This Year’s Lowell City Council Race Just Got Exciting!

By: John MacDonald  – August, 2015

macdonald-elliottLittle did anyone suspect that the vote to hire a new Superintendent of Schools in Lowell would have such a profound effect on this year’s City Council race?

Several months ago the match was lit, on what has become political dynamite. A divided Lowell School Committee had a choice to vote for several outside candidates for Superintendent or a well qualified, dedicated and lifelong Lowelllian, by the name of Jay Lang. The School Committee was divided. Divided for well over a year, where personal tensions were evident and snipping took place on a regular basis. Lang was supported with three solid votes from members Gendron, Martin and Jim Leary. All Lang needed was one vote from the remaining four members. The first vote cast was by Mayor Elliott, whose primary concern was that the new Superintendent work without a contract. He cast a vote for Winchendon Superintendent Salah Khelfaoui. Khelfaoui a wild card candidate, but for the Mayor his intentions were all business and nothing personal, however for the other Anti-Lang school committee members… not so much.

After several votes cast, the School Committee was deadlocked, with the final deciding vote on the shoulders of Dave Conway. Dave Conway a long serving School Committee member and a declared candidate for Lowell City Council; the same Dave Conway and school committee member who had a well-documented personal beef with Jay Lang. As the last vote cast by Conway, Lang, a well-qualified popular candidate for the top spot, was victimized by petty politics and a long-term personal grudge.

Lang so eminently qualified for Superintendent of Schools that most of Lowell was and is still outraged. So exceptionally eligible that he was quickly hired by the neighboring Town of Chelmsford as their Superintendent of Schools, without a traditional executive search.
The irony of the vote is that everyone whom had a personal grudge against Lang is no longer running for School Committee. However this is where things get interesting for the Lowell City Council race. Dave Conway a declared candidate for Lowell City Council since last November may have been at one point a strong favorite in the race as a challenger … until his vote against Lang. Conway, firm in his opinion that he will not be affected by his vote against Lang, will now have to let the voters decide. Settling a personal issue could result in political suicide. Turning against a well-liked local guy is a fascinating political risk, but anything can happen.

It was well accepted until recently that this year’s Lowell City Council race would be a dud and have a historically low voter turnout. All the incumbents have done a great job and are working well with City Manager Murphy and his team. All incumbents are expected to be safe with one open seat in the race.

Now enters into the City Council race Jim Leary. Jim shocked Lowell’s political crowd by announcing that he would leave the Lowell School Committee and seek a seat on Lowell City Council. Jim is an unabashed supporter of Jay Lang, or as Jim likes to call him … Dr. Lang.
Leary just made things interesting and injected excitement into the City Council race. Serving on the Lowell School Committee for ten years, Leary decided to pull his papers last minute for Lowell City Council. A popular School Committee member, he is now running as a City Council candidate. Jim an outspoken critic of Conway, puts a major crimp into the chances of Dave Conway getting elected. As strong as Dave Conway’s personal vendetta was against Jay Lang, Jim Leary was in favor of Lang. Being polar opposites, this race will now be white hot as these two spar into November.

As I see it in August… here is who I see as the top 9 candidates finishing in November with Jim Leary now in the race.

1. Rita Mercier (I)
2. Rodney Elliott (I)
3. Bill Samaras (I)
4. Corey Belanger (I)
5. Dan Rourke (I)
6. Jim Leary
7. Ed Kennedy (I)
8. Jim Milanazzo (I)
9. Paul Ratha Yem/ John Leahy (I) … too close to call
*(I) Incumbent