NEW BEDFORD — A City Council veteran and a young seniors advocate will compete next month for the one council ward seat that was in play in Tuesday’s preliminary election, as voters also chose a long-shot challenger to face Mayor Jon Mitchell a second time, and made a South End councilor the top vote-getter among 12 at-large contenders.
Former six-term councilor Joseph P. Lopes, executive director of MassHire Greater New Bedford, and Zach Boyer, a planning director at Coastline Elderly Services who has not held public office, will compete next month for the open Ward 5 seat that was vacated by Scott Lima, who jumped into the at-large race.
With turnout in the citywide election a dismal 6.1% of nearly 66,000 registered voters on a warm, sunny day, Richard Tyson Moultrie, an entrepreneur and business mentor, placed second to Mitchell in the six-man field of mayoral contenders.
[✻] denotes incumbent
[✔️] denotes winner
Nathan J. Almeida
Xavier R. Cardona
Richard Tyson Moultrie✔️
Shane A. Burgo✻✔️
Naomi R. A. Carney✻✔️
Brian K. Gomes✻✔️
Linda M. Morad✻✔️
Carmen F. Amaral✔️
Devin B. Byrnes✔️
Bruce Wayne Duarte Jr. ✔️
Scott John Lima✔️
Arya Pixlie Witner
Ward 5 councilor
Zachary R. Boyer✔️
Joseph P. Lopes✔️
Carlos M. Maiato
Ian Marcus Saunders
It’s a rematch of 2019, when Mitchell topped the political novice and Air Force Reserves veteran by nearly a three-to-one margin to win his first four-year term. Mitchell had previously served four two-year terms before the mayoral term of office was changed in a referendum in 2017. No experienced political hands stepped forward this year to take on Mitchell, who has not run a close race since he was first elected in 2011 and seems likely to glide into a sixth term.
“I’m grateful for and humbled by the support I received in today’s preliminary election,” Mitchell said in a statement posted to his Facebook page. “My commitment remains to get up every morning and do my very best for the residents of New Bedford. Our city has momentum, and we will not skip a beat.”
At City Hall before the results were in, Moultrie said he was hoping to get a chance for debates with Mitchell, as the best way to “put apples to apples …That’s how you find out who the thinker is.”
Ian Abreu, now serving his fourth term on the council, topped the 12-person field of at-large candidates with 14.5% votes cast in that race. The preliminary vote was to choose 10 candidates to compete for five at-large council seats in the final election on Nov. 7.
Abreu, who finished first in at-large voting in final elections in 2021 and 2019, said he was happy with the outcome, but Wednesday he would “go right back to work…The game is not over. One more month ahead.”
The five at-large incumbents finished in the top five of the field. Lima finished sixth.
The two contenders eliminated from contention were Joyce Rowley and Arya Pixlie Witner. Carmen Amaral, who ran unsuccessfully in Ward 3 in a special election early this year, made the cut by finishing 10th, but she posted to Facebook last month that she was withdrawing from the race. Manuel DeBrito, who chairs the Board of Election Commissioners, said she had not officially withdrawn. If she does not withdraw, she will also appear on the final election ballot, he said.
Some voters who cast their ballots for Amaral told The Light they were unaware she had unofficially withdrawn.
Also finishing in the top 10 in the at-large race were restaurateur Devin Byrnes, former councilor Bruce Wayne Duarte Jr., and entrepreneur Guelmie Santiago.
Lopes, who represented Ward 6 on the council and moved to Ward 5 early this year, said Tuesday night that he and his campaign crew have already started discussing next steps.
“It’s continue to work hard, continue to get the support of the voters, continue to be active and engaged,” he said. “I am grateful for everyone that came out and supported me today.”
Earlier in the day, Lopes said wants to return to office because he never lost the taste for public office after losing to political newcomer Ryan Pereira, who is running unopposed this year for a second term.
“I love being able to provide constituent services,” said Lopes, who served four terms as council president and as chair of the Finance Committee.
Lopes finished with 56.25%, Boyer with 31.84% of the 1,184 votes cast in that race. Carlos Maiato had 4.39% and Ian Marcus Saunders less than a half of one percent.
Boyer, who ran a distant second to Lima in the preliminary and final Ward 5 races in 2021, said he was hoping to join other progressive voices on the 11-member council to advocate for affordable housing, and “harm-reduction” practices, such as needle exchange, in the face of widespread opioid addiction.
About three weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Boyer has also worked as a political organizer for Massachusetts Senior Action and as a field organizer for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. He’s been active with the progressive Coalition for Social Justice.
After the results were in, Boyer said he was disappointed with the low turnout, but he was “looking forward to making my case to the rest of the voters. I think there’s an appetite for change.”
That was the only ward race at stake in the preliminary election. The final at-large race now pits an incumbent ward councilor, Lima, against his five at-large colleagues, Abreu, Shane Burgo, Naomi R.A. Carney, Brian Gomes, and Linda Morad.
In the at-large race, Burgo finished second to Abreu with 12%. Gomes tallied 10.71%, Morad 10.15, Carney 10.06. Lima finished with 9.72 %.
Preliminary election day weather was fine for getting out to vote, but not many people did. With only the Ward 5 and at-large council seats in play, and with no serious contest for mayor, the turnout was low even for a preliminary city election.
Since 2015, turnout in city preliminary elections has ranged between 6.6% and 9.5%.
Mayor Mitchell, who was at the Kennedy Donovan Center South polling place on County Street to talk with folks, said he was quite disappointed with the poor showing.
“I think people treat the preliminary as not counting as much as the final,” said Mitchell. He said the low vote is likely due to so many candidates running unopposed, and “contraction” in local news media.
DeBrito said he was expecting a better showing after a promising turnout in mail-in, absentee and early in-person voting. He said his office issued robocall reminders to vote and put out more lighted signs at polling places. He was not sure what else his office could do to encourage voting.
Many voters were apathetic about the mayor’s race, regardless of who they voted for. Several told The Light they didn’t vote at all in that race because they were sure Mitchell would win no matter what. Some voted for the mayor without putting much thought towards it.
There hadn’t been enough public debate about the mayoral candidates to sway Jose Martinez any which way, the Ward 2 voter said. “You haven’t heard anything from none of them,” he said.
Ward 2 voter Eileen Gaffey was in the minority voting against Mitchell — she cast her mayoral vote for Byrnes.
“He’s obviously got an interest in the benefit of greater New Bedford,” she said. “He might bring a fresh perspective.”
Several voters told The Light they voted for non-incumbents in the councilor-at-large race because they thought the council needed some new blood — but few could articulate any reasons for their vote beyond that.
“I think we need a lot of changes in New Bedford,” said Ward 4 voter Joel San Pablo. “Change is good.”
Multiple voters said they chose Santiago in particular because they wanted more Latino representation on the council.
Voters in the Ward 5 race also gave simple reasons for their choices.
One voter cast her ballot for Boyer because he’s “progressive.” Other voters said they picked Lopes because he’s “a people person” and he supported local nonprofit work in his previous terms as councilor.
Half-an-hour before polls closed at the Hazelwood Community Center, poll workers would normally be rushing to get the last few votes in. But the building was quiet on Tuesday night.
It was the worst turnout they had ever seen, one worker said. Even the voters who did come in seemed less enthusiastic than usual, said Precinct 6A Warden Celine Saraiva.
“People just aren’t interested for some reason,” she said.