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With longtime School Committee member E. Denise Simmons vacating her seat to run for the City Council, some Cambridge residents worried that minories might be left unrepresented.
But those concerns appear to have been swept aside, as two black candidates—both challengers—assumed spots on the committee, according to the unofficial vote tally released last night.
Incumbents Alice L. Turkel, Alfred B. Fantini, Joseph G. Grassi, Susana M. Segat took the top four spots, with Alan C. Price and Richard Harding, Jr., both of whom are black, rounding out the committee.
But incumbent Nancy Walser lies only 13 votes behind Harding, said City of Cambridge spokesperson Ini Tomeu.
Their positions could easily change today, as election officials add write-in and auxiliary ballots to the totals.
Walser and Harding take a similar stance on issues facing the committee, as indicated by a shared endorsement by the Cambridge Civic Association (CCA), a progressive Cambridge political organization.
“There’s a history of incumbents losing in surprises,” said CCA President Ken Carson. “You have to believe that in order to go out and work hard.”
Incumbents Segat, Turkel and Walser and challengers Price, Harding, and Marla L. Erlien were all endorsed by the CCA.
The six elected members, plus the next mayor of Cambridge, will make up the School Committee for the next two years. The city’s new mayor will likely be elected by the City Council in January.
Fantini, who received nearly as many votes as Turkel, said he felt the explanation for Walser’s loss of support was “pretty clear.”
“Citizens…are realizing that they don’t want School Committee members who are going to micro-manage and try to influence behind closed doors,” he said. Fantini said Walser attempted to change the redesign of Cambridge Rindge and Latin at the eleventh hour.
Followers of the School Committee race thought that the seat being vacated by E. Denise Simmons, who appears to have won a seat on the City Council, would be filled by either Price or Harding.
“Denise freed up the black vote by not running,” said Lloyd Smith, a Cambridge resident since 1975 who hosts a talk show on local television.
After Simmons entered the room where election results were being released, she and Turkel engaged in a 30-second embrace.
“I’m going to miss you so deeply,” Turkel whispered in her ear.
Simmons said that she wouldn’t want to have to choose between Harding and Walser, although she does have a personal stake in Harding’s election.
“I would like to see Area 4 have another representative,” Simmons said, referring to her neighborhood.
The results released last night were clearer than they have been in recent years. For the first time, transfer votes were included in the unofficial tally.
Some observers said they were unsure what to make of the election.
“The jury’s out for me,” said Mary Tittmann, executive director of the CCA.
Turkel said she was flattered to have received the most votes, and that it reflected the hard work she had put into her campaign. She, like others faced with the question, was unable to specify a preference for either Walser or Harding.
“Nancy’s a hard worker. Richard’s a terrific guy,” Turkel said. “We’re talking about two of my fellow CCA candidates.”
–Staff writer Zachary R. Heineman can be reached at email@example.com.
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