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Ahead of City Council Election, Seven Incumbents Team Up

By M. Hanl Park and Samuel Vasquez, Crimson Staff Writers

Twenty-three candidates are running for nine available Cambridge City Council positions in the city’s biennial elections, with seven of the nine incumbents joining together for a shared campaign platform.

All nine incumbents will be running for re-election. Of this group, seven have formed a shared platform named the “Unity Slate”: Mayor David P. Maher, Vice Mayor Dennis A. Benzan, Cambridge City Councillors Craig A. Kelley, Leland Cheung, Marc C. McGovern, E. Denise Simmons and Timothy J. Toomey, Jr.

The announcement of the shared platform came after the creation of another slate, “Slate for Cambridge City,” which was announced by Nadeem A. Mazen, a current city councilmember, in early August. That slate has emphasized a commitment to bringing newcomers into City Council to provide a spirit of activism. The candidate group includes Mazen, as well as Mariko Davidson, Romaine Waite, John Sanzone and School Committee candidate Jake Crutchfield.

Cambridge’s proportional representation system incentivizes the creation of such shared platforms, known as slates. Once candidates receive a prerequisite number of top votes, they are elected to City Council, and any surplus votes they would have received are distributed among their voter’s lower picks.

“We don’t always agree, but this team is committed to solving problems here in Cambridge by being open to all viewpoints,” Simmons said on the slate’s website.

Some candidates argue that the collective experience of the current incumbents is not enough to fit the city’s best interests. The prospect of having seven out of the nine previous incumbents running together has raised concerns of whether this may limit the ability of newcomers to break into and substantially impact the Council.

“They reminded the public that you’re either pro-incumbent or pro-new and innovative thinking,” Mazen said of the Unity Slate members. “They have really helped crystallize the understanding of the public and of the other candidates how powerful, dangerous and self-promoting incumbency can be.”

Members of the Unity Slate, however, argue that the diversity of opinions and experiences on their coalition already matches the diversity that newcomers might bring.

“Having been independently elected already, I think we demonstrate the diversity of our city,” Cheung said.

The Cambridge City Council is the central policy-making body for the city. Together, the nine councillors are expected to authorize public projects and budgeting, adopt regulations and ordinances, manage the taxes and finances of the city, and complete various legislative tasks. Furthermore, the members of the City Council must elect a Mayor and Vice-Mayor.

Election Day in Cambridge is Nov. 3. Polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

—Staff writer Samuel Vasquez can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @svasquez14.

—Staff writer Hanl Park can be reached at

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