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Cambridge voters elect two city councilors, support changing city charter

Cambridge City Hall.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/David L Ryan, Globe Staff

Cambridge voters chose a former head of a statewide teachers union and a Pakistani-born engineer and housing advocate as new city councilors during Tuesday’s election and approved three ballot questions that would revise the city charter.

Burhan Azeem and Paul F. Toner, former president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, will join the City Council, according to unofficial results from the city, which include ballots scanned at the polls but not mail-in ballots.

Toner had 1,613 first-place votes. Azeem had 1,281, according to unofficial results. Cambridge uses ranked-choice voting to elect nine at-large city councilors and six at-large School Committee members in city elections. Voters rank candidates in order of preference. There were 19 City Council candidates on Tuesday’s ballot, according to the city’s website.


Azeem celebrated his victory on Twitter Wednesday morning, writing that he was “humbled and honored by the elections results.”

“As the immigrant kid, who really struggled with acceptance before coming to Cambridge, I wanted to say I’m so grateful for all your faith and trust in me,” Azeem said.

Toner, a lawyer and former Cambridge public school teacher, said in an e-mail to the Globe Wednesday evening that he is “very grateful to my wife, children, family, friends, supporters and the voters of Cambridge who made my campaign a success.”

“My campaign was built on a promise to bring common sense, solutions oriented leadership to the council,” Toner said, adding that he looks forward to joining the council and “working to move our city forward in focusing on the needs of our residents.”

Cambridge voters reelected councilors Dennis J. Carlone, Alanna M. Mallon, Marc C. McGovern, Patricia M. Nolan, E. Denise Simmons, Quinton Y. Zondervan, and Sumbul Siddiqui, the city’s current mayor, to serve on the nine-member panel. Councilors will vote to determine the next mayor after they are sworn in in January.


Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler was not reelected. He had 1,133 first-place votes and finished in 10th place once all the votes were tallied.

Sobrinho-Wheeler thanked his supporters in a series of Twitter posts Wednesday morning.

“I’m grateful to everyone who spent time and energy knocking so, so many doors, and who buoyed me up through the long days and nights of this work,” he said. “I’m thankful for all the unions and organizations that have led the fights for justice and invited me to walk alongside them.”

Another incumbent, Councilor Timothy J. Toomey Jr., did not seek reelection.

For the city’s School Committee, voters elected Akriti Bhambi, director of public policy and government advocacy for the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, and reelected members Alfred B. Fantini, José Luis Rojas Villarreal, Ayesha Wilson, David J. Weinstein, and Rachel B. Weinstein, according to unofficial results.

Incumbent Manikka L. Bowman, who serves as the panel’s vice-chairwoman, did not seek reelection.

Cambridge residents also voted in favor of three proposed changes to the city’s charter that were placed on the ballot by the City Council, two of which would take some power from the city manager and give it to the council.

More than two-thirds of voters supported Question 1, which asked if the City Council should have the power to confirm the city manager’s appointments of members to boards and commissions, including the city’s Planning Board, Board of Zoning Appeal, Human Rights Commission, Historical Commission, and Conservation Commission. There were 13,622 yes votes compared with 6,093 in opposition, according to the unofficial count of ballots scanned at the polls.


Voters were even more enthusiastic about Question 2, which would amend the charter to include an annual performance review for the city manager, conducted by the City Council. More than three-quarters of voters supported the review proposal, for 15,640 yes votes compared with 4,181 opposed.

There was slightly less support for Question 3, which asked if the City Council should set up a process for a special panel of voters to review the charter once a decade. There were 14,435 votes in support of the measure and 5, 075 votes against it.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox.