Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken is assured of a free ride into a third elected term and Gloucester voters will only be going to the polls once this fall now that the window has closed for candidates to file their signed nomination papers seeking spots on the city’s ballot.
Romeo Theken is unopposed this time around after no other candidates emerged by Tuesday night’s deadline for filing signatures, City Clerk Joanne Senos confirmed Wednesday. She was appointed mayor in January 2015 by her City Council colleague after then-Mayor Carolyn Kirk left for a state post, then won election at the polls later that year and in 2017.
And while there are races for councilor at-large, School Committee and one ward council slot, none spurred enough challengers to force a preliminary election in September.
“There’s no preliminary. It goes right to November,” Senos said, referring to the city’s general election date of Nov. 5.
Senos said the clerk’s office must still certify signatures for a number of candidates, with all certifications due at the state’s board of elections by Aug. 13. Barring any rejections, voters will be able to choose four candidates from seven for councilor at-large and six from among eight bidders for School Committee. The lone contested ward council race is in Ward 2, where Joseph Giacalone and Barry Pett will vie to fill the seat held by Kenneth Hecht, who is not seeking re-relection.
Romeo Theken — who took out and began circulating her nomination papers April 1, the first day they were available — said she appreciates that she has no challengers and such strong support.
“But I’m mayor all year long, not just when it comes time for elections,” she said.
Romeo Theken chalked up her lack of opposition to what she called “a great team” leading the city. “Whether it’s an election year or two years before the election, we have a vision, we look for and receive (residents’ input), and we all work together toward moving Gloucester forward together. I said that from the beginning, and that’s still the way I feel.”
“Every day, I’m thankful for my team,” she said. “No one person can run the city; everyone works together to run the city as a team, and I do think we have a great team. And by that I also mean working with the City Council. So we’re going to keep moving forward over another two years.”
That sense of “moving forward,” she said, is likely to include advancing plans for a new school in East Gloucester, and a renewed push for new headquarters for both the Fire Department and the Department of Public Works.
“We have a lot of good things happening,” she said, “but now I also want us to be taking care of the people who take care of us.”
Romeo Theken’s run will be the first unopposed re-election of a mayor since Bruce Tobey enjoyed a free ride in 1997. Kirk was re-elected unopposed in November 2007 in her bid for a second term, but that came after then-City Councilor Sharon George, who had outpolled Dan Ruberti in a September preliminary, withdrew from the race that October.
The 2019 mayoral race will be the first without Ruberti, who died in 2017 at the age of 86, in more than four decades. Ruberti mounted 22 runs for mayor, including in 2017, when he lost a September preliminary to Romeo Theken and Francisco Sclafani. He never drew more than the 1,001 votes he pulled in losing to John Bell’s 5,252 in 2003.
“I miss him, I miss the bugle,” Romeo Theken said, referring to one of Ruberti’s classic means drumming up support.
The City Council races shape up as a mixed bag, with four of the five ward councilors facing no opposition, but with a councilor at-large race that features three incumbents and some high-profile challengers.
The ward councilors who will join the mayor in a free ride to re-election are Scott Memhard in Ward 1, Steve LeBlanc in Ward 3, Val Gilman in Ward 4 and Sean Nolan in Ward 5.
The at-large race, meanwhile, will include incumbents Melissa Cox, Jennifer Holmgren and Jamie O’Hara, along with challengers John McCarthy, the city’s recently retired interim police chief; Joe Ciolino, the 2014-17 City Council president; Christopher DiMercurio-Sicuranza, who formerly worked as the mayor’s constituent service liaison; and local contractor Peter Cannavo. Council President Paul Lundberg announced two weeks ago he would not be seeking re-election.
School Committee members Tony Gross and Michelle Sweet are also not seeking re-election, leaving Chairman Jonathan Pope, Kathleen Clancy, Joel Favazza and Melissa Teixeira Prince as the lone incumbents looking to return to the seven-member board that automatically includes the mayor.
They will be facing challenges from Samantha Verga-Watson, Ida Shaker, Laura B. Wiessen and Timothy R. Wood. J.D. MacEachern and Thomas Stein had taken out papers seeking signatures, but MacEachern withdrew his candidacy last week, Senos said, and Stein did not turn in signatures for a nomination.
Residents can mount a run for office via a write-in campaign, but would not be listed on the ballots that voters would see at the Nov. 5 polls.
No charter review
There will also be no local referendum questions on the November ballot. A move to place one aimed at creating a charter review commission fell short of generating the required number of signatures, Senos said.
That effort, led by attorney Meredith Fine and former Gloucester Rotary and Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce President Ruth Pino, needed 3,292 certified signatures — 15 percent of the city’s 21,495 voters — to earn a spot on the ballot. But the organizing group, called the 21st Century Gloucester Committee, was able to submit only 2,569, 1,400 of them certified as of last Friday’s referendum deadline, Senos said.
The City Council could still place a referendum on the ballot, if it submits any such question by Oct. 1, but no such questions had been submitted as of Wednesday, Senos said.
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
These candidates submitted signatures and nomination papers to run for elected office in Gloucester this fall. Some signatures are pending certification by the office of City Clerk Joanne Senos.All signatures must be certified by the clerk’s office by Aug, 13.
* Sefatia Romeo Theken.
Councilor At-Large (Vote for up to 4)
* Melissa Cox
* Jamie O’Hara
City Council ward seats
School Committee (Vote for up to six)
*Melissa Teixeira Prince
Laura B. Wiessen
Timothy R. Wood