The residents of Newton elected the city’s first female mayor, Ruthanne Fuller, on Tuesday night after polls closed in a hotly contested and historic election.
As the votes were being tallied after polls closed, the Fuller campaign was claiming victory by their count, while the unofficial City Hall count had Scott Lennon pulling ahead. In the end, the two candidates were separated by a margin of less than 400 votes—Fuller with 12,405, Lennon with 12,061.
The two City Councilors, both Democrats, came into the race trumpeting a vision of an inclusive, accessible Newton. Lennon cast himself as a guy who could be your next door neighbor. With generations of family history in Newton and a daughter just entering the Newton Public School system, many saw him as a candidate who not only had a vision for the city’s future, but also understood its past.
Fuller was the Newton transplant who had proved her dedication through years of service on the City Council. She presented a perspective on Newton that wasn’t clouded by generational nostalgia.
For a race in which the two candidates agreed about so many things—fixing roads, affordable housing, attracting business—the last few weeks leading up to the election drove a wedge into the amicability that was pervasive for the majority of the race.
Lennon ran an ad that listed, in his eyes, the qualifications that defined him as a candidate. These qualifications, which included life-long Newtonian and Democrat, were viewed by many as indirectly calling out Fuller for taking time to raise her sons and resulted in allegations that the ad was sexist.
The ad turned the last leg of the Newton mayoral race into one that brought some of the underlying issues Newton faces as a community bubbling to the surface. There has always been a divide, marked by the Mass Pike, between the working class part of the city in the north and the wealthier southern half—Lennon hailing from the former, Fuller the latter. The support for the two candidates was split down this line as well.
After winning the race on Tuesday night, Fuller released an email statement to her supporters, saying “I thank the voters of Newton for your trust in me. I pledge to justify that trust by thinking big within our means, by planning the work and working the plan, and by standing up for Newton’s core principles of respect, diversity and acceptance. And I promise I will never stop listening—or learning.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Ruthanne Fuller