NEW BEDFORD — Moving trucks were lined up outside City Hall on Monday morning, but local government is staying put, albeit with at least one new City Council member in the months to come.
The trucks were loading up with democracy’s basic furniture — voting booths, tables and chairs for poll workers — and heading out to the 28 locations of 36 voting precincts where ballots will be cast in the citywide preliminary election Tuesday. Races are on for five at-large council seats and for Ward 5 councilor.
Mayor Jon F. Mitchell is on the ballot seeking a sixth term, but he is the only experienced political hand in the six-man field of mayoral contenders. First elected in 2011, the 54-year-old former assistant U.S. Attorney has served four two-year stints and won his first four-year term in 2019 after city voters in 2017 changed the term of office.
When the ballots are counted in the final election on Nov. 7, there will be at least one new council member, as the Ward 5 incumbent, Scott Lima, decided to give up that seat and seek an at-large council position.
In-person early voting closed at noon on Monday at City Hall after what appeared to be a relatively successful second run for early in-person voting in a city election, which was first offered in 2021, said Manuel DeBrito, who chairs the New Bedford Board of Election Commissioners. On Monday morning, DeBrito said the total of absentee, mail-in ballots and in-person early voting on three days at three locations in addition to City Hall totaled about 600, which he said was considerably higher than in 2021.
“I’ll take that,” DeBrito said, although he was not able to provide an exact figure for comparison yesterday.
From what he was hearing from poll workers at the early in-person voting sites, the New Bedford Public Library, Hazelwood Community Center and Taber Mill Community center, DeBrito said it appeared there were more Latin-American voters and more first-time voters.
DeBrito said he expected turnout among the city’s nearly 66,000 registered voters to be driven mostly by the two competitive races and the fact that the mayor’s name is on the ballot. He was hoping for a turnout over 10%, or more than the 9.5% that was posted in 2019, the last time the mayor was on the ballot for a preliminary election.
Weather is not expected to deter turnout, as the forecast called for sunshine all day with temperatures up to the high 70s.
Of the 15 non-incumbents on the ballot for council and mayor, the two experienced office holders are council candidates Joseph P. Lopes, and Bruce Wayne Duarte Jr.
Lopes served six two-year terms on the council, including four as council president, representing Ward 6. He lost in 2021 to Ryan Pereira, then a political newcomer, and has since moved to Ward 5, where he is running for the seat that Lima is vacating.
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Lima has endorsed Lopes, who is executive director and CEO of MassHire Greater New Bedford.
Duarte served four terms in Ward 4, now lives in Ward 1 and is in the at-large council race that will choose 10 candidates to compete for five seats next month.
Competing with Lopes for the Ward 5 seat are Zachary R. Boyer, who ran for council in 2021 and has been active with the progressive advocacy group, Coalition for Social Justice, along with Ian Marcus Saunders, who has run for council before, and Carlos Maiato.
Twelve candidates are on the ballot for the five at-large seats, including the five incumbents: Council President Linda Morad, Brian Gomes, Naomi R. A. Carney, Maria Giesta, and Ian Abreu.
Carmen Amaral, who ran unsuccessfully for a Ward 3 seat in a special election early this year, is on the at-large ballot, but in a Facebook post last month said she was pulling out of the race. DeBrito said she has not officially withdrawn.
Other at-large contenders are Devin B. Byrnes, Joyce Rowley, Guelmie Santiago, and Arya Pixlie Witner, who are all new to city elective politics. Byrnes owns Destination Soups, a downtown restaurant. Rowley is a retired community planner who has twice brought suit in federal court against the City of New Bedford claiming that two Asian elephants at the Buttonwood Park Zoo have been mistreated and should be moved to quarters where they can receive better care.
Santiago is a real estate agent who also runs a small tax services business in New Bedford. Witner, who is a regular at council meetings, has said she believes she would be the city’s first transgender candidate for public office.
Five candidates all seeking their first public office are challenging Mitchell. Richard Tyson Moultrie ran against Mitchell in 2019, and Michael Janson has run for mayor several times. Also seeking the city’s top elective post are Xavier Cardona, Nathan Almeida and Ryan Duarte.
Two candidates will compete for the final election in Ward 1: Incumbent William “Brad” Markey, who has served three two-year terms, and Leo Choquette, a financial planner and member of the city Zoning Board of Appeals.
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