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BROCKTON — Joan Madden was among the first to congratulate Councilor-at-large-elect Jass Stewart.
"History has been made," said Madden. "I’m so happy for Jass, he’ll really make a difference."
Stewart stood among the crowd at Progressions Lounge on Montello Street, accepting the well-wishes of supporters like Madden who came in moments after the results were confirmed.
"I heard I won, but I haven’t seen the numbers," said Stewart, a 38-year-old openly gay black man, subdued on a night when celebration was clearly in order.
He had made it to the City Council with 5,920 votes or 15.6 percent.
The gathering of some 25 people cheered, congratulating the man who twice ran and lost the mayor’s race and finally made it to City Hall as a councilor-at-large.
Stewart was a close fourth behind the three incumbents elected from a field of eight. He was one of three minorities on the ballot.
The other councilors were also happy with their re-election.
"It was a great win," incumbent Councilor-at-large Thomas Brophy said after finishing second in the race behind Councilor-at-large Robert Sullivan, an incumbent who topped the field and the citywide ballot with 7,546 votes or 19.9 percent.
Brophy had 6,820 votes or 18 percent, incumbent Councilor-at-large Todd Petti 6,025 votes or 15.9 percent.
There were others who worked, but didn’t make it.
Patrick Quinn received 9 percent of the vote and Marc Lucas tallied 8 percent. Behind them were Fred Fontaine with 6.86 percent and Larry Curtis with 5.7 percent.
Stewart’s win was more than numbers, it was the first time that a minority was elected in a diverse city of African-Americans, Latinos, Cape Verdeans, Haitians and more.
City Hall should look something like the community, said David Luberoff, executive director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
"It’s progress," said supporter Mary Lanza. "It’s nice to see that elected officials are more representative of the community."
Rosa Evora was elated with Stewart’s victory, one more step to help the city move forward, she said, coming from the celebration of another step, the election of the first woman mayor — Linda Balzotti.
"I’m so excited, I don’t have words to say it," she said as she hugged Stewart.
"He deserves it," said David Montrond. "He’s a champ, he never gave up."
Stewart, married with a son, came to Brockton 10 years ago and ran for office for the first time four years ago.
Defeated, he came back two years later and poured money and hard work into a campaign that left him just short of victory.
He said this time it was a last-minute decision to get into the race when an open seat, that vacated by Balzotti, was up for grabs.
The competition was stiff, lifelong Brocktonians against newcomers, minorities against minorities. In the end, name recognition helped Stewart, all agree.
"It’s his turn," said Debra DelVecchio, when she cast her vote earlier in the evening at the Kennedy School.
It is his turn, he agreed, saying the people voted for change and for reform.
"It’s now up to me and the others to deliver reform," said Stewart.
Stewart said his return to politics was unexpected, but with the support of his family he said he made the right move.
Now, he said he has an opportunity to further the foundation of many minority candidates who came before him and never made it to victory.
Echoing the words of his grandfather, a doughnut maker, he said he will keep shaping and twisting and dreaming and hoping. "I will never forget where I came from," he said.
"I’m not an insider, part of the establishment, the good ol’ boys didn’t put me in office," he said. "The hard-working Brocktonians put me here."
In the other two council races, Thomas Monahan was elected to represent Ward 2, the seat being vacated by Michael Brady, who was elected to the state Legislature last year. He won 745 percent of the vote to Elliot Miller’s 25 percent.
And, Michelle DuBois retained her Ward 6 council seat with a 64 percent to 35 percent victory over challenger Timothy Kelleher.