UPDATED: Graffeo Wins Emotional Race to Become New Town Clerk
Incumbent Nichols falls short in re-election bid; Bernier a distant third.
UPDATED: Monday, 10 a.m.
It was a hard fight and, at times, a bitter fight.
Add to the mix a second challenger, Han Bernier, who stoked the fires by suggesting conflicts of interest on the part of both Graffeo and Nichols, because they were running an election they were also participating in.
It all came to a head Saturday night, as Graffeo emerged with a clear-cut victory and will begin her new job as Town Clerk next week.
Graffeo received 2085 votes, representing 45 percent of the 4683 total votes cast. Nichols received 1632 votes (35 percent) and Bernier received 821 votes (18 percent).
"I look forward to erving Tewksbury as your next Town Clerk," said Graffeo, immediately after the results were announced. "Thank you Tewksbury. Thank you Team Graffeo. We did it!"
Nichols could immediately be reached for comment.
Graffeo had the backing of Tekwbury's new, high-tech political machine. It is the same group that fueled successful campaigns by Scott Wilson for Board of Selectmen in 2009 and Krissy Polimeno for School Committee in 2010.
They are now three-for-three.
Bernier, who positioned herself as a political outsider, said she was not discouraged by her third-place showing.
"We're not disappointed," she said. "We did a good job. I do want to congratulate Denise and wish her all the best for the next three years in accomplishing all the changes that have been proposed and in making Tewksbury a better place than it already is.
"I want to say 'thank you' to the residents and all the people who supported me and voted for me," said Bernier.
Graffeo and Bernier both campaigned on a platform of reforming the way the Town Clerk's office is run and making it more accountable. Some, including Town Manager Richard Montuori, have suggested that the position should be appointed, rather than elected and placed under the oversight of the town manager.
Bernier said she would reach out to Graffeo and offer her support and assistance.
"If she wants my help, absolutely," said Bernier. "Everyone wants positive change."
Overall turnout was strong for a municipal election, with 23 percent of the town's registered voters coming to the polls. From talking to voters at the polling places, the high turnout seemed to be driven by the ballot question regarding the shift of half the sewer debt to the tax levy.
That question passed by just 30 votes (2188-2158) and a recount is possible.