Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal has delivered an early endorsement as the municipal campaign season is getting underway. The veteran Congressman is supporting Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno’s reelection bid.
Neal stood beside Sarno in front of Springfield City Hall Friday and praised the mayor’s record on economic development, managing the city’s finances, and for devoting considerable time to the efforts to improve the public schools.
" I think Domenic Sarno has done a terrific job as mayor and I intend to support him," declared Neal.
Neal noted that under Sarno’s watch the city has landed an $800 million resort casino project. A Chinese company plans to build a railroad car factory. The city has the highest bond rating in its history.
" Being the mayor of an old city in New England is not an easy task, but clearly he has done a good job," said Neal.
Neal served as mayor of Springfield before he was elected to Congress in 1988.
Sarno has consistently supported the redevelopment of Union Station – a pet project of Neal’s. Lately the two have been allied in the effort to persuade the Springfield Diocese to rebuild tornado-damaged Cathedral High School at its longtime site on Surrey Road in Springfield.
Neal brushed off suggestions that his endorsement might do more good if it was announced after Labor Day – rather than before Memorial Day—when people will be paying more attention to the campaign.
" My endorsement is not limited to an announcement," said Neal. " I think we have kept about as good a political organization that there is in Massachusetts as highlighted by the successful election cycles we've gone through."
Sarno said Neal’s endorsement “means the world to me.”
As of midday Friday, nine people had taken out nomination papers to run for mayor, according to the records in the city’s Election Commission office. The deadline for returning the papers with a minimum of 500 signatures is July 28th.
None of Sarno’s potential challengers has held elected office, and none has the incumbent’s name recognition.
Matt Szafranski, publisher of Western Massachusetts Politics and Insight, said Neal’s early endorsement in the mayoral election is a sign Sarno is not taking his reelection campaign lightly.
" I think what you are seeing here is a desire to keep bigger names out of the race," he said. " No established politician has gotten into this race to challenge the sitting mayor. That is very rare."
Sarno and Neal are both Democrats, but municipal elections in Massachusetts are non-partisan.
Sarno served two consecutive two-year terms as mayor before city voters changed the mayoral term to four years. He was elected to his first four- year term in 2011.
If Sarno wins reelection and serves out the full four-year term he would become the longest serving mayor in the city’s history.