So her greatest task will be explaining why her semantics have changed, because she still contends that she wants open space.
Sullivan, meanwhile, will have to convince voters that he is capable of running the day-to-day operations of City Hall.
Certainly Holaday has proved she can.
In the past year alone, plans have been approved for two major school projects, a senior community center, a rebuilt clearwell (municipal water source), an updated wastewater plant and enhancements to public parks. City finances are in good shape, and veteran department heads say they enjoy working with her. They say she is committed, informed and follows up on details.
It will be difficult for Sullivan to say that she is not doing her job.
So Holaday has a strong record of achievement and a stance on the waterfront that she will have to explain.
Sullivan, meanwhile, comes from an old Newburyport family associated with public service. His father and brother were both the mayor here; his brother was a city councilor.
And his three decades with the fire department suggest that he knows his way around city politics.
Still, it isn’t clear that he can convince voters of his value. When Sullivan ran for the at-large post on the City Council in the fall of 2011, he came in fifth out of eight candidates.
Yes, he has the backing of several political “tribes” here. He is the oldest of eight, and many of his siblings will be working for him.
And because he is a veteran firefighter, employees and families in the police and fire departments will likely favor his candidacy. And he is a former member of the School Committee.
It appears that both candidates feel comfortable with the thought of being the mayor. Holaday has served there for more than three years, and Sullivan spent his formative years around City Hall because Richard Sullivan Sr. was mayor from 1978-86.