Controversy over Lowell Mayor Election (Selection)

Lowell, MA (Saturday November 6, 2021) — the day after Lowell’s election was supposed to be filled with joy for the minority community. The community has elected two people of color to the council seat, in addition to re-electing two Cambodian American city councilors. Four out of eleven city councilors are people of color. This is a good change. Councilman at-large Vesna Nuon was re-elected to his 4th term, he had once again topped the ticket and should be the next Mayor of Lowell. However, playing by the rule is no longer respected, as a one term councilor, and now district-elect Sokhary Chau has announced that he has secured enough votes to be mayor in January 2022. In an attempt by the council-elect to achieve diversity as a result of the lawsuit, the Cambodian community is now made to be a laughing stock.

In Lowell, mayoral election (selection) has always been voted by fellow at-large councilors. Usually, whoever receives the most city-wide votes becomes the next mayor. The current Mayor John Leahy was given “a turn” because he had the seniority, even though he did not top the ticket. He was supported by Councilor Rita Mercier who had served as mayor and also topped the ticket in that election. Prior to that, William Samaras was mayor because Councilor Vesna Nuon, a top ticket holder yielded that seat and instead became vice mayor. The term before that, Rodney Elliott was mayor, he was also not a top ticket holder, but served 18 years as city councilor. Councilor Rita Mercier who usually held the top ticket also yielded the mayor seat to Rodney Elliott.

This term, however, is very different. There was a civil rights lawsuit claiming that the all at-large system wasn’t fair to neighborhood voters who couldn’t choose their own representative at the council. The suit was settled by a hybrid system of 8 district seats and 3 at-large seats. This resulted in only three top ticket holders from the last cycle re-entering the at-large race, Vesna Nuon, Rita Mericer, and John Drinkwater. The rest of incumbents chose to run district seats; in their calculation, number, finance, and time, it just didn’t make sense because they had a lesser chance of winning at-large seats. With district seats, they have a 50% chance of winning. With that in mind, incumbent Rodney Elliott who lives in Pawtucketville ran against another incumbent Dan Rourke in district 1. Incumbent John Leahy challenged incumbent William Samaras in district 3, and incumbent Sokhary Chau ran in district 6, challenged by Justin Ford. There were 3 district winners, Dan Rourke from district 1, John Leahy from district 3 and Sokhary Chau from district 6.

Now with this in mind, Councilor Vesna Nuon who has earned top ticket city-wide in this election did not choose to yield his seat to anyone. He’s running for Mayor. However, before councilor Nuon made any public statement about his Mayorship, the day after the election, elected Councilor Dan Rourke from district 1 announced his support for Sokhary Chau from district 6 to be mayor who had received only 758 votes, and today, Sokhary announced he has enough votes to be mayor.

Lowell voters are sad and angry. In this election, Lowell has passed a ballot question for the public to elect their mayor, while at the same time, Councilor at-large Nuon received the most city-wide votes of 6,156, and has become the longest serving councilor who has not been a mayor. Councilor Sokhary Chau should respect the rule and common courtesy. Councilman at-large Vesna Nuon should be next mayor.