Freshman Councilor at Large Kevin Carr predicted that he and his colleagues would be known after Thursday night as "the gang that couldn't shoot straight."
The 10-member council met until 2:30 a.m. and voted 300 times trying to appoint a successor to now state Sen. Joan Lovely, who until recently was president of the council. She resigned to move to the Senate, leaving a fractured council seemingly incapable of choosing her replacement.
The council was deadlocked, five to five, between two candidates Steven Pinto and Lucy Corchado throughout the night. At 2:30 a.m., they voted seven to three to recess until Tuesday at 7 p.m. to try again to select the 11th member of the council.
In an unusual move, which disturbed some councilors, the council is scheduled by law to meet on Monday night to elect a new President and appoint committee chairmen. They will make those moves with only 10 members.
Steven Pinto, a former two-term councilor at large, who was not reelected in 2011, had the unswerving support of Councilor at Large Arthur Sargent, Ward 2 Councilor Michael Sosnowski, Ward 3 Councilor Todd Siegel, Ward 4 Councilor Jerry Ryan and Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey.
Lucy Corchado, who served two terms as a ward councilor, had the equally unrelenting support of Carr, Councilor at Large Thomas Furey, Ward 1 Councilor Robert McCarthy, Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel and Ward 7 Councilor Joseph O'Keefe, who served as president of the council because he had the most seniority.
Corchado had the backing of Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, which caused the sharp polarization of the council over the selection of the tie-breaking 11th member.
One council member who supported Pinto said the real issue in the election was whether Salem was going to be run by "a monarchy."
With the election of Corchado, the mayor could be assured that she would have a majority on the council loyal to her.
During his tenure on the council, Pinto clashed frequently with the mayor and her supporters. He has said he believes she and her political allies helped defeat him in his bid for reelection in 2011.
Four other residents submitted their names for the position. They were William Legault, a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Salem Patch; Chris Sicuranza, the director of communications for the New England Police Benevolent Association; Robert Wright, a college teacher with a background in state government, and Ken Sawicki, who has run unsuccessfully for several offices.
Each ballot took about one minute for City Clerk Cheryl LaPointe to call the names of each councilor. Ballot after ballot was exactly the same until Carr proposed that the two factions compromise and select Legault.
That lasted for two ballots with Carr and Furey voting for Legault, but when no other councilor joined in the proposed compromise, the sides solidified again with five for Pinto and five for Corchado.
Nearing midnight, Turiel made several efforts to have the council recess until Tuesday night. The mayor seemed to support a recess. After O'Keefe and Turiel met with mayoral aide Jason Silva in the mayor's office, O'Keefe proposed that the council recess until Tuesday when he said, "cooler heads may prevail." But only the Corchado faction supported that proposal.
Turiel, calling the balloting "an embarrassment," said he would walk out at 1 a.m., but he didn't. He stayed and continued to offer motions after each ballot, calling for a recess until Tuesday. Each motion was defeated five to five.
The special meeting, called to fill the vacancy, began at 7 p.m. Each of six candidates for the appointment were allotted two minutes to tell the councilors why they should be appointed.
Corchado, saying she would not run for election next fall to a full term on the council, said the council's choice of a replacement for Lovely was a referendum on whether the council would embrace the diversity of Salem.
She said the council, which would be all white and all male if Pinto were chosen, "cannot embrace the diversity of Salem" without having a woman member and a Hispanic.
Legault, who briefly appeared to be a possible compromise candidate, said he would bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the council. He said his priority on the council would be to protect the interests of children and families.
Pinto, who said he "would hit the ground running" because of his recent experience on the council, called his tenure on the council "the best four years of my life."
"This appointment is a chance for me to come back and bring something to the council," he said.
Several councilors said they were supporting Corchado because she pledged she would not run for election.
Carr, who made that an issue in the debate, said to appoint someone and give that person the power of incumbency "was an unfair advantage" in the fall elections.
Siegel disagreed, pointing out that three incumbents were defeated in the 2011 elections. Sargent agreed, saying it was important for the appointed person to face the voters in the fall election.
Ryan announced that he would run for a councilor at large position in the fall elections and not run for reelection in Ward 4.