How the Race Was Won… Or… Go West Young Man


By: Methuen Mayor Bill Manzi – October, 2011

The Methuen Mayoral primary results are in, with Al DiNuccio topping the ticket, and Steve Zanni finishing second. Both Ken Willette and Jack Cronin finished some distance back, in third and fourth place respectively. So what happened, and what is likely to happen in November? A number of things jump right out at you, and while the numbers need to be looked at in more detail they already tell the story. But before we get to numbers lets look at some other factors.

One of the hard truths that comes out of this campaign is that running for Mayor is not like running for School Committee or City Council. And that truth was most evident in the campaigns of Jack Cronin and Ken Willette. In order to be successful in a Mayor’s race you must raise some money, and have a message that can be put forth with adequate campaign resources. If you are going to try to run a “live off the land” campaign then you had better be ready to have a group of enthusiastic volunteers and plenty of shoe leather to get around the City. Both of those candidates worked hard, and have done wonderful things for the community.

But the campaigns were more reflective of lower office campaigns, and just could not reach critical mass with the resources they had available.

So, based on that then you would expect the candidate with the most money to win? Well, not necessarily. The DiNuccio campaign had more resources than Willette or Cronin, but certainly less than Zanni. But the enthusiasm in the campaign came from DiNuccio, who has a committed group of volunteers who more than made up for the difference in resources. They were out early and often, and drove a singular message that resonated in the primary.

The anti-tax anti-union message carried, and was relentlessly driven by the campaign. Help from established politicians, including City Councilors Jeanne Pappalardo and Patricia Uliano, certainly helped in key areas, although the campaign eschewed political endorsements. The DiNuccio folks ran a very good campaign, and the results are reflective of that.

Steve Zanni ran a more traditional campaign, with three separate mailers, and significantly more resources. And for a while it looked like Zanni might squeak through. After I had compiled 8 Precincts, (4 in the East, and four in the Central) Zanni had a slight lead. And that was heading into Zanni’s home district, the West. (Also the home District of DiNuccio).

It was set up for a battle of strength vs. strength, with both DiNuccio and Zanni, in previous elections, showing their greatest strength in Precincts 8 and 11 in the West. Those two Precincts told the story of the night, with DiNuccio winning both handily. The margins in 8 and 11 allowed DiNuccio to overcome the Zanni lead built in the Central. Winning the West, and winning big in the home Precinct of Steve Zanni, were the keys to victory for Al DiNuccio.

The Zanni forces will regroup, and hope that higher voter turnout in the general election in November will lead them to victory. But mark round one for DiNuccio.