NEWBURYPORT — Donna Holaday was re-elected mayor Tuesday, defeating challenger Robert Cronin, 3,776 votes to 3,098, in what the city clerk described as a “very, very, very healthy percentage of voters.”
Unofficial results showed Holaday, who has held the corner office for eight years, won another four-year term with about 55 percent of the votes to 43.7 percent for Cronin, the Ward 3 city councilor. Holaday won all wards except Ward 5.
“I’m feeling wonderful,” Holaday said at her victory party at Brick & Ash. “First and foremost, I am thankful to the voters of Newburyport for once again re-electing me as their mayor. It was a very rigorous campaign and I’m so proud of my team, and I’m thankful for all of the support I received from the community. I’m so looking forward to getting back to work for the next four years.”
Cronin, who forfeited his seat on City Council with hope of being elected mayor, congratulated Holaday and said he plans to continue running his business and pursuing other personal endeavors.
“While Newburyport was a bit divided during this election, I hope we can get back together as a city and move forward,” said Cronin, surrounded by supporters at Andiamo. “I still have my company and my jobs, and maybe there will be a little bit more boating in my future.”
Heather Shand was elected to fill the Ward 3 council seat, running unopposed.
Newcomer Afroz Khan topped the voting for five at-large council seats, with an unofficial 4,379 votes, followed by incumbent Joe Devlin with 3,671, Barry Connell with 3,386 and Bruce Vogel with 3,331. Incumbent Greg Earls rounded out the field of five elected, with 3,002 votes. Challengers Jennie Donahue and Robert Germinara finished out of the running in the race for two-year terms on the council.
In Ward 4, incumbent Charles Tontar was easily re-elected, finishing ahead of challenger Ali Santarlasci, 945 votes to 306
The nonbinding ballot question on whether voters wanted to authorize the City Council to fund construction and operation of a new parking garage at Merrimac and Titcomb streets also was approved by a vote of 3,490 to 2,953.
In September’s preliminary election, Cronin beat Holaday 1,445 to 1,388 votes. Dr. Hazem Mahmoud was eliminated from the November race in that preliminary, receiving 457 votes. Approximately 23 percent of Newburyport registered voters cast ballots in September, but City Clerk Richard Jones had predicted as many as 60 percent of voters might mark ballots in the main election. The unofficial total of votes cast was 6,856. Mahmoud had run a write-in campaign but those votes were still being hand-counted at presstime.
Poll workers across the city agreed Tuesday afternoon that they had seen a steady stream of voters throughout the day in each of their wards; in some places, officials said the crowd seemed thicker than in previous election years — a trend they attributed to the heated mayoral race.
“It has been nonstop all day,” said Ward 3 election warden Sheila Taintor. “At one point, we thought we would have a break but we were inundated with voters after 10 minutes. It almost seems like it’s been busier than the (2016) presidential election.”
Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.