HOLYOKE – With the voters having selected the candidates for the final election for mayor the stage is set for a classic political race: the incumbent against a newcomer and outsider – the same kind of contest Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse faced in 2013 and in 2011 when he was the outsider.
Morse came in at first place on Sept. 22 and although challenger Fran O’Connell was not far behind him in votes, Morse said he was “very excited.”
Morse had 2,694 votes, O’ Connell had 2,450 and City Councilor Anthony Soto came in third with 1,145 votes.
Morse said that he won nine out of 14 precincts and has more votes in the preliminary election than he did in 2011 and 2013.
“We are poised to be successful in November,” he said.
In terms of his campaigning, Morse said he would continue to discuss the progress the city has made and the initiatives he would like to undertake in his next term.
He charged he has “yet to hear anything [O’Connell] would do.” The mayor went so far as to assert that O’Connell has lied about certain issues.
Morse said he would campaign to attract the voters who backed Soto – and O’Connell – in the final election.
He said, “A vote for Fran O’Connell is a vote to move the city backwards.”
The fact that O’Connell has poured nearly $80,000 of his own money into the race doesn’t concern Morse. He said the campaign has always been about the message, not money. The mayor added his campaign has raised $75,000 from 392 different donors.
“The election can’t be bought,” Morse said.
Over on Hampden Street at Pic’s Pub and Pizzeria, O’Connell’s supporters and the press were waiting for him. He had gone to Soto’s headquarters to speak with Soto.
O’Connell said he was “very happy” with the results and pledged to “keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
He added that on Sept. 23 he would be heading out to go door to door once gains “to find out what the public wants.”
He admitted the transition to being a candidate has been a change for him. “Three months ago, I was a business guy and a band leader,” he said. His win has validated his efforts so far.
He said through the campaign he has learned “people in this town are not happy.”
O’Connell said he wants to help Holyokers who are facing poverty and repeated that as a successful business owner he is a “job creator.”
Soto acknowledged his grassroots campaign had an “uphill battle” against two opponents with more funds and outside political consultants.
As it was clear that Soto had lost his supporters stepped up to offer their support at his South Street headquarters. One driver sped by honking its horn and calling out his name.
He said he was proud of what the campaign had accomplished.
Because he chose to run for mayor, Soto’s spot in the City Council will be taken by one of the people currently running for in Ward 2. He said he would continue to serve with the same intensity as he has until Jan. 2, 2016.
When asked if he would consider another political run, Soto didn’t hesitate with an answer. “Absolutely! I love this stuff. We have a great, great community. The message needs to get out,” he replied.
Although another run for the City Council may be in the future, Soto said there are other elected positions he might consider.
One thing he does not know at this time is whether or not he will endorse either Morse or O’Connell.
“I’m going to absorb of all this," he said.