A closer look at the results of the District 3 preliminary election

Much of the fallout from last week’s City Council election has been focused on the defeats of two incumbent district city councillors – Ricardo Arroyo and Kendra Lara – and rightfully so. Never before had any incumbents been bounced by voters in the first round. It was an unprecedented rebuke of two sitting elected members in the modern era of the council.

Beyond that, the outcome of the 7-person preliminary contest for the open seat in District 3 merits closer inspection this week. If election victories were decided by how many precincts one candidate wins, then the District 3 race might be considered a close one. There are 32 precincts in the district. The overall winner, John FitzGerald, won 15 of them. The second-place finisher, Joel Richards, was the top vote-getter in 13 precincts. Ann Walsh, who finished closely behind Richards but out of contention for the November final, won 3 precincts. There was one tie— Columbia Point’s 13-3— in which Richards and Walsh both earned 19 votes.

But elections are won by cumulative raw numbers and by that measure, this was a runaway victory for John FitzGerald, who earned 43 percent of the 6,450 votes cast. Joel Richards won 19 percent. There was a 1,547-vote difference between the two finalists. The five other candidates – Walsh, Matt Patton, Jennifer Johnson, Barry Lawton, and Rosalind Wornum – won 2,177 combined.

The precinct-by-precinct totals also indicate just how dominant FitzGerald was in topping the ticket. He amassed lopsided victories in places like Florian Hall’s dual precinct in Ward 16, where he notched 583 votes. The next highest total at Florian was Ann Walsh with 82. At the Adams Street Library’s 16-9, he posted a landslide with 381 votes out of a total 432 cast. Walsh came in second in that precinct with 23 votes.

Richards was the top choice in Fields Corner and nearby sections of Meetinghouse Hill in Ward 15. But he never cracked triple-digit territory anywhere in the district. His best performance was 16-6, where he posted 94 votes to FitzGerald’s 55.

By just about every measure, FitzGerald has the upper hand heading into the Nov. 7 final election. He’s backed by the current councillor, Frank Baker, and counts among his key allies former Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a voter in District 3.

But, what about those 2,177 votes that neither Richards nor FitzGerald snared last week? Ann Walsh, who finished just 83 votes behind Richards, might move the needle with some of the 1,155 voters who circled the oval next to her name on Sept. 12. That may explain why FitzGerald stopped by Walsh’s election night gathering in Lower Mills before making an appearance at his own party in Adams Village.

District elections are intimate by nature and not purely about policy positions and ideology. Relationships, accidents of geography, and chance encounters at the coffee shop and ballfields can’t be factored out of the equation. There’s also the matter of a new dynamic in November with the at-large field — which was not on last week’s ballot— drawing in added energy, volunteers, and, probably, more voters.

There’s a contest in District 3. Stay tuned to The Reporter for in-depth coverage.

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