NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 30, 2013

In Amesbury, a deep political divide

Warring camps emerge in mayoral, council races

AMESBURY — The battle lines are being drawn in Amesbury as the candidates for City Council and their supporters begin to coalesce into two camps ahead of the November election, those for Mayor Thatcher Kezer and those for his challenger, Ken Gray.

On the City Council, Anne Ferguson, Bob Gilday, Bob Lavoie and Allen Neale have all pledged their support to Kezer, saying they believe he is best equipped to lead Amesbury going forward, while most of the new challengers favor Gray and have stepped up because they believe it is time to change the council’s direction.

For some, this year’s election is reminiscent of the 2005 municipal election, when Amesbury became sharply divided between two opposing groups and fostered a highly contentious political atmosphere. This year’s race has already taken on a similar tone, with supporters of both sides relentlessly debating each other on various online forums, including FaceBook and The Daily News’ comment section.

While no two candidates share exactly the same views, generally those who support the mayor want to press on with the Lower Millyard redevelopment effort and ultimately grow the commercial/industrial tax base, while Gray’s supporters want to see the tax rate decrease — or at least increase more slowly — while reining in wasteful spending. Both sides have also said that improving the schools is a top priority as well.

Incumbent City Councilors Jim Kelcourse, Joseph McMilleon and Christian Scorzoni have each said they’re neutral on the matter and are trying to keep focused on winning their own council races. Scorzoni summed up his sentiment by saying he feels that the mayor has done a good job articulating his vision for the Lower Millyard, but that the issue of the city’s taxes is real and should be taken seriously.

The sole incumbent councilor on the nine-member City Council who has publicly pledged support to Gray is District 3 Councilor Donna McClure, who is running for an at-large seat and is a staunch advocate of lowering Amesbury’s taxes.

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