Residue from a casino debate that rocked Foxborough a year ago may have tilted Tuesday’s local election, when voters ousted a member of the Board of Selectmen whose position at the time was that residents deserved details of the $1 billion proposal before making up their minds.
Last week’s vote was reminiscent of the 2012 town election in which former selectman Larry Harrington was ejected for his stance in favor of a casino.
Ultimately the gambling facility proposed by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn was withdrawn, but on Tuesday, after the votes were in, lifelong resident and community volunteer Lynda Walsh had lost her Board of Selectmen seat to challenger John Gray, a member and former chairman of the town Advisory Committee.
Incumbent Selectman James DeVellis, the board’s chairman, was easily reelected. Both he and Gray adamantly opposed the gambling complex idea. DeVellis received 2,287 votes, Gray had 1,796 votes, and Walsh trailed with 1,614.
In the days before the vote, Walsh had scrambled to rebut a letter in a local newspaper that said she voted for the casino project, when in fact that never occurred.
“This is an irresponsible statement, inaccurate in every way, and designed in the twilight of an election to mislead voters,’’ she wrote to the newspaper and on Facebook. “The letter plays to efforts to misinform and manipulate an election.”
Walsh did not respond to several requests for comment after the election. But in her letter she said she acted as she did because a casino cannot be taken lightly.
“We were not making a choice on whether to approve a street name,’’ she wrote. “It was an issue that would have an effect on all our lives.”
Some town residents said Wednesday they were outraged by the voting results.
“I think it was because of the letter and God knows who else who made calls,’’ Janet Kennedy said. “It was rotten, and I smell a rat.”
Work to repair the town’s fragile relationship with the Kraft family after the casino furor has been slow going, but company representatives in March made a presentation to selectmen about the benefits of Patriot Place, the upscale mall that sits beside Gillette Stadium, both of which the Krafts own.
At the time, they said they are also working hard to find something good to build on the Route 1 land where the casino was planned.
Kennedy said for some residents, though, the fences may never be mended.
“Some people are still very angry at the Krafts. I hear it all the time,” she said.
And at Walsh too, apparently — although that is something Pattiann Malynn said she cannot understand.
Malynn, the webmaster for the Foxborough-based Facebook page “Gem of Norfolk County,” said the casino issue did not affect her choices for selectmen at all.
“I fully supported Lynda Walsh even though she said she wanted to see the casino proposal and I didn’t,’’ Malynn said. “Disagreeing with a candidate on a few issues isn’t enough to get me to vote against them if they are hard-working, honest, intelligent, and caring.”
Traci Bridge Longa, who ran an online casino discussion group during the turmoil, described the political campaign as “fairly positive,” at least when it came to the candidates.
But, she conceded, spreading eleventh-hour negativity about Walsh was an indicator that someone wanted DeVellis and Gray elected.
“And they achieved that,” she said.
Gray was riding high Wednesday afternoon after his election as he drove around town retrieving campaign signs. He did not think the casino issue weighed in much at all in Walsh’s loss because, he said, he worked for his win.
“I knew it was going to be close,’’ he said. “But we called hundreds and hundreds of people in town, which started a surge of support over the last few weeks.”
One observer, Bridgewater State University political science professor Michael Kryzanek, said the truth is Walsh’s loss was the result of several factors at play.
“You’d have to go into the minds of the voters who went to the polls,’’ he said. “You can make enemies on any issue, then add in a candidate who is really hungry for the job.”
Kryzanek said it takes more than one event that occurred a year ago to cause a popular incumbent to go down. The question to be asked is, he said, did she really engage in an active campaign to explain her stand on other issues?
Some incumbents believe name recognition and large numbers of friends will get them back into office, which he said can be an error in judgment.
DeVellis said he was happy and thankful to return to office. While sad to see Walsh go, he said, he also did not see any one thing that caused her loss.
“It’s a conglomeration of different things, and everything we’ve had on the table over the past year,” including the casino issue, he said. “You’d have to be naive not to think so.”