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Paper City has ‘history-making’ election

Date: 11/15/2011

Nov. 16, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE — Holyoke’s mayoral elections seldom get the attention this year’s received. Not only did Boston media pay attention to it, but the national gay press did as well and when the phrase “history-making” is used to describe it, it’s not hyperbole.

Few would have predicted Alex Morse’s decisive win over incumbent Mayor Elaine Pluta when Morse launched his campaign earlier this year. The 22 year-old Brown University graduate had some political experience, but had not run for office.

Pluta was not only a City Council veteran, but also a former aide to Congressman John Olver. Campaigning on her experience, Pluta stressed what she has done for the city during her term. At the end, though, Holyoke voters chose Morse and his promise for new ways to redevelop the city.

On election night at his Northampton Street headquarters, Morse said, without any boasting, that his win was not “unexpected.”

He said the campaign was a careful pairing of grassroots efforts with professional tactics.

“Everything was layered,” he explained.

The first sign of the impact of his campaign was the preliminary victory over Pluta by one vote. At his headquarters on election night there were dozens of supporters wearing blue T-shirts that read, “I was the one vote.”

Looking around the election night party, one could see just how inclusive Morse’s campaign had been. Native Holyokers mixed with those newer residents who see great potential in the Paper City.

Latinos also embraced Morse’s message. He was the only candidate of the four who ran for the mayor’s seat who speaks Spanish.

The climax to Morse’s campaign was the surprise endorsement of former Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan, who has stayed clear of any Holyoke politics since he left office.

Morse said that already he has received email messages from people who have said they are considering moving to Holyoke because of his win. He added that one business has also expressed an interest.

Morse ran a campaign that wasn’t aimed at Pluta herself, but rather at expressing his position on a variety of issues. While Pluta put herself squarely in the camp of being in favor of a casino coming to Holyoke, Morse said he didn’t believe that a casino could provide the economic development that other businesses — especially those centered around the Green High Performance Computing Center — could.

Yet Morse did not shut the door on casinos entirely and said that if a license comes to Holyoke he would work with developers to get the best deal for the city.

While the party at the headquarters went on, Morse said he would be assembling a transition team within the next several weeks that would focus on economic development, education and public safety. As mayor-elect, he has already started attending functions such as the Sierra Club announcement about the pollution caused by the Mount Tom Power Plant.

Daniel Boyle, was not only one of those long time Holyoke residents who voted for Morse, he was a mayoral candidate himself who gave his support to Morse after losing the preliminary election.

Looking at the supporters partying on election night, Boyle said Morse’s victory was a “turnaround for the city of Holyoke.”

“He has a lot of vision,” Boyle said. “He will be sweeping out all of the people who have been hangers-on for the last 20 years.”

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