Spring brings, among other things, Cape Ann's Town Meeting season. With that comes the annual town elections.
In that vein, we have had and will have stories, usually appearing on Page 1, about candidates announcing their re-election runs, mounting ballot challenges to incumbents, or perhaps seeking vacant seats on boards of selectmen, school committees or in town offices.
Readers last weekend, however, may have seen an election race take a different turn — with a very different type of campaign announcement.
It came in the form of a letter to the editor in last Saturday's Times from Rockport attorney Wilhelmina Sheedy Moores, who began by saying she was "personally offended" by the remarks made by Selectman Sandy Jacques. It was Jacques who, earlier this month, publicly suggested to Sarah Wilkinson, the 35-year-old mother of two who is the selectmen chairwoman, that she should "go back to the kitchen."
In her letter, Sheedy Moores added that she was "concerned as to the effectiveness of his leadership role for our town ..." To that end, she wrote, "I would like to offer my name as a write-in candidate for the seat currently occupied by Mr. Jacques, as one who has proven that effective leadership includes the ability to allow the community of Rockport to continue to realize its full potential."
With that, a write-in candidacy was born. Yet, there was no story announcing the development in Page 1 or elsewhere to date — despite the fact that another letter this week, this one from former Selectwoman Ellen Canavan, essentially endorsed Sheedy Moores for the seat.
That, admittedly, is a different tack for covering a town election, especially considering that we had run stories earlier when Jacques and Wilkinson both submitted their own papers to seek re-election. So you may well ask, why would your community's newspaper do that?
Well, one reason was very basic: Sheedy Moores was traveling for most of the week and could not effectively be reached until Friday afternoon.
The larger reason, however, was more a matter of dealing with the logistics of the write-in run itself. In the case of the sitting candidates — and other candidates on the Rockport ballot for the May 8 elections — Wilkinson, Jacques and those seeking other offices had all filed papers with supporting signatures with the town clerk's office, where Pat Brown, another candidate seeking election herself, confirmed all of the candidacies. But when Rockport reporter Stephanie Bergman contacted Brown on Monday to see whether she had received anything from the write-in hopeful, she said she had not, adding that she knew about it only from the letter in the Times.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. While any write-in candidates should let the local clerk know they're making a run — so the clerks and other election workers at least know why there are so many write-ins, and what names they might expect to find in the case of folks with bad penmanship — nothing requires that.
In the meantime, we were also frankly hesitant to do a story solely on Sheedy Moores' run only to find other candidates streaming forward as well and requiring equal stories virtually every day. Remember that Rockport has become a write-in haven; when no candidates sought ballot signatures in 2010, five resident candidates all stepped forward to mount write-in runs for the lone open selectman's seat, with Frances Fleming ultimately winning the post.
That hasn't happened this time. Be assured we will step up our coverage of this race and the town clerk's run next week as the election draws closer.
In the meantime, however, Sheedy Moores' letter to the Times enabled her to get her write-in candidacy out to the voters as quickly as possible. And that, in my mind, is what counts.
As always, let me know what you think.
Questions? Comments? Is there a topic you'd like to see addressed in a future column? Contact Times Editor Ray Lamont at 978-283-7000, ext. 3438, or email@example.com.