Worcester has only had four preliminary elections for at-large seats under the current charter: in 1993, 1995, 2007, and 2011. (Note that there’s never been a preliminary for school committee.)
A couple of years ago, I wrote a long, boring post about election results which touched on preliminary elections. I won’t rehash that here, but I’ll note that, in the past, a preliminary election has not meant an increase in voter turnout.
Does a preliminary election mean that a non-incumbent is more likely to pick up a seat? Let’s see…
In 1993, there were 14 candidates in the preliminary election; 5 incumbents were running. All 5 won re-election.
In 1995, there were 14 candidates in the preliminary election; 6 were incumbents. One incumbent, John T. Buell, lost to S. Gary Rosen, a popular school committee member who was running for at-large council.
In 2007, there were 18 candidates in the preliminary, as there will be this year. Six incumbents were running. Two, Mike Perotto and Dennis Irish, were replaced by non-incumbents Rick Rushton (then-D5 councilor) and Mike Germain.
In 2011, there were 14 candidates in the preliminary; 6 were incumbents, and all 6 incumbents won re-election.
This year, we’ve got 18 candidates for the preliminary.
If this year proves to be anything like 2007, we could see a significant shakeup of the at-large council members.