Tyer plans to double down as Mazzeo reaches for more votes in Pittsfield mayoral race

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PITTSFIELD — Mayoral candidates are making plays for more votes as the first phase of the city's election season winds to a close.

Challenger and Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo announced endorsements from Rusty Anchor owner Scott Graves and retired police officer Karen Kalinowsky, who both were bumped from contention in the preliminary election Tuesday.

In the mayor's race, Mazzeo was the top vote-getter by 289 votes, according to unofficial tallies from City Hall. She received 2,860 votes, Mayor Linda Tyer came in second, with 2,571 votes, Graves garnered 343 votes and Kalinowsky got 281.

Mazzeeo and Tyer now will go head-to-head in the Nov. 5 election.

"We've got this," Mazzeo said Wednesday from the steps of City Hall as she linked arms with Graves and Kalinowsky.

They said Mazzeo earned their support because of her business-friendly vision and her desire for accountability on issues of crime and education.

"I believe that working together, hopefully, we can get these things taken care of in the city," Kalinowsky said.

Tyer promised to double down on her efforts in the weeks ahead.

"I will see the people of Pittsfield on their front porches," Tyer said of her second-place status.

As she speaks with residents, Tyer said she will point to her record of accomplishments.

"There's a clear contrast between myself and Councilor Mazzeo," Tyer said Wednesday. "And we're going to illustrate that contrast to a much finer point over these next eight weeks."

In response to Mazzeo's endorsement announcement, Tyer touted her recent endorsement from the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus.

Also on Wednesday, Tyer and her administration announced her plans to welcome a space environment test facility into the city. The company, Electro Magnetic Applications, is described in a news release as a "globally recognized leader in technical consulting, software and test services."

History shows mixed bag

The preliminary race isn't always an indicator of how the general election will go. In 2009, former Mayor James Ruberto claimed a historic comeback after trailing by 542 votes in the preliminary to then-City Councilor Dan Bianchi. There was a 28 percent turnout in the preliminary that year, Eagle archives show, while the general election jumped to 46 percent.

Ruberto won that election by 209 votes.

In 2011, Bianchi returned to beat out Councilor at Large Peter Marchetti, but not before Marchetti gained so much ground between the preliminary and the general election that he nearly closed the gap. Marchetti was bested by Bianchi by 670 votes in that mayoral preliminary, but trailed him by only 117 votes in the final election.

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Marchetti said he closed the gap by doubling down on door-to-door efforts and by making phone calls to about 900 households identified as swing voters through phone banking. He said he also made a concerted push to encourage people to vote, in hopes that greater turnout would be a boon.

"We kind of took what we were doing and multiplied by two, basically," he said. "I think for me it was just as much about the larger voter turnout."

In that 2011 race, voter turnout jumped from 19 percent in the preliminary to 42 percent in the general election.

In Tyer's 2015 run, her margin of victory grew significantly between the preliminary, when she beat Bianchi by 830 votes, and the general election, when she swept all 14 precincts and beat him by 2,159 votes.

Tom Sakshaug, Tyer's campaign manager, said the Tuesday election drummed up more of the anti-establishment voters. He said the turnout will be higher in the general election and the results were close enough to recover from.

"Don't let this discourage you," he recalled telling supporters as numbers rolled in Tuesday night. "Because it's really close."

State Rep. John Barrett III, a 26-year North Adams mayor, said it's not uncommon for a sitting mayor to lose a preliminary election. It happened to him, in 1997, and he recovered in the general election.

It's still anybody's race, he said. Sometimes, those who lose the preliminary come back with a vengeance, he said, citing Ruberto's comeback in 2009.

"It's usually a wake-up call, and many times they will answer the call," he said.

He said supporters of sitting mayors sometimes get too comfortable heading into a preliminary.

"And they sometimes don't work as hard," he said.

Plus, he said sitting mayors generally are busier with the job than challengers.

"This is going to be an old-time political battle," he said. "Whoever has the best ground game, I think, is going to win it."

Outgoing Ward 6 Councilor John Krol said voters should dig into the two very different messages coming from Mazzeo and Tyer. They should ask Mazzeo how she plans to make the changes she promises, and they should push Tyer to provide clear answers about her record of accomplishments.

Krol said that Tyer's campaign should be concerned about her performance.

"That's something for Tyer to be concerned about," Krol said. "Is the base there? I think that's a really good question."

Eagle reporter Dick Lindsay contributed to this report.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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