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Holyoke councilors look to avoid ‘wasteful’ special election following Mayor Alex Morse’s departure for Provincetown job

Feb. 27, 2021

HOLYOKE — With Mayor Alex B. Morse named as Provincetown’s next town manager, City Councilors Mike Sullivan and Joseph M. McGiverin are looking to avoid a “wasteful” special election to finish his term.

Sullivan, a potential mayoral candidate, filed a home rule petition on the issue with the city clerk’s office Friday. The City Council likely will take it up at its Tuesday regular session.

McGiverin, as City Council president in 1991, served as acting mayor after then-Mayor Martin J. Dunn won a state Senate seat. A special election was called in June of that year, with William “Bill” Hamilton the winner. Hamilton went on to win a full term several months later.

Sullivan estimated a special election this year would cost the city of Holyoke over $100,000.

“At the moment, trash is piling up on driveways across the city because we can’t afford to staff our Department of Public Works property,” Sullivan said in a statement. “The last thing we need is to waste $100,000 on a special election this summer when we have a regularly scheduled election this fall.”

If the home rule petition is approved by the City Council, the city’s Beacon Hill delegation would file the petition with the state Legislature for approval.

City Clerk Brenna Murphy McGee said the city of Boston recently filed a home rule petition to avoid a special election to finish the term of its mayor, Martin Walsh, who has been nominated by President Joe Biden as labor secretary. The Boston City Council and state Legislature approved. Boston will proceed with a regular September primary and November general election.

Murphy McGee said the Holyoke petition could include a clause saying that the November general election winner would be sworn in immediately, rather than waiting until January.

Choosing a new mayor at the polls would require two elections — one to narrow the field of candidates to two and the second to decide the race. So far two candidates, Rebecca Lisi and Devin Sheehan, have announced campaigns, while Sullivan and others consider running.

Murphy McGee stressed she wants to avoid four elections in one year — the two special elections, a primary and the general. She estimated the cost of the two special elections at $75,000 to $100,000, including mailing out ballots, setting up polling stations, and adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. She also said she was concerned about poll workers’ and voters’ health and safety during the pandemic.

City Council President Todd McGee, the city clerk’s husband, likely would become acting mayor once Morse leaves office. McGee was expected to speak with the mayor and release a statement before Tuesday’s council meeting.

Morse must still negotiate his contract with Provincetown before announcing the end of his tenure in Holyoke. If Morse were to leave July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, the home rule petition would become moot, with the September primary only two months away.

PDF Read the related "Home Rule Petition"

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