A Swampscott election with entertainment value

Small town election seasons can feature memorable contests and this year is no exception. In Swampscott, three out of four contested races are marked by disagreement — even ill will — well in advance of the April 27 election.


Fierce contests for town moderator are rare, but there is no love lost between Moderator Michael McClung and challenger Charles Patsios.


Patsios, a Town Meeting member, used the words “bribe” and “nepotism” last November to unsuccessfully challenge a motion allowing town fire and police departments to leave the state civil service system. Town Meeting approved the motion, prompting Patsios to file a reconsideration motion.


McClung denied the reconsideration motion, stating that Patsios’ challenge was directed at the wrong Town Meeting article.


Differences between the two candidates were amplified when McClung asked Patsios to limit his remarks, before muting him during the March 1 virtual Town Meeting. Patsios subsequently pulled nomination papers to mount his challenge for the moderator post.


The Board of Health is also an infrequent political battleground, but board member Marianne Hartmann and candidate George Potts skirmished over COVID-19 during Monday’s online candidate’s forum, described as a “contentious exchange,” by an Item reporter.


Potts described the pandemic as “possibly caused by a viral lab in Wuhan, China.” Hartmann asked Potts how he planned to address “hateful and racist rhetoric around COVID-19” and Potts’ references to the “Chinese virus.”  Potts stood his ground, saying, “… we shouldn’t do anything to whitewash the origins of the virus.”


In advance of Thursday’s 7 p.m. online candidates’ forum, Select Board candidate Mary Webster drew fire for online posts attributed to her concerning COVID-19 (see Opinion page letter).

Critics of Select Board Chair Peter Spellios question his skill at managing town finances (see Opinion page letter). Residents will be treated to an election-year doubleheader Thursday, with the undercard featuring McClung and Patsios.


The only Swampscott race free from contention — so far — is the School Committee contest between Glenn Paster and Colin Codner. They displayed  a mutual compatibility on education issues to the point where Monday night’s forum moderator dubbed their exchanges as the “I agree” debate. 


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