“Are Jeannette McCarthy’s Values Really Waltham’s Values?”

By Chris Wangler
November 6, 2023

On Tuesday, a city councilor who never received more than 500 votes before this year is up against a popular mayor who earned 7,700 votes in the last election.

Having dominated the preliminary election in September, Mayor Jeannette McCarthy is looking to earn an unprecedented sixth term—but not before taking a late blow from progressive challenger Jonathan Paz.

“I am in the community all the time with the people of Waltham”

As 2023 wraps up, many of Mayor Jeannette McCarthy’s ducks are lining up: the new WHS, rail trail, land buys to prevent development, the Fernald recreation plan, all new parks and playgrounds.


These multiyear, multimillion dollar accomplishments have either finished or are moving forward.

Meanwhile, taxes remain enviably low and services plentiful—a boon to homeowners grappling with spiraling other costs.

Supporting the mayor is a deferential city council that votes for whatever she proposes.

As for campaigning, why mess with a machine that has crushed opponents (Diane LeBlanc, Tom Stanley) with far more experience than challenger Jonathan Paz?


Her case for re-election is outlined in familiar pastel-colored flyers that elicit groans even from loyal followers. 

Dense and nearly unreadable, they are jammed with her accomplishments, responses to critics and Waltham cred, all printed in small type.

Her first “goldenrod” flyer was bitterly attacked by anonymous social media commenters impatient for a 2.0 mayor to move the city forward.

McCarthy has resisted calls for greater transparency about Waltham Fields Community Farm at the former UMass Field Station, which still has no lease with the city, and plans for the long-neglected Fernald property, acquired in 2014.


Married to the job, she has enemies like any veteran mayor. But as the election approaches, she looks like the clear favorite again.

“Twenty years is a long time to be a mayor,” McCarthy conceded in her second blue election flyer. “But what is the alternative?”

This week, she said the reason to reject Jonathan Paz is simple: “he’s not capable of doing the job.”

“Move our community forward”

Jonathan Paz is the Ward 9 city councilor, first elected in 2019 when he upset longtime incumbent Robert Logan. The policy advocate and labor organizer was reelected in 2021.


An advocate for students, immigrants and renters like himself, he has campaigned on issues reflecting his South Side priorities: affordable housing, tenants’ rights and transit.


His list of accomplishments is thin next to the mayor’s as he has struggled to turn his community organizing into tangible wins.

Like a handful of progressive allies on the city council, Paz’s resolutions have been more feel-good than fruitful. 


After his campaign kickoff in March, his proposal to repeat the mayor’s 24-7 Moody Street closure failed as the traffic commission voted for her compromise plan instead.


Another election year proposal—a tenants’ rights ordinance drafted by WATCH CDC—appears doomed amid strong opposition from local landlords. 

During election season, Paz attracted some Boston media to cover Eversource blackouts and the city’s recurring rat problem—with all the blame squarely pointed at McCarthy.

“This is not inclusive or transparent leadership,” he wrote in his own four-page letter to voters.


At only 30, the unmarried Ivy League graduate has emerged as a shrewd politician, but his big-city approach doesn’t necessarily resonate in Waltham.

He earned many new voters in the preliminary election. But can he flip thousands of McCarthy voters who vote time and again for one of their own?

Final Twist

Is Jeannette McCarthy a Trump supporter who “favors a radical Republican ideology”? 

That’s the impression given by an eyebrow-raising, 11th-hour attack mailer designed to shock voters and prevent the mayor from responding before the election.


Funded by the Paz campaign committee, it includes photos of former president Trump and Jeannette McCarthy at The Chateau with former Maine Governor Paul LePage and then-U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl, both Trump supporters. “Mayor campaigned for Trump ally Geoff Diehl,” the mailer says.

“Not true,” the mayor responded, questioning almost all of the mailer's claims. She explained she was invited in 2018 by Waltham Republicans to the event and did not campaign for Diehl. An independent, she has also attended events for Democratic candidates.


“I understand the mayor’s desire to attend events put on by a range of groups,” Paz said Sunday, “but I find the decision to appear at a campaign event with these two extremely radical Republicans highly suspect.”

As for pulling Republican primary ballots in 2016 in 2018, also mentioned in the mailer, McCarthy said she did so to vote for former Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Governor Charlie Baker, both moderates.


“This is not right and it reflects upon the people who are doing it,” she said, adding that local elections are non-partisan.

It’s the final twist in a Paz campaign that has raised a lot of money and gone negative from the start.


At his kickoff in March, Paz said “the McCarthy administration is beholden to special interests” and “the mayor sold out Waltham to Boston developers, making it unaffordable.” He did not cite examples.

McCarthy, known for her moral seriousness, rejected the characterizations. An opponent of lobbyists, she said she self-funded her campaign to avoid any appearance of outside influence.


“I am the only candidate for mayor whose campaign finance reports are not now, nor have they ever been, filled with donations from special interests,” she wrote in boldface in her blue flyer.

As voters head to the polls on Tuesday, is there enough opposition to the mayor to send Paz to the corner office?

File photos