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Election2009: Bardsley Looks Ahead

After losing a squeaker to Northampton mayor Clare Higgins, Michael Bardsley pledges to keep his coalition alive.

Comments (11)
Thursday, November 12, 2009

In an interview after he'd just lost his mayoral bid in Northampton by a mere 344 votes, Michael Bardsley didn't exactly sound defeated.

"I'm feeling very good about things," Bardsley told the Advocate. "It was a very successful campaign in many ways. We didn't break the 50 percent mark we needed to break, but we accomplished something important. I think our message of change resonated with voters. That message may have had an effect on the outcomes of some of the City Council races and it certainly did on the non-binding question about the landfill."

A one-time ally of incumbent mayor Clare Higgins, who topped her challenger by a count of 5,034 to 4,690, Bardsley in recent years had become increasingly critical of the mayor and many of his Council colleagues who routinely support her. After launching his mayoral campaign in the spring, Bardsley went on to best Higgins in September's preliminary election. His insurgent campaign seemed to have put victory within his reach when, over the last 10 days of the race, Higgins began to turn it around. Down the stretch, the mayor's campaign was lifted by explicit endorsements from the Valley's major daily newspapers and a number of smaller media enterprises, as well as implicit endorsements from state officials including Gov. Deval Patrick and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray.

Bardsley's campaign was based in large part on a view of the incumbent mayor as an autocrat who failed to hear criticisms that were aimed at the most controversial parts of her agenda, including the city's effort to expand its regional landfill. The mayor, meanwhile, raised questions about her challenger's leadership and management skills as well as the depth of Bardsley's disagreements with her over policy.

While Bardsley stopped short of promising another mayoral bid in 2011, he said he planned to "stay involved [in city politics] in some way." He said he believes that his campaign succeeded in building a "coalition for change," energizing residents from around the city who've felt ignored and marginalized by City Hall.

"Change takes a while," Bardsley said. "In terms of my future plans, this much is certain: I won't let the coalition we've established fall apart."

Comments (11)
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Tom, Your postscript on the mayoral campaign is a fitting one, seeing as how it was a bookend to your coverage of the whole thing. You started and ended the campaign with a softball, pandering tribute to Michael Bardsley in the guise of an interview. Rather than report in depth on the issues that drove the campaign, namely the landfill, the hotel, the finances of the schools, you chose to focus ad nauseum on an email that was never intended to be read by anyone but the few people it was sent to. You and the Advocate played that story to death, without ever acknowledging that Clare Higgins had nothing to do with it, never wanted anything to do with it, and as a matter of fact, was pretty quick about saying so. There were a lot of stories out there to tell this election, but you were too partisan to get out there and find them. So now, in the aftermath of yet another defeat, the truth comes out: for the all of the screaming, gossiping, and Fox News-like reporting, at the end of the day the Advocate has proved irrelevant. Clare Higgins is still our mayor. In the end, she beat Michael Bardsley the old-fashioned way: she kicked his ass in the debates, where it counted. Whereas Michael spoke in platitudes, Clare spoke in specifics. When Michael talked about committees, Clare talked about action. And, when Michael tried to pull tricks out of his hat (Fundraising? From our tapped out business community?) Clare was devastatingly honest about the tough times ahead, and the conversations we need to have about them. The electorate made their decision. It was indeed a close victory. But, it was a major victory for an incumbent in a year where incumbents were losing all over the state.
Posted by Phil O'Donoghue on 11.10.09 at 20:01
Who is Phil O'Donoghue? Oh, Valle's husband and brother-in-law to Bill Dwight who crafted one of the deceitful viral emails that were a major issue in the election campaign. He has just recovered from his efforts to fertilize Ward 5 as Higgins' Ward Captain and apparently didn't get the news. Higgins didn't win any of the debates. And the Darby O'Brien ad agency is taking credit for her win over her own expected loss for their rescue from her desperation to have last minute ads to appeal to voters who knew nothing about the issues. The viral emails were the main strategy of the Higgins campaign. They had nothing but "In the effort to win you over"... Bardsley and his supporters are "angry, white, male, conservatives, who are sexist, and homophobic, and only want to get Democrats and lesbian woman out of office." They were forwarded to every susceptible voter they could reach with the acknowledgment " In case you didn't already get this from ten other people." Vannah gave Bardsley a place to speak in his own words. And it drew Higgins supporters like Valle, and usually anonymous supporters like Jon Hite of the Higgins campaign to consistently lose the debates on the issues in the open comments section of the Advocate. Before that, Bill Dwight used WHMP to softball Higgins and her councilors and discredit their opponents without an open forum and subsequently personally bias interpretations of their statements in his later programs. The Gazette and Republican provided their own disservice to the public with generally poor reporting and vacuous endorsements. The Higgins campaign is certainly the low point in Northampton's political history and just what its citizens needed to see below the rhetoric of this Higgins administration and the failures of its city council. This election has brought a substantial change to city council and a more engaged public to scrutinize the political corruption that dominates and threatens to destroy our city. For the 340 votes she gained to win, there will be a thousand who won't be fooled again.
Posted by kenneth mitchell on 11.11.09 at 11:49
The viral emails were the main strategy of the Higgins' campaign? That doesn't even pass the laugh test. People have been consistently overestimating the impact of that email that didn't go to nearly as many people as you would like to think it did. If Bardsley supporters didn't mention it every chance they got, it would have died a long time ago. And it's funny that you begin with an ad hominem attack and then go on to decry the use of such things.
Posted by Jeff on 11.11.09 at 12:31
thanks for the laugh....i have this image of my husband running madly around Florence, fertilizing ward 5.. check back in 9 months - -the place will be teeming w/squalling red heads, all sporting "Vote for Higgins" buttons on their onsies.
Posted by valle on 11.11.09 at 13:45
Phil O'Donoghue made no argument, he just stated as fact what was not and did not reveal his bias. The viral emails as well as the ads were intended to reach "every susceptible voter" and "to appeal to voters who knew nothing about the issues." That was described and conceded as Higgins' success, not that she won any debates over any of the issues. What didn't pass the laugh test was that you along with Dwight and company claimed the email, which was designed as a chain letter to be forwarded, was just sent to "friends" when complaints came in days later to Bardsley from people who were well removed from a friendship list, and Higgins denied she even knew about it when her campaign would have received the same complaints. Valle extended the play to deny it and lost that bid in the Advocate as you would repeat the loss now. Higgins should have been packing her bags for the deceit ad pondus omnium.
Posted by kenneth mitchell on 11.11.09 at 13:56
Hey Mr. O'Dwight, Vannah did ONE column on your bro-in-law's idiotic email. And only AFTER the Gazette and Republican, N'Hamp Redoubt, and Bill Dwight and his radio station beat it to death. But your attack is par for the course: Higgins always bitches the media isn't paying attention to the right stuff. Thanks to the Advo for doing its own thinking and not letting Higgins and her team of trust fund sycophants brow beat them.
Posted by MRB for 2011 on 11.12.09 at 4:48
If memory serves, Higgins wrote a brief dismissal of Dwight's slanderous email. Her ads still appeared on his show, his endorsement appeared on her site, and his show was the first place she appeared after the election. Like always with that lady, says one thing, does another.
Posted by Tyler on 11.12.09 at 15:26
One thing that cannot be argued in the first post is that The Advocate makes Fox News look like NPR. And Tom's columns came across as advertisements for the Bardsley campaign. Nothing new here, just saying.
Posted by Joe on 11.20.09 at 9:31
We're happy to meet you, Joe (Dwight)! Nothing new here, JUST SAYING. Posted by Joe [?] on 11.20.09 at 9.31 You're not going to win anyone to your cause that way. JUST SAYING. Posted by valle on 11.5.09 at 12.01 For the record, The other assertions are true, just swaddled inartfully in insults- that is what I'm apologizing for. This, I'm JUST SAYING. Bill Dwight Show - 9/29/09
Posted by kenneth mitchell on 11.21.09 at 11:06
Uh.. What just happened?
Posted by Joe on 11.23.09 at 10:12
Oh I see. No, I am not that other commenter.
Posted by Joe on 11.23.09 at 10:36
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