By Calvin Hennick
With under a week to go before Newton’s preliminary election, two candidates for mayor -- each poised to make local history -- have emerged as the leaders in fund-raising and endorsements.
Campaign finance forms filed with the city Tuesday show state Representative Ruth Balser, who would be the city’s first woman mayor, pacing the field with $109,752 raised since the beginning of the year. Setti Warren, an Iraq War veteran and former deputy state director for US Senator John F. Kerry, raised $94,114 during the same period. Warren would be the city’s first black mayor.
Still, neither candidate was willing to call himself or herself a front-runner in a race that has not seen much polling.
“The voters will decide next Tuesday, but I am very pleased and honored to have the support,” said Warren.
“I’m working really hard,” said Balser.
Balser and Warren are part of a crowded field -- which also includes Aldermen Paul Coletti and Ken Parker, and local businessman William Heck -- running to replace outgoing Mayor David Cohen in just the second mayoral race since 1973 without an incumbent.
Cohen, who lost popularity as the price tag for the new Newton North High School spiked to $197.5 million, announced last year that he would not seek reelection. Many of his own supporters urged him to step down, saying the move would give a $12 million property tax increase a better chance of passing. That Proposition 2 ½ override failed at the polls anyway.
The race has focused on shoring up the city’s financial situation and maintaining and improving the city’s schools.
Balser and Warren have both tried to paint themselves as the leader best positioned to take on the city’s challenges. Parker has emphasized his 100-page “blueprint” plan for the city. Coletti has defended the city against what he calls unfair attacks and says things are mostly going well in the city. And Heck has opposed new taxes and called for slashing the school budget.
Warren started the race without much name recognition, never having held elected office in Newton. But he has amassed the support of six members of the Board of Aldermen and three members of the School Committee. Over the weekend, he announced that his former boss U.S. Sen. John Kerry had endorsed him.
Balser has the support of three aldermen, the chairman of the School Committee, three members of the city’s state delegation, and former Mayor Thomas Concannon.
Parker, who has raised $34,566 this year, said he is running a frugal, issues-oriented campaign and touted his local support. In addition to Newton contributors, Balser and Warren have received substantial donations from across the state and country.
“Maybe we don’t have as much support from Beacon Hill or Washington, D.C. as some of the other candidates, but I’m very proud of the support we do have throughout Newton,” Parker said.
Parker is endorsed by one alderman and one member of the School Committee. He had $3,064 on hand as of August 28, with outstanding liabilities of $11,618.
Finance forms show Coletti raised $3,500 this year, while Heck brought in $3,902. Coletti had $1,626 in the bank, with $2,550 in liabilities, while Heck reported being in the red by $95.
“It’s the message, it’s not the money,” said Heck.
“We’re going to come in first,” Coletti, who has spent 32 years on the Board of Aldermen, predicted. “Everything that we did was planned.”
Tuesday's preliminary election will narrow the field of five candidates to two, who will then face off in the Nov. 3 general election.