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Town election season begins

February 18, 2015

Just a few weeks after nomination papers became available for all town offices, there is very little action from candidates pulling nomination papers. We have some idea of the electoral landscape this year, and who is in and who is out, but few candidates have actually made it official by taking out papers to run.

Nobody has yet taken out nomination papers for Selectmen, but one of the most significant campaigns this year will be for the open Selectman seat being vacated by Chris Timson, the longest-serving current member of the Board. Mr. Timson has already announced he will not run for a fourth term.

Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie, also up for re-election this year after her second term, has not yet announced whether she will run again. Sources close to Mrs. Mackenzie, who has served since 2009, indicate that she is leaning toward another run.

Former Walpole Selectman Eric Kraus, who stepped down after one term in 2013, is expected to run to take Mr. Timson’s open seat.

If Mrs. Mackenzie chooses not to run again, Finance Committee member Alice Susan Lawson would likely run to replace her. Mrs. Lawson ran for Selectman last year, and after an intense, nasty campaign, came just 65 votes short of defeating Jim Stanton.

Due to their well-organized political machines, both Mr. Kraus and Mrs. Mackenzie would be immediate frontrunners in the race if they run. However, both of them will likely face some spirited competition, because they supported the November facilities override that was rejected by the majority of voters.

Some other Town Meeting Reps. and well-known fiscally conservative politicos are taking a serious look at running for Selectman as well. Among the names being floated by Town Hall political analysts are Richard Pilla, David Salvatore, John Hasenjaeger, and John Vaillancourt, four Town Meeting Representatives who strongly opposed the facilities override; former State Rep. candidate Tim Hempton; and longtime conservative leader Joe Moraski, an RTM from Precinct 8.

Another name being mentioned is that of former Selectman candidate Joe Monahan, who energized fiscal conservatives in his surprisingly strong Scott Brown/Martha Coakley-esque upstart campaign against incumbent Selectman Mark Gallivan last year. Although ultimately unsuccessful in the race, the momentum from Mr. Monahan’s surprisingly strong finish carried all the way in to the November override election, helping lead to the measure’s defeat.

The Moderator’s race will likely be one of the most-watched town-wide races for the second year in a row. Incumbent Moderator Jon Rockwood is expected to face a rematch against challenger attorney Tom Brady, of East Walpole. Last year, Mr. Brady came within 100 votes of knocking Mr. Rockwood out of office. Mr. Rockwood, who has served since 2004 and has rarely faced serious opposition, is expected to run again, but has not made his plans clear.

If Mr. Rockwood does not run again, most observers believe that either Mr. Timson or Mrs. Lawson would be interested in running for that seat.

In other races, current School Committee Chairman Patrick Shield, first elected in the pro-override wave of 2012, announced last week he will step down this year. Mr. Shield, who works for State Sen. Jim Timilty (D-Walpole), has said he may not be able to commit the time to running for and serving another term.

Mr. Shield, who is popular among both fiscal conservatives and override supporters in town, would have been an easy favorite for re-election.

Prior to Mr. Shield’s announcement of his departure, former School Committee member Bill Buckley, whom Mr. Shield replaced, had already taken out nomination papers to run for the seat.

Jennifer Geosits, who was elected to the School Committee the same year as Mr. Shield, is expected to run for a second term this year.

Some current Town Meeting Reps. and other politicos of all political stripes are also taking a serious look at running for School Committee.

In the race for Sewer and Water Commission, longtime Commissioner Pat Fasanello, who has served since 1980, is expected to run for another term, along with incumbent Commissioners Ken Fettig and Bill Abbott. Mr. Abbott was appointed in a joint vote of Selectmen and the Sewer and Water Commission in 2014 to fill a vacancy left by David Sullivan’s resignation. He will have to run in a special election to fill the remaining two years of the term.

Former Selectman Bill Hamilton and former Commissioner James P. Taylor both took out papers to run against Mr. Abbott for the two-year term.

In the three-year race for Sewer and Water Commission, Precinct 6 RTM Ken Guyette took out nomination papers. Former RTM Thomas Brown is also expected to take out papers for a three-year seat.

Mr. Guyette is an aggressive, energetic grassroots fiscally conservative campaigner who would have a serious shot at knocking off one of the two incumbents. Mr. Guyette would make that race one to watch, particularly since the Commission’s recent $4.5 million purchase of the former Sharon Country Day Camp will be an obvious campaign issue.

In the race for Planning Board, town employee and Precinct 4 RTM Liz Gaffey, who ran for that Board last year, took out nomination papers again this year. Incumbent Ed Forsberg is unsure if he will run again, but would be an easy favorite for re-election.

In the races for Town Meeting, a few fiscal conservatives are lining up to run against incumbents who supported the failed facilities plan, but no challengers have taken out nomination papers yet.

Some candidates have provided off-the-record information to 180 regarding their plans, which makes it difficult to use specifics in describing what the current candidate fields for several offices look like.

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