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Three former City Councillors may throw hats in ring for fall election

Donahue (Ward 4), Simonelli (Ward 7) and Matheson (at large) take out nomination papers

Advocate Staff Report

  With a cavalcade of announcements by incumbent Malden elected officials of decisions to not seek reelection in the 2021 municipal election, change was not only “in the air,” but a given outcome this year. But a flurry of additional political activity recently now raises the possibility of change of an entirely different sort – a potential return of some familiar faces to the new City Council Chambers.

  No less than three former City Councillors have taken out nomination papers in potential attempts to return to the municipal governing body where they once served. While none of the trio has yet to return the required nomination signatures to secure a place on this fall’s election ballot, the possibility remains for a new twist in what is evolving into what could be one of the most closely contested municipal elections in Malden history.

  When two sitting Malden Councillors-at-Large – two-time ticket-topper Debbie DeMaria and two-term Councillor Stephen Winslow – announced they would not seek reelection to their posts, it guaranteed a closely watched race would emerge. Previously, another City Council seat had opened when Ward 6 Councillor David Camell announced he would not run for a third term this year. Winslow quickly made his announcement that while he would not seek two more years as Councillor-at-Large, he would be a candidate for the now open Ward 6 City Council seat. And a fourth City Council seat became open when City Council President and longtime Ward 7 Councillor Neal Anderson announced he would not seek reelection.

  With the Councillor-at-Large race now wide open with two open seats, a number of candidates entered the fray. At latest glance, there are now seven candidates listed as having taken out nomination papers, with three having already secured enough signatures or local registered voters on their papers to ensure a place on this fall’s ballot. The deadline is Tuesday, July 27 to submit the required signatures.

  In addition to incumbent Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora, who will seek reelection, another candidate for one of the three seats who has drawn nomination papers is former Ward 3 Councillor John Matheson. If he returns signatures and earns a ballot spot, Matheson is viewed by local political observers as a strong potential candidate for a Councillor-at-Large post. He formerly served 10 years on the City Council from 2009-2019, first as a special election winner to an abbreviated Councillor-at-Large post, then four terms as Ward 3 City Councilor. The lifelong Malden resident and 1992 Malden High School graduate is a trial attorney and waged an unsuccessful campaign for state representative for the seat vacated by longtime Rep. Christopher Fallon. In 2019, Matheson challenged incumbent Gary Christenson in the Malden mayoral election, falling short in that race as Christenson was reelected to a third term.

  Also taking out nomination papers in the Councillor-at-Large race are retired Malden Fire Chief John “Jack” Colangeli, Karen Colon Hayes, Brian DeLacey, Roberto DiMarco and Carey McDonald. As of this week, Hayes, DeLacey and McDonald had submitted the required signatures to ensure a spot on the ballot.

  In the Ward 4 Councillor race, it appears another rematch between two former adversaries could be brewing as former longtime Ward 4 Councillor Jeffrey Donahue has taken nomination papers, seeking a return to the City Council – if he submits the necessary signatures by the July 27 deadline. Donahue served several terms as Ward 4 City Councillor in the 2000s before falling to James Nestor in the 2011 election. When Nestor did not seek reelection to a third term in 2015, Donahue matched up against then political newcomer Ryan O’Malley for the open Ward 4 seat. O’Malley prevailed in a close race decided by just 38 votes. O’Malley has since been reelected unopposed twice and has already filed the necessary signatures to seek a fourth term in this fall’s ballot.

  The open Ward 7 Councillor seat with Anderson’s announcement drew a quick move by Ward 7 School Committee Member Michelle Luong to announce a run for that post. Luong was the only announced candidate for about two months before another former Councillor, Chris Simonelli, the popular former Ward 7 Councillor, took out nomination papers. Simonelli, who served in the early 2000s after defeating Anderson for the position, was once considered a potential mayoral candidate in the late 2000s. Simonelli left his City Council seat for a municipal job in 2007 and last ran for office in 2011: an unsuccessful bid for Councillor-at-Large.

  With several other potential contested races in the City Council and School Committee, this fall’s municipal election is really shaping up as one to watch.

Chris Simonelli
Chris Simonelli
John Matheson
John Matheson

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