Two at-large councilors sustained slim edges over the nearest competition to make a sweep for incumbents in the race for those five seats, but Ward 1 voters went for change in that council race. 

At-large councilors Linda Morad, the council president, and Naomi R. A. Carney  — two of the three longest-serving members — tied in their votes, holding off the nearest challenger, Ward 5 Councilor Scott Lima. Morad and Carney finished with 3,481 votes, nearly 11 %. Lima won 3,214, or just over 10% in preliminary returns. 

Political newcomer and restaurateur Devin Byrnes finished seventh out of 10 candidates competing for five seats. Former Councilor Bruce Wayne Duarte finished eighth. Business service entrepreneur Guelmie Santiago, a political newcomer who was hoping to become the first Latinx councilor, finished ninth. Joyce Rowley, a former community planner who also never held elective office, finished 10th.

As vote counting concludes, head of the Board of Election Commissioners Manny DeBrito reads unofficial election results aloud for the reporters present. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

At-large Councilor Ian Abreu finished first in the balloting, as he did in the previous two final elections, following by Shane Burgo and Brian Gomes, the longest-serving council member.  Abreu finished with 4,994 votes, Burgo with 4,098 and Gomes with 3,877.

In other council races, Ward 1 challenger Leo Choquette turned the tables in a rematch of a tight 2021 contest, topping three-term incumbent Brad Markey 1,137 votes to 1,023. Former Ward 6 representative Joe Lopes — who lost an election challenge in 2021 — will return to the council chamber, now in Ward 5, as he topped Zach Boyer 1,308 votes to 847.

In the contest for mayor, Jon Mitchell handily won his sixth term in office, his second four-year stint. He topped challenger Tyson Moultrie, a marketing and communications specialist, by a vote of 5,272, or 64% to 2,719, or 33%, a somewhat less lopsided outcome than the last time the two matched up in 2019 when Mitchell won nearly 75% of the vote. 

Turnout was light for a final election, with 13.15% of 66,474 voters casting ballots. That’s the second lowest final election turnout since at least 1979, and mostly likely well before that, as turnouts were consistently higher decades ago, before a distinct drop-off in 2007. Before 1979, voter registration figures were not readily available for comparison.

A small crowd gathers outside the election commissioner’s office to hear the outcome of the election. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

In 2021, 10.8 % percent of voters turned out in a year when there was no race at all for  mayor, as it was the mid-point of Mitchell’s first four-year term. City election turnouts tend to rise and fall with interest generated by the mayor’s race. 

In the at-large race preliminary election last month, Carney finished ahead of Lima by just 48 votes, topping Lima in Ward 1 through 4 and showing her greatest strength in Ward 3 and 4. She lost by more than 200 votes to Lima in Ward 5, where they both live, and by 18 votes in Ward 6, in the South End.

Lima’s preliminary election showing in Ward 5 topped even the top at-large vote getter, Ian Abreu, 638 to 603. In the final, Ward 5 again was a Lima stronghold, as he topped Carney there 1,152 votes to 887. 

It was not enough to make up Carney’s advantage elsewhere, as she won five of six wards. She turned the results in Ward 6, winning by 105 votes. 

Lima, who gave up what was widely considered a safe seat in Ward 5, sounded like he was taking the outcome in stride.  

“I worked really hard, but there’s no disappointment,” Lima said. “Time to move on and do something else,” he said. 

He said he had no regrets about giving up the seat, as he was eager to work on issues beyond Ward 5, particularly the waterfront.

“I wouldn’t have been happy in my position,” he said. “I didn’t want Ward 5.”

Byrnes, who was soaking in the outcome of his first swing at elective office over a drink at the Pour Farm Tavern on Purchase Street Tuesday night, said he was getting the feeling from comments he was hearing during the day that he had a good chance.  He knew it was not an easy task. 

“I had to claw my way through six councilors,” he said, considering that Lima was also an incumbent, although not for the seat he was seeking. “These people have been in office for a while. It’s hard, man. They have their name recognition.” 

In the end,  Byrnes had 2,651 votes, or 8.35%, about two percentage points behind Morad and Carney, who declined to return calls seeking comment for this story. 

Carney won her sixth consecutive term and her seventh overall. Morad was first elected as the Ward 1 councilor in 2003 and served four terms. She gave up the seat to run an unsuccessful campaign for mayor against Mitchell in 2011, then returned to win an at-large seat in 2013 and has won ever since. Gomes has served on the council since 1991 with a three-month break during that time. He left the council to run for mayor in 2001, then was voted back onto the council by the panel when a member resigned. 

The minimal change in the council belies a buzz for change that some seemed to sense in the air during the day. Abreu said he was hearing it, and Ward 6 Councilor Ryan Pereira, who ran unopposed, said he was hearing about a lot of voters who were leaving much of their at-large ballot blank. 

Ward 5 resident Dan Goulart, who works for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, said he voted for Lima in the at-large race because he had been his ward councilor. He liked Lima as a ward councilor, but otherwise he said he was eager for change. 

“I voted for a couple of new people who were not up for re-election, said Goulart, who said he had just voted at the Buttonwood Warming House for at-large challengers Joyce Rowley and Devin Byrnes. He said the council, “seems kind of dysfunctional…I think Mayor Mitchell’s got a great vision for the city. I feel the council is not working as well with the administration” as it might.

He said he did not vote for Carney, but did support Abreu, Burgo and Gomes.

A small crowd gathers outside the election commissioner’s office to hear the outcome of the election. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

Victor Morton, who had also voted at Buttonwood Warming House, said he had also voted for Lima and for Byrnes.

“I think it may be time for new blood,” said Morton, a self-employed tile contractor. That said, he did vote for the longest-serving councilor, Gomes.

“I appreciate Brian,” he said. “Like him or not, he cares about this city.”

At-large voting can present a challenge, with its long list of names and the option to vote for up to five candidates.

“Were you supposed to vote for more than one?” said Morton’s wife, Kristine Morton, an administrative assistant. She said she voted for the top at-large finisher, Abreu, because she sees him on Facebook often and she knows he’s “very responsive” to inquiries from constituents. Had she realized she had more than one choice, she said she would have voted for Lima. 

A number of people voting in at the Normandin Middle School in Ward 1 said they did not check off five names in the at-large race, or could not recall for whom they had voted. 

Tyesha Scott said she voted for Carney because, like her son, she is affiliated with the Wampanoag Tribe. She said she voted for Bruce Wayne Duarte because she remembered the community work he had done years ago when she was a child, helping to provide transportation for church events. She also voted for Lima. Why?

“I like his last name,” she said. 

Email reporter Arthur Hirsch at ahirsch@newbedfordlight.org.




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