You’ve probably read and heard a lot of news about high profile elections that occurred yesterday. I’m quite happy with a number of referendum outcomes in other states, but I think the neatest electoral result from the day is one that wouldn’t be known much outside of Massachusetts.
That would be the victory of Alex Morse.
I don’t live in the city of Holyoke, but I work there, and I’ve followed the mayor’s race with a good deal of interest. Morse was initially just a name on a sign, but a profile of him in our local weekly revealed that he was only 22, and just recently out of college. My first thought was that this was cool, but that he wouldn’t have much chance of victory. He was one of three challengers to the incumbent mayor, and I figured that existing political forces would crush him.
Then came the preliminary election (kind of a non-partisan primary), which narrowed the field to 2 candidates. Not only was Morse one of the top 2, he came in first, with 1 more vote than the current mayor. Apparently voters in the city liked what he had to say, and/or what he represents. It certainly helps that not only is he enthusiastic and energetic, but he is a native of the city. He also connects with 2 important constituencies: the city’s large Latino population, by virtue of his speaking Spanish; and an ever-growing segment of young artists living and working in Holyoke. After that initial election, he had tons of momentum, and that seems to have carried him through to the mayor’s office.
I think his win is a really great thing. It’s not that I think Mayor Pluta has been bad for the city, but I don’t think she’s done much of note – it seems like it’s mostly been a caretaker administration the last 2 years. I think Morse pushing for big initiatives could make some exciting changes come to the city, but in general I think it’s also of benefit outside the city to have him as mayor. First off, young adults tend to be less involved in politics and civic life than voters in other age groups. Seeing someone that age in a high-profile office could motivate a lot of 20-somethings to do more. Someone young in office will also be more likely to represent the interests of youth – for instance, youth under 18 can’t vote, but they can potentially have their opinions reflected and respected to a much greater degree by an official who is close to their age.
Of course, I also am of the general opinion that we need more diversity in elected officials, in order for our governments to reflect the diversity of our democracy. For that reason, any time we get someone in office who differs in some major way from typical elected officials, it is cause for celebration.