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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.

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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."

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