In her latest TAB column, Newton Villages Alliance leader Kathleen Kouril Grieser is outright giddy about what she calls the “spectacular preliminary election victories of Jake Auchincloss and Lynne LeBlanc” on Sept. 17, claiming that the results were a “triumph” and a “stunning rebuke to the pro-high-density-housing political establishment.”
I’d like to offer another perspective and perhaps urge Kouril Grieser to hold off on uncorking the Champaign just yet.
For starters, let’s remember that a measly 4,176 residents voted on that perfect September day, an apathetic turnout rate of eight percent of Newton’s registered voters.
That’s only slightly more voters than the number of dogs (4,136) registered in Newton. And it hardly represents any kind of “stunning rebuke,” although it perhaps suggests that most Newton residents must be happy with the way their city is running.
And then there’s the fact that the Newton Villages Alliance didn’t even endorse front runner Auchincloss, who lead the pack with 2054 votes, followed closely behind by incumbent Susan Albright (1993 votes) and then at a greater distance by incumbent Marcia Johnson ( 1667 votes) and even further behind LeBlanc (1295 votes).
The NVA only endorsed LeBlanc in Ward 2, adopting a bullet vote strategy that, let’s face it, likely only hurt fifth place finisher Jess Barton (556 votes), while failing to elevate LeBlanc above either incumbent.
That’s neither “spectacular” or “triumphant.”
Which brings us to Auchincloss, the candidate who poses next to a couple of Green Line trains on top of his campaign website, who was booed at a recent NVA meeting and who has repeatedly said he’s not anti-development or anti-smart growth; positions at the core of the NVA’s no-growth mantra.
Yes, Auchincloss opposes the Austin Street project, but only because he doesn’t like the terms of the agreement, not because he wants to use the parking lot exclusively as a parking lot.
So why did Auchincloss win? I have two theories:
- Marcia Johnson is not a good campaigner. She just isn’t. She doesn’t connect well with voters and given a very busy professional work schedule, Johnson doesn’t have a lot of visibility outside of City Hall. Note, I’m not saying she’s not a nice person. She is. I’m not saying she isn’t a hard working alderman. She’s that too. But she’s a crummy candidate.
- Meanwhile, Auchincloss worked his butt off campaigning this summer: Knocking on doors, sending out multiple mailings, participating on blogs, on social media, doing a great job on NewTV, etc. He’s also young, energetic, an officer in the Marine Corps, a Harvard grad, a local kid, etc. etc.
And Auchincloss didn’t knock on all those doors championing an anti-development bent. Far from it. Check out his website: It’s all about walkable villages, better schools, seniors, etc.
If anything, Auchincloss won by taking a page out of the playbook of fellow military veteran, tireless door knocker , barn coat wearing, Setti Warren during his first campaign, who like Auchincloss, carefully tracked his supporters block by block and made sure they showed up on Election Day.
In other words, Auchincloss’ win was not a “stunning rebuke to the pro-high-density-housing political establishment” because he doesn’t share NVA’s vision of Newton frozen in the snow globe.
Maybe on Nov. 3, voters will indeed rise up and deliver a stunning anti-growth rebuke.
Or maybe they won’t.
We just don’t know yet.