Linda Tyer sweeps to citywide victory in Pittsfield mayoral race
Photo Gallery | Linda Tyer wins mayoral election over incumbent Dan Bianchi
Video | Linda Tyer on her win
Races | 2015 Pittsfield Election Results
PITTSFIELD — Linda M. Tyer's call for a more progressive, inclusive and less divisive city government won a resounding endorsement on Tuesday when the city clerk decisively derailed incumbent Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's bid for a third term.
Winning citywide with 6,661 votes to 4,502 votes for Bianchi, she won all 14 precincts and earned 59.14 percent of the vote to 39.97 percent for the mayor.
"Wow, look what we did," Tyer told loudly cheering supporters at Hotel on North after the results were official. "I did not walk this journey alone. We did it together. This was a grass-roots movement of people who care about the city of Pittsfield and believe in our great potential."
Tyer said she considered it an honor "that I have been entrusted by the people of Pittsfield to lead their government for the next four years."
The mayor-elect added, "We've got a lot of work to do, and I am very, very excited about our future and hope you are too. We had support all across the city. ... We are going to be a new generation Pittsfield."
Tyer went on to thank key campaign aides, saying, "First of all, [Councilor at large] Barry Clairmont," with whom she is in a relationship. "Barry gave me the courage to take this risk, and he stood there with me — I owe him a debt of gratitude."
She expressed thanks to her mother, Rosemary Casey, who was "my first campaign donor," who worked tirelessly on the campaign; her campaign manager Thomas Sakshaug, publicist Christina Barrett, event organizer former City Councilor Christine Yon, and strong early supporters former Mayor James M. Ruberto, former state Rep. Denis Guyer, Brian Johnson, Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop and others.
Bianchi told supporters meeting at the 7 Grille following the election, "The job doesn't end. We have to be hopeful for the future and continue to be engaged and work hard."
He added, "We were up against it, obviously. There was a crew of people who were working for the last couple of years to make sure tonight ended the way it did."
Bianchi said his opponent "had a crew of people who spent the last couple of years not being terribly truthful. We have a local newspaper, and I think they've been gunning for me for four years. And they succeeded."
Asked if it was a difficult time, the mayor said, "Nobody wants to be in this position, but in politics you have to be prepared for any eventuality. That's just the realities of political life."
He added, "I wish [Linda] success, because her success will be the city's success."
"Obviously it's a big huge day for Pittsfield, as far as I'm concerned," Lothrop said. He said Tyer "presented herself as a change candidate," and one would work to be more inclusive even of those who don't agree with her positions.
The turnout on a balmy, sunny November day had 11,373 voters casting ballots from a registered voter list of 27,242 — or 41.74 percent of the total.
On Tuesday, Tyer followed up on a stunning win in the preliminary election on Sept. 22, in which Tyer defeated him 2,790 votes to 1,960. The mayor had noted that the turnout in that election was an "anemic" 18.77 percent of registered voters, leaving him an opening to turn around the result if his supporters came to the polls in the general election. But that was not to be.
Tyer, 50, has now secured the first four-year term in Pittsfield's history, following a 2013 government charter change.
The race, which also pitted the mayor and his longtime supporters against Tyer and numerous supporters of former Mayor Ruberto, grew more heated as the campaign ground on through six debates and several public clashes over issues like crime or spending. That continued with charges and counter-charges flying over the final weekend and into Tuesday.
As a Ward 6 councilor for 10 years, Bianchi often opposed Ruberto initiatives during his mayoral tenure, from 2004-12, and the two had faced off in 2009 with Ruberto winning a close race for his final term by just over 200 votes.
In this year's contest, Tyer painted Bianchi as divisive and prone to take actions like negotiating a new health insurance contract for city employees without consulting the full City Council, and she charged he shut his perceived political enemies out of the governmental process.
The clerk promised to take a more inclusive, progressive approach and said she would open the process even to those who opposed her initiatives.
The mayor denied Tyer's allegations but insisted there are times when it is the "responsibility of a mayor" to take immediate actions if that would prove a benefit to the city. He said at one point in a debate, "I wasn't going to let a couple city councilors trip us up."
The mayor stressed his longer experience in government and attacked Tyer as a big spender, repeatedly attaching high dollar figures to her proposals and contending that taxpayers "could not afford" Tyer as mayor.
Tyer said the mayor was engaging in scare tactics and wild exaggeration of costs, and said her plan was to change his spending priorities, which she deemed sometimes wasteful, and seek grant funding she contended the mayor has failed to pursue. Tyer's proposals focused on adding police officers, expanding early childhood education opportunities, eliminating blight and creating an expanded anti-youth violence program.
A flyer the mayor released during the last week of the campaign attaching multi-million price tags to Tyer proposals touched off a flurry of counter-charges from the Tyer camp and a protest rally of supporters on Saturday. But Bianchi insisted his estimate of the costs of her proposals was accurate.
Things got rougher in a Bianchi press release on Monday, in which, amid a point by point statement on the alleged high cost of Tyer's proposals, the mayor added a comment concerning Councilor at large Barry Clairmont, who is in a relationship with Tyer.
The release stated: "Councilor Clairmont, who is front and center in her campaign, has promised raises to dozens of current employees. For fear of retribution of the folks who shared the information with us, we will not disclose who they are. With that said, raises have most definitely been promised."
"I am confident that neither Councilor Clairmont nor anyone else from my campaign promised raises to anyone," Tyer said in an email Tuesday afternoon. "In fact, just days before this claim was made, it was rumored that I was going to fire everyone. It's unfortunate that employees are being used in this manner."
On Election Day itself, the Bianchi campaign released a statement contending: "This morning, Bianchi headquarters was notified that someone has been creating false Facebook pages of Bianchi supporters. This person or people are pulling images of supporters off of their Facebook profile and recreating a fake profile posing as though they are the supporter. They have been then posting negative comments on the official campaign page for Mayor Dan Bianchi and other places impersonating our supporters."
Tyer responded: "I have no knowledge that anyone involved in my campaign created any fake Facebook pages. If such pages were created they were done by people acting alone and not a coordinated effort."
Tyer was first elected as Ward 3 city councilor in 2003 and was appointed by Ruberto to fill a vacancy in the city clerk's post in 2008. She won two subsequent terms as clerk before announcing in April she would challenge Bianchi for mayor.
In their own words ...
"I think being ecstatic is the most mild thing I could say about landslide."
— Thomas Sakshaug, Tyer campaign manager
"What a victory for Pittsfield. I am reminded of a television program, 'Truth of Consequences.' I think today the voters gave the consequences for four years of mistruth."
— Dennis Powell, NAACP Berkshire chapter president
"What can I say, I am really excited. Linda worked very hard. She had a strong team and she really built a strong coalition and the people spoke loud and clear with their votes today. We're thrilled."
— Christina Barrett, Tyer campaign publicist
"Linda Tyer is an amazing woman, and I have grown in respect for her over this campaign, because she has such a positive, progressive outlook for our city of Pittsfield."
— Christine Yon, Tyer supporter
"This is an example of when someone runs a positive campaign based on ideas and the voters respond to that message, And tonight is a refutation of negative politics in Pittsfield."
— Denis Guyer, Tyer supporter
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