Asian-American Elected to Council


Tuesday’s Cambridge municipal elections were a landmark for the city, marked by the election of the first Asian-American City Councillor and the first write-in candidate, according to new results released by the Cambridge Election Commission yesterday.

Following a low budget, student focused campaign, Harvard Kennedy School student Leland Cheung became the first Asian-American and the first University student to be elected to the Council in recent memory.

Although she failed to turn in the necessary paperwork to get her name on the ballot, Marjorie C. Decker, who was first elected to the Council in 1999, still managed to earn enough votes to secure a sixth term on the nine-member Council.

“A lot of people in this community decided that the work I do is important,” Decker said.


Preliminary results announced Tuesday night predicted that incumbent Larry W. Ward and challenger Edward J. Sullivan had won seats on the Council. However, after the remaining 22 percent of ballots, including all the write in ballots, were counted, Vice Mayor Sam Seidel and Decker secured spots, while Ward and Sullivan did not.

Election results will not be officially confirmed until Nov. 13, when overseas and provisional ballots are counted.

Cheung’s campaign was also unique in that he spent the least of all the candidates elected. While Decker reported the highest campaign expenditures of any candidate—more than $57,000 as of Nov. 4—Cheung spent less than $5,000, according to reports compiled from the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

“I think what was special about it was that we reached out to the community at large, but also to the groups that are not normally courted,” said Michael E. Sherry, Cheung’s campaign manager.

The campaign, which emphasized improving public safety and increasing collaboration between the city and universities, sought the votes of students and Asian-Americans, Sherry said.

Voters responded positively to the campaign’s message of bringing a fresh voice to work alongside experienced councillors.

“Really the reason I ran was to bring other people’s ideas to life,” said Cheung, a joint student at Harvard Kennedy School and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Ward, who joined the Council in March following the resignation of former Vice Mayor Brian P. Murphy ’86-’87, was the only current councillor who was not re-elected to the nine member legislative body.

The Cambridge City Council uses a unique and complicated election system in which voters rank nine candidates. Those who are ranked first on 10 percent of ballots are declared elected. Any extra ballots they receive beyond the 10 percent quota are redistributed to the candidates marked next in preference on those excess ballots, and the process continues until all nine seats are filled.

Nearly 16,000 ballots were cast this year, a 16 percent increase from the last municipal election.

—Staff writer Sarah J. Howland can be reached at


An earlier version of the Nov. 6 news article "Asian-American Elected to Council" incorrectly referred to Leland Cheung as a student at the Harvard Business School in one instance. In fact, Cheung is a student at the Harvard Kennedy School.


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