NEW BEDFORD — Voters will narrow the field of candidates for New Bedford’s mayor and the majority of seats on City Council in the city’s preliminary election next Tuesday, Oct. 3. The last chances for in-person early voting are this week: Wednesday at Taber Mills in the North End and Thursday at the Hazelwood Senior Center in the South End.
On the preliminary ballot are contests for the Ward 5 City Council seat, the five at-large City Council positions, and the mayorship.
“I’m encouraged by the numbers we’ve seen so far,” said Manuel DeBrito, chairperson of the board of elections, noting an “uptick in early voting and mail-in ballots.”
DeBrito said he hopes for a turnout of over 10%, which would be higher than the 9.5% turnout in the last mayoral preliminary in 2019.
Where and when to vote
- Sept. 27, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Early voting at Taber Mills
- Sept. 28, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Early voting at Hazelwood Senior Center
- Oct. 3, 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Preliminary election
- Oct. 27 Last day to register to vote for municipal elections (by 5 p.m.)
- Oct. 28, Nov. 1, Nov. 2 In person early voting
- Nov. 7 Municipal Election
Tuesday’s top two vote-winners in the mayor’s race will advance to the Nov. 7 general election; so will two Ward 5 candidates and 10 at-large council candidates. (The top five at-large vote-getters in the November general election will win council seats.)
Five mayoral challengers, all seeking their first elected office, are running against incumbent mayor Jon Mitchell, who is campaigning for a sixth term. Already the city’s longest-serving mayor since the 1930s, Mitchell, first elected in 2011, has pointed to leadership in offshore wind, improvements in the schools, and decreased unemployment as achievements of his administration.
One challenger, Richard Tyson Moultrie, an Air Force Reserves veteran, received 26% of the vote for mayor in the 2019 general election against Mitchell. Moultrie advanced to the general election only after City Councilor Brian Gomes dropped out. Moultrie’s candidacy attracted scrutiny of his claims about homeownership, military service, and employment.
Another challenger, Michael Janson, has run unsuccessfully for New Bedford mayor at least nine times, according to election-tracking website Ballotpedia. The former seafood broker has also lost elections for state representative, City Council, and for New Bedford’s School Committee.
The other three candidates for mayor have a low public profile. Xavier Cardona has a career as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter and also volunteers as a mentor with the Department of Children and Families. Nathan Almeida and Ryan Duarte are New Bedford residents, but do not have any publicly available campaign materials.
A hallmark of Mitchell’s tenure has been disagreements and political friction with the City Council. Many of that body’s most senior members are also up for reelection in the at-large race.
Current council president Linda Morad, first elected 20 years ago in 2003, and Gomes, first elected 32 years ago in 1991, are running for re-election in the at-large race. Morad and Gomes have both run for mayor against Mitchell in the past. Also running for at-large City Council seats are fellow incumbents Shane Burgo, Naomi Carney, and Ian Abreu, the former council president.
In addition, Scott Lima, the incumbent Ward 5 councilor, decided to throw his hat in the ring for an at-large bid. So has Bruce Wayne Duarte Jr., a former city councilor for Ward 4 (who now lives in Ward 1).
Other at-large challengers are political newcomers. Devin Byrnes is the owner of the popular downtown restaurant Destination Soups. Joyce Rowley, a retired community planner, has made news for her lawsuits against the city of New Bedford that have sought to move the zoo’s two Asian elephants to a refuge in Tennessee. Guelmie Santiago is a real estate agent and owns a small business in New Bedford that offers human resources services. And Arya Pixlie Witner, a call center employee, posted on Facebook that she believes she is the first transgender candidate for political office in New Bedford.
Carmen Amaral, who ran in the Ward 3 special election earlier this year, withdrew from the at-large race in a Sept. 8 Facebook post, but her name remains on the ballot.
Each voter in the preliminary at-large council race will select up to five names from among the 12 candidates. The top 10 vote-getters will advance to the November general election ballot.
In Ward 5, four candidates are competing for the seat that Lima is vacating. Joe Lopes, a former City Council president from his time as the Ward 6 representative, now seeks the neighboring ward’s seat (where he bought a house and now lives) after Ryan Pereira bested him in the last election. Zach Boyer, who ran for City Council in 2021, has worked with the advocacy group Coalition for Social Justice. Rounding out the Ward 5 candidates are Ian Marcus Saunders, a fisherman who has also run for City Council at least once before, and Carlos Maiato. Neither Saunders nor Maiato have made any public materials for their campaigns.
These three preliminary races in New Bedford will be decided on Tuesday, Oct. 3, when polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Top finishers will move on to the Nov. 7 general election. Early in-person voting for the general election will begin Oct. 28.
In the general election, Ward 1 councilor William “Brad” Markey will face Leo Choquette. The rest of the ward councilors and the School Committee members will also be on the general election ballot, but face no challengers.
Email Colin Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This story was modified on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, to correct the number of terms Mayor Jon Mitchell has served. Also, The Light corrected business information about Guelmie Santiago, a candidate for at-large city councilor.
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