An election year exodus

June 5, 2017

Lynn Ward 2 City Councilor William Trahant Jr. appears to have set in motion an exodus of veteran elected officials from the City Council and School Committee.

His decision not to run for reelection is sparking a potential return to politics for former committee member Rick Starbard. A popular citywide vote-getter, Starbard probably won’t have an easy walk into the Council Chamber, but he has to be viewed as a favorite to succeed Trahant.

On the committee side, dean of the committee Patricia Capano has decided not to run along with Maria Carrasco, the vocal opponent of Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham, who leaves ally Donna Coppola on the committee.

A relatively small field of newcomers is vying, for now at least, to grab committee seats but the double exodus from the committee could see candidates teaming up to jointly campaign and ask voters to “bullet” their names on the ballot in the fall.

Asking voters to cast ballots for a pack of candidates instead of individuals running for elected office is risky in an era of clearly-stated voter discontent. Voters turned national electoral politics on its proverbial ear last year when they rejected a broad field of established Republican candidates for a political outsider and kept a firebrand upstart alive in the Democratic primaries even as the party’s favorite kept her rendezvous with the party nomination.

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But national politics means little at the local level and the exodus in veterans from city service is a tribute to their collective commitment to serving the city in an age when people find plenty of reasons not to enter politics.

Trahant is better known for his family’s multi-generational roofing business than his council service. Most Ward 2 constituents would agree Billy Trahant readily shunned his Council Chamber seat for a chance to climb behind the wheel of a pickup and plow their driveways during a blizzard.

Finding a candidate to replace his type of hands-on, nuts-and-bolts service to local residents as a councilor isn’t a guarantee this election year.

Capano alternately guided and chided committee colleagues, including mayors serving as committee chairmen, to evaluate public school policies and tackle complicated issues like net spending and new school construction. Her frustration over school spending seemed to grow in the last several years but her commitment to improving local education will not end when she leaves the committee.

Lynn city elections have always been defined by dramatic wins and losses: Brian LaPierre’s resounding councilor at large win in 2015; Judy Kennedy’s razor-thin 2009 victory; the late Pat McManus’ giant-tumbling win in 1991. In that tradition, the exodus of veteran elected officials this year could usher in victories bent on redefining city politics.