By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — About 25 percent of Haverhill’s 41,457 registered voters are expected to cast ballots Tuesday to elect their mayor, City Council and School Committee, according to projections by elections officials.
That would put voter participation somewhere between the 2009 election, when veteran City Councilor John Michitson challenged incumbent Mayor James Fiorentini, and the 2011 contest in which Fiorentini faced political unknown Debra Campanile.
The 25 percent voter turnout projection is based on requests for absentee ballots, elections officials said.
In the 2009 election, 463 voters requested absentee ballots compared to 306 in 2011. As of Friday, 360 voters had requested forms to cast an absentee ballot prior to election day, said acting City Clerk Heather Budrewicz.
Based on requests for absentee ballots and similar factors, Budrewicz is projecting about 10,000 voters will cast ballots Tuesday.
A total of 12,476 voters cast ballots in the 2009 election, while 9,120 ballots were cast in 2009. By comparison, 27,723 Haverhill voters cast a ballot in last year’s presidential election that featured the Barak Obama-Mitt Romney race.
“The turnout is going to depend on how much interest there is in the mayoral sticker candidate and the council races,” said Budrewicz, who is overseeing her first election since longtime City Clerk Margaret Toomey retired last summer.
Two weeks ago, firefighter Tyler Kimball, 50, announced he was challenging Fiorentini, 66, on a write-in/sticker campaign. Kimball, an acting lieutenant in the Fire Department who also owns a large family farm on East Broadway, said he wants to give voters an alternative to Fiorentini, who is seeking a Haverhill record sixth term. Fiorentini had no challenger until Kimball’s late entry into the contest.
Because Kimball didn’t take out nomination papers, his name will not appear on the ballot. Instead, the ballot will have a blank line for entering Kimball’s name and address along with a box for checking off his name. That can be done by writing the information in the blank space or placing a pre-made sticker with the information on the line.
For the second election in a row, a smaller-than-usual field of City Council candidates will battle it out in a race that includes eight of nine incumbents, two former councilors and several well-known challengers. The council campaign has 15 candidates for nine available seats — not enough to trigger a preliminary election in September, but enough to draw voter interest.
All incumbents except Michael Hart are seeking re-election, and face the challenge of two former councilors, two city lawyers, a high school teacher, a school custodian and the owner of a popular downtown sandwich shop.
The absence of Hart from the ballot means at least one challenger is certain to win a seat.
Incumbents seeking re-election are: John Michitson, Robert Scatamacchia, William Ryan, Michael McGonagle, William Macek, Colin LePage, Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien and Thomas Sullivan. Michitson, who topped the ballot among council candidates in that election, was council president until he resigned that position for work-related reasons. Sullivan actually finished just out of the top nine in 2011, but was chosen by the council to finish the term of then-councilor Sven Arminian, who resigned to become director of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce.
The challengers are: Former councilors David Hall, a retired Haverhill police sergeant, and Kenneth Quimby; Fred Simmons, a Haverhill school custodian and head of his workers union who has run unsuccessfully in the past; E. Phillip Brown, a Haverhill High School teacher; Lynne Saben, a local attorney; Timothy Connors, also a local attorney; and Melinda Barrett, owner of a food shop on Merrimack Street.
Voters will also fill three of six seats on the School Committee — the leaders who will help lead Haverhill through a series of challenging educational issues, including building a new school in Bradford, improving student MCAS scores and maintaining a balanced budget. School Committee members serve four-year terms, but the seats are staggered so that three come up for election every two years.
In that race, three incumbents are facing off against two challengers.
School Committee incumbents Joseph Bevilacqua, Paul Magliochetti and Raymond Sierpina are seeking re-election. They are counting on their established political names and experience serving on the committee to bring them victory.
Bevilacqua, head of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, is seeking a fourth term in office and has been a School Committee member for 12 years. Sierpina, former long-time principal of Tilton Elementary School in Haverhill, is in his first term on the committee, which he joined in January 2010. Magliocchetti, a local lawyer who has been an active school parent for years, is also in his first term and has been on the committee since January 2010. He is the committee’s president. He made an unsuccessful run last year as an Independent candidate for the 1st Essex Senate District.
Challengers Maura Ryan-Ciardiello and Gail Sullivan are banking on their educational and political experience to land them votes. Ryan-Ciardiello is a teacher by training and currently stays at home with her children. She ran unsuccessfully for the Governor’s Council last year and is the daughter of longtime City Councilor William Ryan. Sullivan is a teacher at Northern Essex Community College and the University of New England. She has also been a high school principal, curriculum specialist, assistant superintendent and superintendent.