive he is, and how the rest of us aren’t doing it right. Jeff, we’ll have you know that we’ve got people here in the Lair who were out manning the barricades when you were in diapers, and make you look like a right-winger. We give Josh shit all the time for not being progressive enough for us. But he’s fun, plus he’ll also make conservative heads explode. They think Jeff’s a left-wing terrorist. We also like his environmental focus. So we like him, despite crapping all over him here.
And our last pick, but nowhere near our fourth one (more like 1A with Conrad) is Ty Hapworth. Ty checks all the freaking boxes there are. He’s a Army vet living in a beautiful downtown home and married to his high school sweetheart, with a fancy executive job at Microsoft doing something Josh tried to explain to us but it made our heads hurt. And the Housewives of Salem thirst for him. Dude probably ought to run for Governor instead but we think he can’t handle the pay cut.
The Clam choices: Hapworth, Prosniewski, Merkl, and Cohen. Some of Team Clam likes George McCabe, too – and if you switched one of your votes to him we won’t hunt you down.
Then there’s the Ward races in Salem. Always interesting, always weird.
Ward 1 features a contest between 6-term Councillor Bob McCarthy and long-time activist James Willis. The Clam endorses McCarthy, though Willis is perfectly fine. The two are almost identical on every issue, our pick is mainly because of experience and entertainment value, Bob turns so red when he’s talking to fools that we worry a bit. You can even see it on the 480p cable access. Even though Willis has been generally a supporter of Mayor Kim, a lot of the people that hate Driscoll are backing Willis because Bob has a long track record of supporting her, too. And with us throwing so many of them out, we need to keep a couple of the better ones around.
Ward 2 has a theoretically unopposed candidate in Christine Madore, who is smart, technocratic, a little too process-driven, and does a good job overall. At the beginning of October the Federal Street crew who religiously oppose Mayor Kim at every turn put forward Federal Street housewife, anti-Driscoll activist, frequently ousted volunteer, and occasional jazz singer Stacia Kraft as a write-in candidate with a massive coordinated effort and a float in the Halloween Parade. It’s ridiculous, but in Salem shit like that happens. Be jealous, North Shore, be jealous. Madore hasn’t given us any particular reason to get rid of her but when the local John Birchers and angry neighborhood activists line up behind Kraft and don tinfoil, that’s a reason to keep Madore as well.
In Ward 3, there’s an open seat. Incumbent Lisa Peterson won her seat in 2017, decided the City Council was a hot mess (she’s not wrong), and quit to run for Congress instead. You’ll see her next year. Meanwhile, her hand-chosen successor Patti Morsillo is running against local Steak & Eggs guy Bob Camire. Bob doesn’t believe in email (they were almost done with candidates like that when Furey retired) and thinks liberals are ruining Salem. Vote Morsillo.
Ward 4 has more weirdness. Firefighter Tim Flynn won an open seat in 2017 and since then has been the guy to throw red meat to Salem’s MAGA crowd (yes, even Salem has them). The dude is a walking Blue Lives Matter meme. We’d link you his hot mess of a Facebook page but you’ll tear your hair out. While he continues his war on liberalism, development, taxes, and the No Place for Hate Committee in Salem he’s also dealing with his challenger Michael Cusick. Michael is a really smart retiree who’s pitch seems to be “if you’re going to put a generic white guy in office, it should be a smart one”. We agree. Vote for Cusick. Even if Flynn loses, you’ll see more of him – the last conservative white guy with a buzzcut and a government day job to lose an election came back to run for mayor next time out. Of course, he lost, it was in 2017.
Ward 5, Oh well. You’re stuck with Josh Turiel again because he’s unopposed for real (in contrast to the fake unopposed in Ward 2). He told us he’s quitting after this term, so at least you’ve got that to look forward to. We’re stuck with him and at some point have to let him start posting here again. We’ll text you your new password the day after this posts, ok Josh?
Ward 6 is another open seat. Three-term Councillor Beth Gerard is quitting to spend more time with her cats and less time looking across the aisle at her mortal enemy Flynn. We don’t blame her, and we’re not sure which is the mongoose and which is the snake. The Mack Park Neighborhood Association has united to put forward two-time retread candidate Jerry Ryan as their choice. Jerry was Ward 4 Councilor for a while at the beginning of the decade before running at-large in 2013 and losing. After a term off, he ran again in 2015 and won a at-large seat, only to lose it again in 2017. Having changed addresses in the meantime, now he just can’t stay away and is running for the open Ward 6 seat. We’ve heard about the Mack Park crew, and their endorsement means a big NOPE for us. Fortunately, his opponent that the Clam endorses is Megan Riccardi, who is a political rookie, tech industry pro, and super smart. A bunch of us Clams have met her and you want her elected. Truth.
Ward 7 is Salem’s buffer with Swampscott. And it’s represented by Steve Dibble, who is (in his telling) the most important man in the universe and planted every tree in Salem. He also (if you ask him) wrote the zoning code, teaches chess, and is a blowhard to end all blowhards. Four years of him has been Dunning-Krueger come to life. Andy Varela is his opponent, the owner of Maitland Mountain Farm (pickle experts, not everything experts) – and Andy is everything that Steve thinks he, himself is. Varela is young, dynamic, runs a growing business, and has a perspective shaped by not being a Salem lifer. We like what he brings to the table, plus he has the advantage of not being Steve Dibble. When we have Clam board meetings and Dibble’s name comes up, our Salem members’ eyes twitch.
Salem School Committee has three seats up for election this year. One of them is open as incumbent Kristine Wilson didn’t run for a second term. Incumbents Jim Fleming and Mary Manning are running for reelection, and Manning is OK, we guess. Fleming, just nope. He’s tied way too much into the whole “neighborhood groups that exist to fight anything Kimmy does” crowd and we’re tired of that crap.
The two we do endorse fully are Beth Anne Cornell and Kristin Pangallo. They’re both college professors (Cornell at Wentworth and Pangallo at Salem State) who have kids in the Salem Schools – and right now there are ZERO parents on the School Committee. Fixing that with college professors WHO ARE ALSO PARENTS seems like a good idea to us.
Also running are Donna Fritz, who is also a Salem parent and a member of the PTO at Witchcraft Heights Elementary, and Jennifer Brown, who attended one debate, confused a rubric with a Rubik’s Cube, and hasn’t appeared at an event, debate, or responded to any media since. So nope. But vote for up to three candidates, and so long as none of them are Fleming or Brown you’re OK with Manning or Fritz. Just pick one of those two.