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Circosta emerges from crowded mayoral field

Date: 9/10/2015

News Analysis

SPRINGFIELD – Political junkies can pick from the following scenarios to explain the unimpressive 7.12 percent voter turnout in the mayoral primary.

One reason could have been the blistering temperatures kept people from venturing out to the polls. Another could have been the choice of the day itself – moving Election Day to the Tuesday following the Labor Day holiday.

Or perhaps the most obvious reason is the pool of five opponents – most political newcomers –  facing incumbent Mayor Domenic Sarno either didn’t have the message or the campaigning skills to excite voters.

That is the challenge for Sarno’s opponent in the November election, Sal Circosta. While Sarno pulled 5,067 votes, Circosta only managed 576. A near 10 to 1 difference is a daunting one for which to start.

Johnnie Ray McKnight came in with 488 votes. Ivelisse Gonzalez had 202, Beverly Savage 197 and Michael Jones 178. Combined all of those votes don’t beat Sarno’s totals.

Circosta is a happy warrior though and embraced both his victory and the challenge ahead.

Speaking to the press at Nathan Bill’s Bar and Restaurant, Circosta blamed the low turnout on the weather and the change of the date, but he believes it will be a different story in November when the City Council races will also be determined, giving voters more reasons to turn out.

He acknowledged the strategy Sarno employed by not appearing at the any of the preliminary debates and forums was “beneficial” to the mayor but did not make him accountable.    

Circosta believes in the final election public debates will be “advantageous to my team and a disadvantage to his team.”

He believes what Springfield voters are looking for is a candidate “with passion, dedication and intelligence.” He acknowledged that Sarno is “a likable guy for the right reason.”

Despite the fact Sarno had successfully brought the first new major manufacturer to the city in decades, negotiated the MGM contract and under his administration saw the long delayed start of the Union Station project, Circosta sees chinks in Sarno’s political armor.

Circosta would evaluate the C3 policing initiative to see if it is really having an effective impact on crime. He believes Sarno hasn’t any plan for neighborhoods throughout the city and hasn’t studied the effect MGM Springfield will have on property values and small businesses.

The controversy in the North End concerning the relocation of the Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center is another weakness. Circosta said Sarno’s backing of Sheriff Michael Ashe’s position “displayed Domenic is more dedicated to his political friends than constituents.”

He believes the violence in the city as well as decisions such as the creation of the Empowerment Zone, which has taken the management of the city’s middle schools out of the hands of the School Committee, has “numbed” voters.

Circosta also acknowledged Sarno’s financial advantage and said. “There is a machine in Springfield we’re dealing with,” he said.

He said much of Sarno’s financial support comes from unions and lobbyists.

“It all makes sense. It’s predictable,” Circosta added.

Casting himself as an outsider, a “non-politician,” Circosta said he would be able to “speak the truth bluntly.”

He added, “I can speak for the people of Springfield.”


McKnight came close to Circosta’s number was considered the only other candidate besides him to have run a credible campaign. He said he was not sure of he would run again.

He blamed the shift of the day as a reason. “Moving up the date, all the candidates knew we didn’t have a chance. It was a disaster,” he explained.

He added, “You’ve got to roll with the punches … try to fight the good fight.”

If he does run again, McKnight said he would pick a different campaign manager and watch the people around him.

“What I learned in politics is that you can’t trust anyone,” he added.

McKnight concluded, “I’m happy to get my life back. It’s been difficult for the year and a half.”