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Sep. 15—SALEM — One ward race was settled by 14 votes; another had a margin of 57% between first and second place.
A modest 22% of voters turned out for this year's preliminary elections, between early voting a week ago and official polling throughout Tuesday. The elections were needed after five races in Salem — the mayor's race, and City Council for Wards 1, 2, 4 and 7 — each drew one too many candidates for the number of open seats in November's elections.
Four-term Mayor Kim Driscoll and challenger Steve Dibble topped the ballot in the three-way mayoral race, both punching a ticket to the main election on Nov. 2. Frank Perley, the race's third candidate, took 147 votes total across the city. Driscoll led Dibble in every precinct, including Dibble's home Ward 7.
The mayoral race has seen limited attention so far, however, with heavier focus hitting the wards with preliminary voting.
In Ward 1, a three-way race between incumbent Bob McCarthy and challengers Chris Malstrom and Maribel "Belle" Steadman ended with Malstrom exiting the race with only 27% of the vote. McCarthy topped the ticket with 40% of ballots cast.
In Ward 2, the seat belonging to Christine Madore will go to either Caroline Watson-Felt or James Zavaglia after they beat out Armand Blanchette in the ward's preliminary election. Watson-Felt finished convincingly with 73% of the vote to Zavaglia's 16% and Blanchette's 11%.
Though she won handily, Watson-Felt said in a statement Tuesday that the race is "not over yet. On to November!"
"It goes back to one of my very first comments when I announced my campaign," Watson-Felt said. "This just shows that Ward 2 is a really engaged and active ward. We're home to renders, condo, and homeowners and they want a unifying, productive, and independent representative."
Ward 4 saw Stephanie Rodriguez take first, with Leveille "Lev" McClain finishing second by 14 votes to third-place finisher Graysen Ocasio, 317 to 303.
Rodriguez opened a statement on her win by thanking "the voters that came out to support me today."
"This race is just as much theirs as it is mine," Rodriguez said, then thanking family and friends who supported her in the race's first leg. "I'd also like to thank my opponents for a positive race. Congratulations to them both."
The three-way race in Ward 7 ended with Andy Varela and Fran Riggieri coming out victorious. Veronica Faustino finished with 23% of the vote to finish third, exiting the race. Varela took 40% to Riggieri's 37% result.
Candidates looking to call for a recount have until Monday, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. to file the necessary paperwork, according to the city clerk's election calendar for 2021.
Stage set for rest of election season
Should results remain intact to end the preliminary season, attention will shift to now add Wards 3, 5, 6, and elections for City Councilor-at-large and School Committee to the election season. The races have all been quiet up to this point as preliminary contests progressed since late July.
Single-term incumbents in Wards 3 and 6, Patti Morsillo and Meg Riccardi, are being challenged by ward residents David Freni and George O'Brine, respectively. Ward 5, served by retiring Councilor Josh Turiel, is being chased by Jeff Cohen and Steve Kapantais, two well-known Salem residents who frequently appear and speak at public meetings.
The four-way City Councilor-at-large race has a full field of eight candidates chasing the four available seats, with three incumbents — Domingo Dominguez, Ty Hapworth, and Conrad Prosniewski — all seeking follow-up terms. With Councilor-at-large and Council dean Arthur Sargent not running, five challengers have emerged: Melissa Faulkner, Juana Hernandez, Stacia Kraft, Alice Merkl and Frederic Norton.
For School Committee, incumbents Amanda Campbell and Manny Cruz face challenges from three residents: Beth Anne Cornell, Zachary Hall, and Armerys Suarez.
The deadline to register to vote in the main election is Wednesday, Oct. 13 by 8 p.m.