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WMass Mayors Show Power Of Incumbency

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WAMC
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In western Massachusetts Tuesday, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos were re-elected by big margins.  Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse squeaked out a victory in a contest where bad blood remained even after the votes were counted.

The mood inside Gateway City Arts where supporters of the young Holyoke mayor had gathered to party was apprehensive as early returns showed Morse trailing.   But a room packed with about 200 people exploded in cheers and chants of " two more years" when it was announced Morse had secured 53 percent of the vote to win a third term.

Morse, first elected Holyoke mayor straight out of college at the age of 21, won his third straight close election Tuesday, this time by a margin of about 300 votes over home healthcare business owner Fran O’Connell, a first time candidate who put tens of thousands of dollars of his own money into the race.

"We sent a message loud and clear tonight that the mayor's office is not for sale," Morse declared as his audience erupted in a loud cheer.

Throughout the campaign, Morse and O’Connell had clashed on every issue. It was evident Tuesday night that hard feelings linger between the two camps.

" In regards to my opponent, my mother always told me if don't have something nice to say don't say it at all," Morse said as he addressed supporters.

The election was billed as a showdown between Holyoke’s old guard and its new up-and-comers.

"Everybody,no matter where you are from, what you look like, and what language you speak can be part of the movement we've built over the last four years,"  Morse said.

O’Connell came to Morse’s victory party where the two shook hands and had a brief exchange.

O’ Connell declined to speak to the media.

Morse’s victory speech was occasionally strident and at times emotional – he teared-up as he thanked his family and fiancé. He told reporters later he took this election very personally.

"Yes, because my opponent wasn't running for mayor because he wanted to outline a vision or improve the city of Holyoke. He was running against Alex Morse," Morse said.

Morse said during the campaign he had always counted on serving at least a decade as mayor in order to see through his plan to turn around the city, which has been plagued for decades by poverty, crime, and failing schools.

Holyoke voters Tuesday approved a change to the mayoral term. It will be four years starting with the 2017 election.

In a battle of political heavyweights, Richard Kos scored a knockout to win reelection to a second term as mayor of Chicopee.

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Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos celebrates his re-election Tuesday night with his wife Gina.

 It was a rematch from two years ago, and this time it wasn’t even close. Kos defeated former mayor Michael Bissonnette by a more than two-to-one margin.

Kos said he was deeply humbled. He thanked family and longtime friends and said he looked forward to going back to work as mayor first thing in the morning.

" People want a candidate who not only respects the office, but that they can respect," said Kos.

Bissonnette conceded his battles with several members of the police department, including the current police chief, who has a defamation suit pending against the former mayor, cost him a lot of votes.       

" I think it was huge," said Bissonnette.  " Because there is an increase in crime, people were concerned I might have difficulty working with the police department and I understand their concerns."

He did not rule out another run for elected office someday.

  Voters in Springfield returned Domenic Sarno to the mayor’s office for four more years. 

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno
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Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno speaks with a reporter at his campaign headquarters Election Night.

Sarno rolled up almost 77 percent of the vote in trouncing political novice Sal Circosta. Sarno said the huge margin of victory sent a resounding message that people are confident in his ability to move the city forward.

" I love this job. I love this job," Sarno said. "We ran on our record."

Before his next mayoral term is up Sarno said he expects to see the MGM casino built and a redeveloped Union Station open downtown.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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