, Newburyport, MA

November 4, 2013

Our view: Crucial election in Newburyport, Amesbury tomorrow

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Tomorrow’s election in Newburyport and Amesbury is the most highly anticipated race we have seen in years. It has been a pleasure to see the large number of candidates, the intense public interest and the back-and-forth of ideas.

This is the best kind of election — one that gave citizens a platform to talk about the issues that mean the most to them, for candidates to respond, and for voters to have a wide field of choices. Here at The Daily News, we have received a record number of election-related letters from our readers and fielded hundreds of comments on our website. We have not seen this kind of focus and intensity in many years.

Polls in Newburyport and Amesbury will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Turnout is expected to be good. We hope that all local citizens take advantage of their right to vote. It is a small task yet the cornerstone of our society.

In both cities, there are highly competitive races for mayor and City Council. In Newburyport, voters also face a competitive race for School Committee.

In Newburyport, The Daily News has endorsed Mayor Donna Holaday. We feel strongly that she has demonstrated good leadership qualities, has focused on the city’s important matters and, most importantly, has a solid track record of accomplishments. This will be the first time in the city’s history that the mayor will serve a four-year term, and we feel it is vital that the city have someone at the helm with a solid track record.

In Amesbury, we have not endorsed a candidate for mayor. We feel that newspapers should endorse candidates when they can make a strong and decisive argument, and for us, that is not the case in Amesbury.

We feel that Ken Gray has offered voters a choice that they have been seeking — a professional, well spoken and thoughtful candidate who listens to the many Amesbury residents who feel that the city’s high taxes and tax rate are a serious problem. He has also formulated a workable plan of action and has run a positive and effective campaign. However, he has no track record in public office, and it is hard for us to assess how he would manage the city. We feel too that he should not have shied away from participating in forums that he felt may hold a bias against him, for if he is mayor and stays true to his promise to heal the town’s divisions, he will need to work with both sides of Amesbury’s political divide.

Our viewpoint of incumbent Mayor Thatcher Kezer is almost the reverse — we’ve seen his experience in office, his track record is known. He’s been a strong leader in some difficult times, been focused on important goals like redeveloping the Lower Millyard, and has had to make some tough decisions regarding spending that have aggravated both sides. However, he continues to downplay, if not ignore, the sizable portion of Amesbury residents who want to be heard on the issue of taxes and tax rates. If there is a single criticism of Kezer that we have heard time and again from local politicians and citizens, it is that there is a callousness to his leadership style that turns people off and makes him difficult to work with. The partisan-like nature of the “I Am Pro Amesbury” movement that Kezer has embraced has only widened the gap in an already split city. We see enough of this divisive partisanship in Washington; there’s no place for it in our local towns.

This appears to be a close race in Amesbury, and ultimately it will come down to which side can muster the stronger turnout.

Tomorrow is the chance for voters to sort out many of the issues that they have been discussing these past few months. Please be sure to make your voice heard at the polls.