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Cohen, Sandlin assess votes, continue campaigning

Date: 10/18/2011

Oct. 19, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — Voter turnout for the Oct. 11 preliminary election confirmed that it would be a contest between two seasoned politicians for the title of Mayor of Agawam on Nov. 8.

“It’s a measurement, it’s a barometer ... people know it’s going to be the two,” former State Sen. Linda Melconian told Reminder Publications as she stood outside the Benjamin Phelps School on Oct. 11, stumping for her personal friend and former legislative aide, Rosemary Sandlin. “People don’t come out on primaries, and it’s the time to make a choice.”

A spokesperson for the Town Clerk’s office confirmed that 3,987 individuals — just 22 percent of the town’s registered voters — participated in last Tuesday’s election.

Of those who voted 2,209 — or 55 percent — cast their ballots for incumbent Mayor Richard Cohen. Challenger and former State Rep. Rosemary Sandlin garnered 1,652 — or 41 percent — of the remaining votes. Walter A. Meisner, III, the third candidate in the contest, received only 115 votes.

Dale Melanson, a poll worker at the Benjamin Phelps Elementary School on Main Street, said the turnout was “typical” for a primary, even one conducted on a day as clear and beautiful as it was. As of 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, her polling place had recorded 324 votes cast.

“I’m very happy [that] we got a 22 percent turnout,” Cohen said. “We certainly would have liked more, but it was higher than what was predicted by our Town Clerk.”

He said he was also “very grateful” to have received 55 percent of the votes cast by those who participated.

“Those who have not voted for me, I’d love to speak to them and find out why,” Cohen continued. “I truly care about Agawam and all of the residents, and it’s my job to take care of everyone, not just a select few.”

Sandlin said she was also pleased by her results.

“We hit our mark. We were looking for between 39 and 41 percent [of the vote],” she said.

Sandlin added she was proud of the way she conducted her campaign to date.

“We were straight out factual and we stayed to the issues and my platform,” she added. “We were extremely happy.”

Sandlin said her platform emphasized transparency in government and performance-based budgeting. She advocates putting all of the town’s financial information online and pledges to establish a Town Charter Review Committee within the first 30 days of her administration.

“It hasn’t been looked at in its entirety in 40 years,” she observed.

Cohen acknowledged that transparency in government is important, especially in difficult economic times.

“We have it, we’ve done it, and we continue to do it,” he said, pointing to the online access to the town’s budget and other documents. He noted that Agawam was recognized for its online governmental transparency in 2010, winning the Massachusetts Campaign for Open Government’s E-Government award for “posting key government documents on its website” that year.

“If we put every single piece online I would have to [hire] a full time IT person [and] I’m very frugal,” Cohen noted, adding that under the federal Freedom of Information Act, all the town’s governmental information must be made available to residents upon request.

Both candidates said they were out and about in town early the day after the election, thanking people for their support and listening to residents’ concerns.

Sandlin said she wanted to dispel a rumor that, if elected, she would change the purpose and usage of the Senior Center.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that that use will not change under my administration,” she said.

Cohen said he was proud of what his administration has been able to accomplish “for people of all ages in our community” so far, “from parks to the Senior Center” to new business growth in the town.

“If anybody wishes to contact me and ask questions, I’m always available,” Cohen said. “I call everyone back every day. I am available to speak to anyone regarding anything they think they need.”

Cohen said he was aware of three televised mayoral debates in the planning; one hosted by WGBY TV on Oct. 26 at 3 p.m., another by WGGB TV, which is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m., and a third for WWLP TV on Nov. 4 at 11:30 a.m.

“I’ve agreed to participate in all three,” he said.

Sandlin said she would also be participating in the upcoming debates. “I’ve accepted all invitations,” she confirmed.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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