NEW BEDFORD — Political newcomer Derek Baptiste's first run for political office was a success.

Baptiste defeated former City Councilor Joseph "Jo-Jo" Fortes Tuesday in the race for the Ward 4 council seat. The final tally was Baptiste 999 votes, Fortes 613.

Speaking outside City Hall Tuesday night, Baptiste said he was ready to get started and learn on the job.

"I'm a sponge, and I just want to learn everything. I want to work with people, I want to work with my community and with people in this building to make sure the city gets to a better place," he said.

When he takes office in January, Baptiste will succeed Dana Rebeiro in the Ward 4 council seat. Rebeiro had previously announced she would not seek re-election after serving three terms in office.

Baptiste said he was humbled by the victory. He and Fortes had finished in a dead heat, 287 votes apiece, in the October preliminary election.

Baptiste said he hoped the victory would bring hope to the people of Ward 4, especially the children.

"This victory is for the kids in school that have a hard time, and they lose faith and they say, we can't make it because there's no hope. You know how many times I heard there was no hope," said Baptiste. "I felt like that before. I was one of those kids."

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