Oliver and Lucas win Newton special election

by Bella Ishanyan, News Editor
graphic by Ellyssa Jeong

Special elections to fill late Councilor Allan Ciccone’s Ward One Councilor-At-Large seat and now-U.S. Representative Jake Auchincloss’s Ward Two Councilor-At-Large seat took place on March 16. 

John Oliver, Co-President of Newton North’s Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO), and Madeline Ranalli, a student at Harvard University, ran for the Ward One seat.  

Bryan Barash, General Counsel for State Senate President Emerita, Tarik Lucas, former Vice President of the Newtonville Area Council, and David Micley, a former member of the Brookline Town Meeting, competed for the Ward Two position.

After votes were counted, Oliver was named the Ward One Councilor-at-Large and Lucas won the Ward Two seat. Oliver received 7,857 votes, while Ranalli received 6,479; Lucas received 7,540 votes, with his challengers Barash and Micley receiving 6,382 and 623 votes respectively. 

This year, campaigning was difficult for candidates like Oliver, who had trouble working while adhering to CDC guidelines.

“I am comfortable in front of a group of people when I can see them,” he said. “I found it very difficult to stare into the little camera attached to the top of the monitor on my computer and that took me a long time to get used to.” 

Along with running during a pandemic, Micley said that balancing campaign work while maintaining his family duties was challenging.

“It’s a big-time commitment. With two little kids at home, a two-year-old and a six-month-old, balancing all of that is a never-ending job,” he said. “There’s always more to do while trying to ensure that you still have balance with your life and making sure that you take care of all those things that need to be taken care of.”

For other candidates like Ranalli, campaigning brought a series of negative reactions regarding her identity.

“We faced challenges from the get-go with people underestimating me and the work we could do because of my age and gender. Down to election day, people had things to say about it,” she said. “There was a lot of implicit sexism and ageism that was pervasive throughout peoples’ response to my campaign that definitely hurt at some points.”

To combat these challenges, Ranalli said that she worked collectively with her political campaign staff to form a community where negativity is rejected.

“We never really let it define us.” she said, “I made sure that when my team met and we talked about what we’ve been doing, that I made it very clear that we don’t let stuff like that stop us.” 

Barash said that his team, which was composed of elected officials and fellows who assisted him with his campaign, made running a special experience. 

“The best part of campaigning was the people I got to work with,” he said. “Incredible elected officials, the fellows, … students who were in high school and college put their whole hearts into our campaign.”

Ben Shaer, a freshman at Gann Academy and a fellow for Barash, said that the campaign created a tight-knit community of young people with similar interests.

“It was inspiring to see that they’ve taken [about] 30 high schoolers from all over Newton and managed to bring us together and create an open safe environment to share, contribute, have fun [and] talk about random stuff, but also to get real campaign work done,” he said. 

Peter Vashevko, a freshman at South, said that a young person’s perspective is valuable in local government.

“The younger residents are a big part of the city …” they said. “So it’s important for young people to get involved.”

Oliver said that despite the array of challenges he faced, the experience was ultimately rewarding.

“The number one benefit for me was having the opportunity to have so many conversations with people that I now get to look forward to putting a face to the name,” he said. “We have so much more in common than I had recognized.”

Lucas said that the appreciation and sense of community was mutual and that he was appreciative of his supporters and opponents.

“I just want to thank Bryan Barash, David Micley and Madeline Ranalli for putting their name[s] out there. It is difficult, running for city council and it really is a lot of time,” he said. “I also want to thank the voters for voting for me. I will forever be in service to them as long as I am an elected official.”