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We are off and running in 2013 election

March 18, 2013

Former Walpole Selectman Cliff Snuffer II announced last week that he took out nomination papers to run to reclaim a seat on the Board of Selectmen in this year’s town election.

Snuffer has become an outspoken common sense conservative and good-government-minded Town Meeting Representative in the two years since leaving the Board of Selectmen. He served on the Board for one term, from 2008 to 2011, and left to honor a commitment to his wife not to run for a consecutive second term.

During his long political career in Walpole, Snuffer’s political positions have been all over the map, and he has supported his share of overrides. Last year, however, he came out against Town Hall’s $3 million override and he has continued to beat the drum of smaller government in the months since that election. He was also deeply involved with the Walpole campaign to re-elect his friend Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate in November.

Selectman Mike Berry is also up for re-election this year, and already took out papers to run again. Berry’s relative independence on the Board in comparison to the other members has made him a top target of both conservatives and left-leaning voters. He is definitely vulnerable in this election.

Selectman Eric Kraus, meanwhile, has yet to announce whether he will run for another term on the Board. Political insiders have been saying for months that he will not run again. That report was boosted when Kraus took a new job last month at Bacardi, based in Bermuda and Florida. However, in an interview with 180 last month, Kraus said the new job actually requires less travel than his previous job for Covidien, in Mansfield.

Kraus is considered tough to beat and would likely sweep to victory as the top vote-getter if he chooses to run again.

Finance Committee members Alice Susan Lawson and Larry Pitman have both been mentioned by various political insiders as other potential candidates for the Board. Both of those candidates would be strong, well-funded contenders whose political views most align with Kraus’, and both would be likely to attract many of his supporters.

Conservatives Rob Luce, Christopher Donovan, and Russell Jones, all of whom ran for Selectman in past years, have announced they will not be candidates for Selectman this year, despite early speculation. Other occasional candidates Bill Hamilton, David Sullivan, and James P. Taylor are also expected to stay out, although Hamilton remains questionable. Hamilton is actively collecting signatures for Selectman.

Ponds Committee member Dan Ryan took out papers to run for Selectman as well, but shortly after Snuffer announced his candidacy, Ryan said in a statement to 180 that he would not run and was endorsing Snuffer instead.

That means Snuffer might have an easier time getting elected, with no other conservatives in the race to split the vote.

A race between Kraus/Pitman/Lawson, Snuffer, and Berry for two seats would be epic, with few distractions and no other candidates to cause problems. Because of their somewhat varied political views and different bases of support, each of the three would  likely attract a tremendous number of bullet votes, where voters vote for only one person even though two seats are available.

Meanwhile, Town Meeting races appear to be heating up, with several challengers from all across the political spectrum in all eight precincts taking out papers. It is exciting to see so many new faces interested in getting involved in town government.

On the School Committee, Nancy Gallivan, Mark Breen, and Michael Ryan are all up for re-election this year. None of the three are politically vulnerable, and all appear to be interested in seeking another term. Conservative Christine Coury, who ran for that Committee in 2011 and 2012, has said she will not run this year. Her decision leaves no obvious challengers for that board that could run a strong campaign.

Snuffer also took out papers for RTM in Precinct 2. Snuffer recently moved from Precinct 6, which covers politically-moderate West Walpole, to Precinct 2, in the far more liberal East Walpole. Last year’s $3 million tax hike passed by a landslide – 61 percent – in Precinct 2, which was the widest margin of victory of all of Walpole’s eight precincts. All but one of Precinct 2’s current RTMs are liberal on local fiscal issues. Snuffer will surely face an uphill climb in getting a seat in Town Meeting in that precinct, particularly since he is not an incumbent and will be at the bottom of the ballot. His race for Selectman would likely boost that effort and give him more prominence.

Kevin Muti is also expected to leave the Sewer & Water Commission this year, which will leave open a seat on that board. John Spillane took out papers for that race.

Nomination papers for all town races are available until April 12. The election is on June 1.

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