Newton voters pick candidates on both sides of housing issue

Cleo was far more interested in her stick than the politics going on outside a polling place in Newton on Tuesday.
Cleo was far more interested in her stick than the politics going on outside a polling place in Newton on Tuesday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

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NEWTON — In a City Council election roiled by issues of development, housing, and growth, voters in Tuesday’s municipal election reflected that division by choosing a group of candidates with starkly different visions of the Garden City’s future.

While most incumbents in contested races secured reelection, many of them backed by groups favoring denser housing in Newton, critics of development also won a larger influence in city politics.

Challengers Pamela Wright and Julia Malakie, supported by two groups that favor scaling back development in the city, won council seats and incumbent councilor Emily Norton staved off a challenge.


Yet Alicia Bowman, a challenger backed by pro-growth groups, unseated an incumbent at-large councilor.

Tuesday’s City Council winners will have a hand in shaping Newton’s future as deliberations on zoning reform are expected to begin next year.

The vote also comes as current councilors review proposals for mixed-use projects at the Riverside MBTA station and in Upper Falls, each including hundreds of units of new housing.

Fourteen women were elected to the City Council Tuesday, forming the majority of the 24-member board, including the council’s first openly transgender member, Holly Ryan.

On Tuesday, 15,432 of the city’s 60,630 registered voters — about 25 percent — cast ballots in the election, which had no mayoral race or ballot questions.

Each of Newton’s eight wards is represented by a pair of at-large city councilors who are elected by citywide vote. Every ward in Newton is also represented by a city councilor elected by ward residents only.

Candidates running in contested council races were roughly split into two slates. Some were backed by Engine 6 and Voters for a Vibrant Newton, which supported those in favor of additional housing and growth. Others were endorsed by RightSize Newton and Newton Democracy, which favor scaling back the amount of development in the city.


In Ward 2, which includes Newtonville and parts of West Newton and Newton Centre, Bryan Barash came up short against Norton.

Norton had 1,407 votes on Tuesday, versus 1,313 votes cast for Barash, according to unofficial results.

“I’m looking forward to making sure there is reasonable development in the ward and the city ... that it is reflective of what people who live here actually want and will benefit people who already live here,” Norton said.

Barash said he was glad he ran for office.

“I feel like we put together an incredible campaign and this is not the first time I’ve been involved in Newton... I fought for a vision for a progressive Newton that I believe in and that I still believe in and that I think is still in our future,” he said.

In the race for the ward’s pair of at-large seats, Jennifer Bentley and Tarik Lucas took on incumbents Jake Auchincloss and Susan Albright.

The challengers came up short: Albright had 7,674 votes, while Auchincloss — who has launched a congressional run — had 7,798 votes, according to unofficial results. Lucas had 5,212 votes and Bentley had 4,263 votes.

“I’m thrilled, I am very happy to win and have another two years on the Council,” Albright said. “We have a lot of zoning work to do in the next term but I think the most important thing we have to do is communicate with the citizens about what it is we’re trying to achieve and why we’re trying to do it. Clearly there were some folks who have a very different point of view and I think we need to communicate better with them.”


In an upset Tuesday, Wright won one of the two Ward 3 councilor-at-large seats, defeating incumbent James Cote. Wright, who had 6,129 votes, came out ahead of the 5,453 votes cast for Cote.

Wright will represent the ward alongside the remaining incumbent, Councilor-at-large Andrea Kelley, who had 8,174 votes.

Incumbent Ward 3 Councilor Barbara Brousal-Glaser did not seek reelection, and Malakie defeated fellow challenger Carolina Ventura. Malakie had 1,119 votes versus Ventura, who had 898 votes.

Malakie looked to the future debate around citywide zoning reform.

“The big thing coming up next term will be the proposed zoning overhaul for the whole city and I really want to make sure that people are aware of what’s in it and that there is really thorough education and vetting of it,” Malakie said.

Ventura said: “The results are disappointing from my perspective. But I’m proud of my team and I think we ran a great campaign.”

In Waban and Upper Falls, Ward 5 councilors-at-large Andreae Downs and Deborah Crossley defeated former Alderman Paul Coletti.

Crossley had 7,935 votes and Downs collected 7,774 votes Tuesday. Coletti came up short, with 5,212 votes.

“I’m still looking to making our streets safer and more accommodating to people who want to walk, bike, or take transit and improving transit and improving the carbon footprint of every new thing we build,” Downs said.


In the race to serve as the Ward 5 councilor, Bill Humphrey defeated Kathryn Winters: Humphrey had 974 votes, while Winters had 940 votes.

Humphrey said his win is “a victory for our policy agenda of urgent environmental action and the promotion of affordable housing.”

Humphrey will replace the current ward 5 councilor, John Rice, who did not seek another term. Rena Getz had run a write-in campaign for the seat.

In the Ward 6 at-large race, Bowman defeated incumbent Greg Schwartz by 30 votes: Bowman had 6,742 votes versus Schwartz’s 6,712 votes.

Vicki Danberg, the other incumbent, won reelection with 7,460 votes.

In the local ward 6 councilor race, Lisa Gordon lost in her campaign against incumbent Brenda Noel. Noel had 1,269 votes, according to unofficial results, while Gordon had 912 votes.

And in a contested race for the Ward 1 council seat, voters reelected incumbent Councilor Maria Scibelli Greenberg. She had 798 votes versus challenger Allan Ciccone Sr., who had 451 votes Tuesday.

Also on the ballot were six candidates in three contested races for the School Committee.

The sole incumbent running for reelection in a contested race was the board’s chairwoman, Ruth Goldman, who represents Ward 6 and had 7,988 votes, defeating challenger Galina Rosenblit, who had 3,060 votes.

Ward 4 member Diana Fisher Gomberg and Ward 5 member Steven Siegel did not run again due to term limits.


In the race to succeed Fisher Gomberg, Tamika Olszewski had 8,512 votes and defeated Alexander Koifman, who had 2,586 votes.

Emily Prenner will replace Siegel on the board. Prenner had 8,482 votes against her fellow challenger, Lev Agranovich who had 2,502 votes.

Voters filled out their ballots at the Hyde Community Center in Newton Highlands.
Voters filled out their ballots at the Hyde Community Center in Newton Highlands.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

BU journalists Sophia Nandwani, Kaylie Felsberg, Sam Drysdale, Naba Khan, and Anju Miura contributed to this report. John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.