Alder outpaces incumbent in primary
The two current public office-holders running for Fitchburg mayor advanced from the Feb. 17 primary to face off in the April general election.
Ald. Steve Arnold (Dist. 4) won the primary with 1,257 votes. Mayor Shawn Pfaff came in second with 982.
The other two candidates, Janell Rice and former mayor Jay Allen, received 373 and 164, respectively.
Arnold and Pfaff will now campaign for the April 7 election. Pfaff wants to focus on how the city has improved in his four years as mayor so far, while Arnold has criticized him for the scope of development and has emphasized the importance of finding ways for all Fitchburg residents to enjoy amenities like the splash pad and library.
Arnold told the Star Wednesday morning he was “feeling pretty excited.”
“I was confident that I would make it through the primary but to come out on top was really a great validation of the message and the hard work of my team,” Arnold said. “I was very pleased and proud.”
Pfaff said he was happy to advance to April.
“I feel good about the results,” Pfaff said. “I think that in a multi-candidate field where all three opponents were attacking, I stayed positive, ran on my record and I think people know it’s a solid record.”
Rice congratulated the two and said she hopes they “keep this a clean conversation,” while Allen said he was “disappointed” but would throw his support behind Arnold.
Arnold and Pfaff will now have seven weeks to prove to voters why they’re the better choice to lead the city ahead of the April 7 election.
“This is a race between two people that are left of center, if you will,” Pfaff said. “There are many things we agree on, but I think Fitchburg is perfectly poised to take advantage of key issues if we have strong leadership.”
Arnold said he will focus on “service delivery inequities,” such as a lack of access to some of the city’s major amenities for some.
“Folks that can’t drive can’t use the senior center, can’t use the library,” he said. “Folks that don’t have parks in their neighborhoods are not getting their tax dollars back in the parks system.”
He also pointed to the recent high turnover in leadership in city departments and unintended effects of development as important issues.
Pfaff said his record of growing Fitchburg’s economy would be an important point as the city looks to “take advantage of this key location we have.”
“Fitchburg is in a prime place to really see an economy take off that can help every neighborhood, but the key for that is who is going to be in charge as the mayor setting that vision,” he said. “My campaign is about following through on the city’s long, hard-fought, but now-in-place comprehensive plan.”
Both candidates pointed to voter turnout as a key, and District 4, where Arnold has served as an alder for 10 years, had the highest turnout Tuesday at 25 percent. District 2 had the second-highest at just above 19 percent, even though there was a primary for a Common Council seat there.
Overall, turnout was at 17.9 percent in the city.
“Super low turnout, so that means anything can happen in the general,” Arnold said. “Getting out the vote is absolutely crucial.”
In the District 2, Seat 3 aldermanic primary, Julia Arata-Fratta and Roger Backes advanced ahead of Matt Pulda. Arata-Fratta received 404 votes, Backes got 229 and Pulda got 199.