A depressing one in 10 Medford voters went to the polls to cast preliminary ballots Tuesday but city voters should not interpret the low turnout as indication of a weak candidate field this year.
Only one candidate got knocked off the ballot, but that elimination gave the race to the Nov. 7 municipal election a whole new look.
City Councilor Andrew Castagnetti’s departure from the election landscape saw the council race
morph from a crowded ballot split between election-tested incumbents and first-time novices to what projects to be a fight to the finish for the seven council seats.
The remaining 14 candidates have barely 50 days to campaign to win seats on the 2018-2019 City Council.
With 1,836 votes, incumbent John Falco Jr. was the ticket-topper in Tuesday’s vote, which featured a possible record voter turnout for Medford. Falco may be on the way to setting a political popularity record: He was the top vote-getter in the 2015 final Council election in his first bid for the office.
Right behind Falco was veteran incumbent Councilor Michael Marks with 1,809 votes, Incumbent Breanna Lungo-Koehn was third with 1,741 votes. All three incumbents are likely to be popular vote-getters in November but that does not mean they can relax and coast to Nov. 7.
Three other candidates are well within shouting distance of strong election finishes judging by Tuesday’s tally, bunched together with preliminary vote tallies several hundred votes lower than the top-tier council candidates.
George Scarpelli (1,458 votes) finished fourth followed by Richard Caraviello (1,383 votes) and Adam Knight (1,313 votes).
Seventh-place finisher in the preliminary election and longtime School Committee member Ann Marie Cugno is aiming for a council seat for the first time this year. She outpaced in the preliminary incumbent councilors Frederick Dello Russo Jr.
The top-tier council candidates are happy about their preliminary tallies but a political dustup is sure to break out among second-tier candidates seeking a council seat and wondering if bottom-tier preliminary finishers can catch voters’ attention between now and November.
The leaders in that lower tier were political newcomer Natalie Breen (1,001 votes) and former Medford state legislator George Sacco (925 votes) followed by political newcomer Curtis Tuden (901), Cheryl Rodriquez (888), Remo Scarfo (713), Robert J. Capucci Jr. (663) and Castagnetti who got 499 votes.
Candidates will be out drumming up voter interest as summer turns to fall. But City Clerk Ed Finn sent a message to voters in the wake of the preliminary when he noted Medford is long known for its robust voting numbers.
He compared the paltry 9.8 percent turnout on Tuesday to a 12.2 percent turnout in the 2015 preliminary election. But he thinks the push by candidates to break out of the pack, so to speak, and score better with voters in the final election will draw more people to the polls in November.