|By Chris Maza
Less than 12 percent of registered voters came out for the March 12 preliminary election.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza
EAST LONGMEADOW It will be déjàvu all over again for East Longmeadow voters.
Selectman Peter Punderson will make an attempt at re-election against challenger Angela Thorpe during the April 9 town election, a rematch of an extremely close race in 2012.
In a March 12 preliminary election, Punderson secured 653 votes, followed by Thorpe, who garnered 625. Ronald Cutler received 357 votes and former Selectman Joseph Townshend rounded out the candidates with 333 votes.
There were three write-ins and 625 blanks.
Punderson defeated Thorpe by a mere 12 votes in a special election on Dec. 18, 2012 to determine who would finish the term vacated by former Selectman James Driscoll, who resigned, citing time restrictions related to his new position as national sales manager for Secure Bill Pay.
The vote was so close that Thorpe ultimately requested a recount, which took place on Jan. 5 and confirmed Punderson's victory.
Punderson said he was "delighted" to have the chance to seek a full three-year term on the Board of Selectmen and indicated that he was prepared to apply a great amount of effort toward his re-election campaign.
"I said before that I was going to work harder and everything is in place for finishing off the election. I have my plan," he said. "It starts now. I wanted to get through the first phase before I started the second phase and now I know what I have to do and I'm going to work hard."
Punderson added that he felt his short tenure on the board has helped strengthen his case for a long-term position.
"I've gotten a lot of positive responses from people I don't even know in town. [I have heard] a lot of thank yous, a lot of kudos," he said. "I think that people see that I'm there and I truly care about the people in the town and that I'm doing what's right out in front of everybody.
"I think some faith has been restored in the Board of Selectmen and the Town Hall, which is one of the reasons why I did this," he said.
Thorpe said that she was ready for another close race and took time to thank voters who came out in spite of the elements.
"I want to thank the East Longmeadow voters, especially on such a dreary day with cold, wet rain," she said. "I'm looking forward to the upcoming race. I think it should be an interesting race, but I'm very confident that we will do well."
Thorpe did not go into detail, but said that she had the opportunity to learn from the previous election and some lessons would be applied in the upcoming race.
"The last election, being the first election after all of the unfortunate circumstances that took place, was certainly a learning experience. Even with the recount I learned a lot," she said. "We'll certainly leave nothing to chance this time. We'll certainly make sure we reach as many voters as possible this time."
A total of 1,293 people, representing 11.5 percent of the total registered voting population, came to the polls, a number that Town Clerk Thomas Florence attributed to the weather and the fact that the election was a preliminary for one position.
"I think it's to be expected," he said. "I think being a preliminary in the rain probably kept it down about 2 percent less than the last couple of preliminary elections."
Thorpe added that when she was calling residents as part of her preliminary campaign, many said they were not aware of an election.
"The signs that are usually up saying that voting was to take place were not," she added. "I guess there was some problem with having the signs printed with the correct information. It's my understanding that those signs were supposed to go up on [March 8], however, they were not up on Sunday and not up today, so some of the voters may have been at a disadvantage there."
Thorpe said she would touch base with Florence to ensure that issues such as this would not occur prior to the town election.
"He has a wonderful department, but we will make sure that those little kinks are worked out ahead of time so that we get as many people notified as possible," she said.
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