Local Elections, National Questions: Worcester’s City Council and School Committee Races

Sabri Bilsel, Contributing Writer

On Tuesday, November 5, a large number of incumbents were re-elected during the Worcester Municipal elections. On the ballot in Tuesday’s elections were the following: the Office of the Mayor, positions at large for Worcester City Council (where the mayor also sits), the Worcester School Committee, and a District 5 City Council seat.

Of the 100,404 eligible voters in Worcester, only 8,726 ballots were cast, making the election the smallest voter turnout in the last 30 years.

Incumbent Mayor and City Council

In the race for mayor, Joe Petty was re-elected to serve for a fifth term. In what proved to be a decisive victory for the incumbent, Petty—with 10,187 votes—fought off challenges from Donna Colario (3,838 votes), Bill Coleman (1,438 votes), and Owura Sarkodieh (1,360 votes).

Despite her loss in the mayoral race, Colario, who has served on the Worcester School Committee, was the only newcomer to be elected to the Worcester City Council and earned the sixth spot previously vacated by the long-serving councilwoman Konnie Lukes. Five incumbents who retained their seats joined Colario. Petty gained the first spot, followed by Kate Toomey, Khrystian King, Gary Rosen, and Mo Bergman. Matt Wally also coasted to re-election in the race for the City Council’s District 5 seat against challenger Johnhaynes Honeycutt. Wally’s seat was the only district seat contested in the Worcester City Council election.

In what was one of the more eyebrow-raising stories in this Worcester election cycle, Colario’s winning campaign was strengthened by a $38,000 donation from a Republican-leaning super political action committee (PAC). This donation totaled more than any other candidate in the race for City Council during the campaign’s peak.

The super PAC, Massachusetts Majority, has poured more than $250,000 into local elections in Massachusetts with Colario being the top recipient. The Massachusetts Majority PAC’s treasurer Charles Gantt is the head of Bulldog Compliance, a subsidiary of the company Red Curve Solutions that has previously worked with two pro-Trump super PACs in 2016. While the PAC donated exclusively to Republican candidates in this cycle of the Massachusetts elections, it had previously donated to some Democrats like Congressman Seth Moulton who was briefly a candidate for the 2020 presidential election.

Colario’s election likely means that the Worcester School Committee will remain 6 to 5 and in favor of a lower resident’s tax. Colario and candidate Tony Economou—who narrowly lost to Colario on the final seat for City Council—were divided on the question of how best to manage Worcester’s property and commercial business tax rates.