Mutter knocks Murray out of mayor's seat

Mutter knocks Murray out of mayor's seat

Jeff Mutter, who won Wednesday's primary for mayor of Cumberland, acknowledges cheers from supporters at Angelo's on Mendon Road. Mutter defeated incumbent Mayor Bill Murray. (Breeze photo by Bill Murphy)

CUMBERLAND – Cheers erupted from Jeffrey Mutter supporters gathered at Angelo’s Palace Pizza Wednesday night as primary election results began to pour in, with Sen. Ryan Pearson stepping up on a chair at 8:20 p.m. to declare Mutter the presumptive mayor-elect of the town of Cumberland.

“I don’t really have anything prepared because I wasn’t really prepared to win,” Mutter joked when the floor was turned over to him. “I want to thank everyone who helped, those who voted for me and knocked on doors.”
He added that he appreciates incumbent mayor William Murray for running a campaign free of personal attacks.

“That was important to me, I think it was important to him, and it’s important to politics in general,” he said.

“I am surprised,” he told The Valley Breeze when the vote count totaled 3,007 in his favor and 2,606 for Murray, or nearly 54 percent of the total votes cast, in the winner-take-all primary.

“I’m not kidding, I’m surprised,” he said. “It was always going to be a tough race ... I was appreciative when the first polling place came in and it wasn’t going to be a shut out.” he said. “When more started coming in, I knew it would be close.”

Before the polls closed, Mutter said, “the campaign was a very interesting journey … it was probably more than I expected. You still have your life, your job to balance.”

Murray was also in “absolute shock” as he spoke to a crowd of supporters at his Mendon Road headquarters in the former Let's Party store. The 79-year-old incumbent said the result was “shocking, with everything we'd heard, but it's politics and that's the way things go.”

The talk in Murray's camp in the weeks leading up to the election was that the incumbent was in a good position to win a third term, particularly in light of an early election poll showing that 57 percent of residents believed the town was headed in the right direction.

He gave a nod to the winner.

“Hopefully Jeff comes in and does a bang-up job,” he said, emphasizing that Mutter will inherit “a great team” of people who have done great things for the town.

Murray told supporters, many of them tearful, that “we misjudged something,” but said he intends to finish his term with pride.

“We told our story, and our story was we did a great four years,” he said, adding that he's going to walk out of office in January proud of what he accomplished for his town.

Mutter won at 10 of 13 polling places, according to preliminary numbers at the Secretary of State's Office, beating Murray 184-175 at the Chimney Hill Apartments, 359-355 at the Diamond Hill Ski Lodge side A, 65-53 at the Ski Lodge side B, 336-234 at McCourt Middle School, 298-228 at Bear Hill Village, 363-333 at Community School, 108-104 at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 216-138 at Fatima Parish Hall, 307-209 at One Mendon Road Housing, and 210-166 at the Cumberland Library.

Murray won at Cumberland High School cafeteria B by a vote of 302-273, CHS cafeteria A by a vote of 67-64, Cumberland Hill School by a vote of 242-224

Mutter, 58, a distance runner who emphasized his endurance as a top quality, pounded the pavement in all kinds of weather in earning the victory, walking dozens of miles to spread his message of change.

The incumbent Murray said he looks forward to now spending more time with his grandchildren, after taking off only a few weeks in four years. He spoke at length about the great work his staff has done while he's been in office.

Murray promoted his record of raising tax rates just 21 cents over four years, among other achievements.

Mutter had strong support from members of the School Committee, and Murray and his allies campaigned on the idea that school spending and taxes would go up significantly under Mutter.

Murray had aggressive campaigners at his side, particularly state Rep. Jim McLaughlin and the top vote-getter in the Town Council at-large race, Mike Kinch.

Mutter countered that he wasn't seeking more money, just “more vision” with how the town is run.

Mutter, noting the most significant differences between himself and Murray in the days leading up to the primary, emphasized that he had a better temperament, that he's a problem-solver, and that his many years of experience in town government would help him lead Cumberland to a better future.

He had criticized Murray for spending the town's surplus funds, saying he would end the practice through better financial planning. He had also pledged to avoid contentious dealings with school officials, saying school funding should not be used as a political “weapon.”

The loss for Murray came despite a series of successes in recent months, including the merger of animal control services with Lincoln, new lights going up at the new Berkeley Oval baseball field, the completed purchase of the 229-acre Mercy Woods property, and upgrades to local streetlights.