EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 3, 2013

30 percent voter turnout predicted

By Brian Messenger

---- — METHUEN — Recent history shows around 30 percent of the city’s roughly 29,000 registered voters participate in municipal elections. On Tuesday, City Clerk Christine Touma-Conway expects a similar showing.

“I don’t see this being different than other municipal elections, based on the benchmarks we use,” said Conway.

Residents will elect a mayor, City Council, School Committee and other local offices. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Voter turnout in the last municipal election two years ago was 31 percent. In all, 8,993 ballots were cast. There are now 29,111 registered voters in this city of 48,000 people.

Conway said there has been no significant uptick in voter registration activity this year. The demand for absentee ballots this election is also in line with 2011 — leading her to believe Tuesday’s turnout will again be around 30 percent.

In the race for mayor, voters will choose between incumbent Stephen Zanni and challenger Jennifer Kannan.

Zanni, 69, a retired teacher and school administrator, is seeking his second two-year term as mayor. He was elected mayor in 2011 after besting challenger Al DiNuccio by just 34 votes in a decision that required a recount.

Prior to running for mayor, Zanni was a councilor-at-large for six years.

Kannan hopes a similar path will lead her to the mayor’s office. The 48-year-old Realtor is wrapping up her sixth year as a councilor-at-large. Term limits will force her off the council at the end of the year.

The city’s next mayor will be tasked with overseeing the completion of the Methuen High School renovation and expansion. The $98 million project is slated for completion in the summer of 2014.

The next mayor may also decide the fate of the municipal Information Technology department. Zanni’s repeated failed attempts to privatize IT during his first term were opposed by Kannan and a majority of councilors.

If re-elected, Zanni said he will again push for IT privatization if there is council support. Kannan does not support IT privatization, and has consistently taken a more cautious approach to privatization and outsourcing than the mayor.

Voters will see two City Council races on their ballot — the race for councilor-at-large, which represents the entire city, and one of three district-specific races for the city’s East, Central and West council districts.

The at-large race features four challengers — Sharon Birchall, Daniel Grayton, James Jajuga and Robert LeBlanc — and incumbent Joyce Campagnone. Voters will elect three of the five candidates to two-year terms.

In all three district races, residents will elect two of three candidates on the ballot.

East District incumbents Tom Ciulla and Ron Marsan are seeking reelection after joining the council as newcomers in 2012. Challenging them is former Methuen School Committeeman Thomas Firth.

The Central District race also features two incumbents seeking second terms — Jamie Atkinson and Lisa Ferry. Longtime Methuen politician and former council chairman Jack Cronin is the lone challenger.

In the West District, incumbent council Chairman Sean Fountain is running against challengers George Kazanjian and Kenneth Willette. Both challengers have prior experience on elected city boards.

Methuen residents will have their choice between eight School Committee candidates. Six will be elected.

They are: incumbents Mary Jean Fawcett and Lynne Hajjar Kumm and challengers Richard Beshara, Dennis “D.J.” Deeb, Jana DiNatale, Thomas Grondine, Bryan Sweet and Robert Vogler.

Also on the ballot are races for Greater Lawrence Technical School Committee, Methuen Housing Authority and the Nevins Memorial Library Board of Trustees.

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot at the city clerk’s office in City Hall is tomorrow at noon.