McCarthy vs. Paz: Waltham mayoral election heats up
Paz rallies supporters to “turn the chapter” on 19-year incumbent Jeanette A. McCarthy.
Speaking to a crowd of a few dozen supporters at a bar in downtown Waltham on Sept. 28, Ward 9 City Councilor Jonathan Paz argued his case for Waltham mayor, marking the beginning of his general election campaign.
On Sept. 12, Waltham voted in a preliminary election, with Paz and fellow Democrat Jeanette A. McCarthy advancing to the general election on Nov. 7. McCarthy has been mayor of Waltham since 2004 and is running for a record sixth term; she holds an 18% lead based on last month’s results. If elected, Paz will be the first Latino mayor in Waltham.
At the opening event, Paz framed the race as his “rainbow coalition,” consisting of Waltham’s cultural and ethnic diversity, versus McCarthy’s “old Waltham.” Paz declared that his “campaign … will make an upset of the status quo possible,” and contrasted his “inclusive, transparent, [and] collaborat[ive]” style to McCarthy’s “way of keeping the insiders inside, and leaving the public shut out.”
In a Waltham Community Access Channel candidate forum hosted in August 2023, McCarthy laid out her key priorities: addressing the Eversource power surges, Massachusetts Water Resources Authority work around Lexington Street, a growing rat infestation in the city, and a new high school opening planned for August 2024. McCarthy made her appeal for reelection without mentioning Paz in her nearly 13-minute remarks. Instead, she highlighted her extensive conversations with local and state officials about putting pressure on Eversource to fix its three power stations in Waltham and the calls she received from local residents on Moody Street regarding trash pick up. McCarthy focused on municipal issues and reiterated that her policy and management experience put her above the normal campaign fray.
McCarthy addressed Paz in a city-wide mailer that criticized his record as a city councilor. In the letter, McCarthy points out that Paz abstained on two votes during a June 15, 2020 Waltham Special City Council meeting over Waltham Police Department funding, saying that “Mayoral Candidate Paz now says he supports the police … that is not factual.” Paz reiterated this claim during an interview with the Justice on Sept. 28. According to the minutes of that meeting, the City Council had a disagreement over the combined $69,500 of police expenditures, which became a debate over how Waltham should react to the murder of George Floyd and whether cuts should be made to the police budget. The meeting minutes indicate that Paz did not take a strong position on the matter, but did abstain from the vote to withdraw police funding. The final result was 13 against, one for, and one abstain.
The mailer also critiqued Paz’s choice to abstain on the municipal and school budget votes in 2022. It then highlighted Paz’s vote against the municipal budget in 2023 — all city services except schools — pointing to his alleged inconsistency and defunding of essential services if the budget did not pass.
In Paz’s approximately five minute remarks at the WCAC candidate forum in August 2023, he touched on many of the same issues that he addressed at the Sept. 28 event.
Paz told the Justice in a Sept. 28 interview that, if elected, his first act would be to set up a timeline for a potential redevelopment of the city’s master plan, which would set the long-term goals of Waltham; this would address the “root of the problems,” in Paz’s view and put the city on track for long term growth and success. Additionally, he said he would “absolutely” change the relationship between the city of Waltham and Brandeis University, with the goal of better aligning the agenda of the two institutions. He highlighted traffic issues, in light of recent pedestrian accidents, as areas of potential cooperation.
Paz would not commit to a mayoral term limit, despite critiquing McCarthy on the length of her time in office; however, he stated he “wouldn’t run for a sixth term.”
State Senator James B. Eldridge, a Democrat representing nearby Middlesex and Worcester, spoke on Paz’s behalf at the Sept. 28 event. Paz worked as Eldridge’s field director in his 2018 reelection campaign, where they forged a close relationship. Eldridge described Paz as truly progressive and “forward-thinking.” He also said progressive mayors like Paz would be key allies on issues being debated on Beacon Hill, such as housing insecurity, protecting the rights of ride-share app drivers, and integrating undocumented immigrants.
Paz is particularly connected to immigration issues. Besides being a Waltham city councilor, Paz works as a policy advocate for the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition.
According to his friend and former Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition colleague Marcus Mattis, Paz led the behind-the-scenes lobbying push for the recent passage of the Work and Family Mobility Act, which enabled undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts to obtain drivers’ licenses. Last year, the Massachusetts Republican Party chairman Jim Lyons filed a restraining order against Paz and Eldridge for allegedly intimidating and threatening volunteers gathering signatures for a referendum to overturn the Work and Family Mobility Act. A judge declined to issue the order.
Sam Dushay, a politically active Waltham resident who has lived in the city for 2 years, sees the possibility of serious city-wide change on issues such as improving sustainability and keeping Moody Street open to pedestrian traffic permanently with Paz as mayor. Despite the enthusiasm around Paz, Dushay still calls him an “underdog.”
McCarthy did not respond to the Justice’s requests for comment as of press time.
Waltham residents new and old will have to choose between Paz’s vision and youth or McCarthy’s long record and experience.