Bernard, Tyer win mayoral races

Joey Fox

Alongside local and state-level elections around the country, North Adams and Pittsfield held mayoral elections yesterday, Nov. 5. In North Adams, incumbent mayor Thomas Bernard ’92 was re-elected to a second term over McCann School Committee member Rachel Branch, while in Pittsfield, incumbent mayor Linda Tyer held off city councilor Melissa Mazzeo.

Bernard, who was first elected to the mayor’s office in 2017 with no prior political experience, defeated Branch 1,738 votes to 387 (81 percent to 18 percent) in North Adams’ nonpartisan election. The total number of votes cast was 2,142, a turnout rate of 26 percent out of North Adams’ 8,361 registered voters. 

In both North Adams and Pittsfield, all candidates run in one nonpartisan September preliminary election. The top-two vote receivers then advance to a November general election. This year in North Adams, Bernard, who identifies as a Democrat, and Branch, an independent, were the only two candidates to file, and the preliminary election was cancelled. 

Bernard and Branch also faced one another for the mayor’s office in 2017. That year, Bernard advanced from the preliminary election with 65 percent of the vote while Branch received 4 percent; Bernard went on to win the general election with 70 percent of the vote. 

According to pre-election fundraising reports filed with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Bernard outraised Branch nearly 25-to-1, raising $12,730 to Branch’s $510.

In separate interviews with the Record, Bernard emphasized the city’s infrastructure and recent hires he has overseen, while Branch highlighted her record on fighting inequality and fossil fuel companies. Both candidates refrained from any negative campaigning, and Branch stated, “I’m not running against [Bernard]; I’m running for the office” (“Incumbent North Adams mayor faces challenger,” Oct. 30, 2019). 

“I’m honored to have earned the opportunity to work with the residents of our city for another term,” Bernard posted to Twitter after the results came in. “Tonight is a night for celebration and gratitude. Tomorrow, we get back to work, because our city deserves nothing less than our best!”

Meanwhile, in Pittsfield, incumbent Linda Tyer defeated challenger Melissa Mazzeo. Tyer received 6,176 votes to Mazzeo’s 5,647, a margin of 52 to 48 percent. 11,867 out of Pittsfield’s 27,529 registered voters cast a ballot, a turnout rate of 43 percent.  

A preliminary election was held in September, in which Mazzeo received 47 percent of the vote to Tyer’s 42 percent; two other candidates split the remainder.  

According to a report by The Berkshire Eagle, Tyer, who was first elected in 2015, raised $50,965 between the beginning of the year and Oct. 18, while Mazzeo raised $72,655 in the same period. New England Public Radio noted that it was the most expensive mayoral race in western Massachusetts, beating out the far more populous Springfield. 

The Pittsfield campaign featured more sharply drawn distinctions between the candidates than in the North Adams race. In an editorial endorsing Tyer, The Berkshire Eagle wrote that the incumbent mayor “has drawn attention to her accomplishments and ideas to address unfinished business. Ms. Mazzeo, an at large city councilor, has focused on what she regards as the mayor’s failed promises and her plans to do better for the city.”  

“Look what we did,” Tyer said in a victory speech Tuesday night. “For two elections in a row, our message about building a stronger city resonated in every precinct across this city.”