First North Adams Mayoral Race In 34 Years Without Incumbent

Nov 6, 2017

Voters in North Adams, Massachusetts will pick a new mayor tomorrow. It’s the first election in more than three decades without an incumbent.

North Adams residents received this robo-call yesterday.

“The Board of Registrars would like to remind all voters that Tuesday, November 7th is Election Day. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. All Wards will be in one central voting location, St. Elizabeth’s Parish Center.”

Tom Bernard and Bob Moulton Jr. are vying for the state’s smallest city’s corner office.

What’s distinct about this election is that it’s the first without an incumbent in 34 years. Mayor Richard Alcombright announced in June he would not seek a fifth two-year term.

“It’s now time for North Adams to move into its exciting future with new leadership and new energy,” Alcombright said.

Before Alcombright came 26-year mayor John Barrett, who’s running as a Democrat against Republican Christine Canning in Tuesday’s special election for the 1st Berkshire House district seat.

Only 18 percent of the city’s registered voters showed up to the polls for the preliminary mayoral election.

City elections in North Adams are non-partisan.

Bernard, a city resident who works as the Director of Special Projects at Smith College in Northampton, garnered 1,045 votes, compared to City Councilor Moulton’s 431. The two top vote-getters advanced to Tuesday’s general election.

“What’s been validating is the conversations I have had, the platform themes that I have put forward around education, infrastructure, public health, and economic development are the things are what’s on people’s minds,” Bernard says. “A lot of concern about the opioid and heroin issue; it’s making sure that we have a vital, vibrant downtown but that we are also taking care of conditions in the neighborhoods.”

At last week’s mayoral debate, Moulton took a shot at his opponent during a discussion of improvements to the public school system.

"Tom was on the school council and he voted to allow the kids to wear hoodies, hats, wear pants down below their waist, let girls come in with revealing clothing," Moulton says. “I mean, that's gangster dressing. You've got to have some kind of code, and I’d like to keep the school standards as high as possible."

"I’m looking at standards that are about students attending class, persisting and succeeding," Bernard said. "And to reduce my position on them to ‘gangster’ talk is really, frankly, offensive."

October’s campaign finance reports show Bernard has raised more than $19,600, compared to Moulton’s $947. Moulton claims he has spent about $2,000 on his campaign from his personal account.

Moulton also criticized The Berkshire Eagle for not disclosing a campaign contribution made by one of the newspaper’s owners. The newspaper’s leadership admitted the donation should have been disclosed. The next day The Eagle endorsed Bernard for mayor.

Moulton is also critical of the city’s anchors, MASS MoCA and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, saying they operate as islands within the city of about 13,000.

“I really feel that those types of entities in North Adams don’t need North Adams. I mean, they are existing on their own,” Moulton says.

Bernard voiced support for those institutions.

“I think that we can talk about places to do more but we have to start by acknowledging the things that our anchor institutions already do,” Bernard says.

And he would hire an economic development chief to further the city’s relationship with companies in the region.

“I think that’s the mayor’s job,” Moulton says.

Moulton says he is tough on crime, especially to combat the opioid crisis. He also wants to chip away at rising property taxes, which he claims are at 30-year high.

“North Adams can have whatever they want to pay for,” Moulton says.

Sixteen candidates are vying for North Adams city council spots Tuesday, too. Nineteen are in the running for city council in Pittsfield, 20 miles to the south.

The special election to fill State Representative Gailanne Cariddi’s seat could draw more voters to the polls in North Adams. Pittsfield officials say voter participation is expected to be low there.

Polls open at 7 a.m., and close at 8 p.m.