EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 26, 2007

Incumbent city councilors run strong, except in at-large races

LAWRENCE | Two of the City Council's biggest advocates for cutting taxes during the summerlong budget stalemate emerged as the biggest winners in yesterday's preliminary election.

Veteran City Councilor Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez topped an eight-candidate field, besting her nearest opponent by 266 votes in the race for the three at-large council seats.

District B Councilor Grisel Silva took more than 70 percent of the vote in a contest against two sticker candidates.

Alvarez-Rodriguez and Silva, who both vehemently opposed the mayor's tax hike and favored cutting his budget by more than $3 million, established themselves as heavy favorites going into the Nov. 6 final election.

Mayor Michael Sullivan prevailed in getting his budget adopted on a technicality and without a council vote despite a majority of the council supporting cuts that he said would force him to lay off police and firefighters. Sullivan had predicted that councilors who opposed his fiscal policies might encounter trouble getting re-elected.

But that possibility didn't materialize in yesterday's race | unless voters were making a statement against the mayor. Four of the five councilors who supported huge cuts in the mayor's budget easily led in their respective races.

The mayor's staunchest budget ally | Councilor Joseph Parolisi, chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee | finished fourth in the at-large race. He was the only councilor to embrace the mayor's initial budget proposal, which called for taxing up to the levy limit.

At-large Councilor Nunzio DiMarca was the only critic of the mayor's budget who didn't do well. He grabbed the sixth and final spot on the November ballot, finishing 46 votes behind Parolisi.

The fact that the city went into yesterday's election with Hispanics as the majority of registered voters for the first time in the city's history did little to spur heavy participation in an election that featured 14 Latino candidates and a chance to make significant strides toward claiming a first-ever majority control of the nine-member council. Voter turnout was only about 12 percent, according to the city's bilingual election coordinator, Rafael Tejeda.

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