Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford is going to run for re-election and his going to run without a major opponent in 2017.

Recently on WBSM 1420AM, Mayor Mitchell told host Barry J. Richard that he hadn’t decided whether he was going to run for another term. This type of answer is a tradition in American politics. Candidates reserve the right announce on their terms and time line. When he does announce for re-election, he will do it in a manner that highlights his accomplishments and earns him the maximum publicity on radio, TV and in the newspaper.

How can we be sure he is running again? He is raising serious money. Since the beginning of last month Mitchell, according to finance documents I have reviewed, has added over $14,000 to his already bursting campaign account. His December haul was more than a 30% increase over his June fundraising of nearly $11,000.

Among the recent donors are people who would likely know the mayor’s future plans. His latest filings list donations from staffers, friends and advisors like Chief of Staff Neil Mello, Assistant Chief of Staff Christine Connelly, Kristine Arsenault, Attorney John Markey, David Slutz and Anthony Sapienza.

John Mitchell doesn’t strike me as a person who would collect thousands of dollars for a campaign he doesn’t intend on running. And he certainly doesn’t need the money – he has $175,691.03 in his campaign account as of January 15, 2017.

Mayor Mitchell will also not have to spend much of his campaign cash this cycle because he will not have even one serious opponent. His overflowing campaign account is just one of the factors that will insure he runs alone this year.

In 2015, Mitchell faced only one opponent. Maria Giesta a former staffer to Congressman Barney Frank returned home from Washington D.C. to challenge the incumbent mayor. It was her first run for public office and Mitchell buried her in a landslide. Giesta has a lot to offer the city but she won’t be a candidate for mayor this year.  Her campaign committee filed dissolution documents and was officially closed on December 19, 2016. It was a costly lesson for her as she lent her campaign $30,000 and was never paid back. Closing the campaign account also closes the door on her ever getting that money back.

Former Mayor Scott Lang closed out his campaign account in 2014. He could easily open a new account and loan his campaign the seed money to jump-start it as he did in 2005. But I don’t think those documents are coming anytime soon. Unlike Giesta, he was able to recoup his investment before he closed out the fund.

There is no love lost between the former and current mayors of the Whaling City. The media and political observers would love to see these two finally face off after years of back and forth barbs and speculation. It is all up to Scott Lang. Jon Mitchell will be on the ballot in 2017 for mayor and there will be an opening for Lang if he is up for the fight. I suspect Scott Lang will run again some day, but not this year and not against Mitchell. He is too cautious and he will wait for an open seat.

Other possible opponents like State Representative Tony Cabral ($89,017 in his account) and City Councilor Linda Morad ($23,722) are also going to wait for an open seat to run for the big chair in city hall. Both are strong fundraisers and have deep support in the city, but neither would likely bounce back politically after another loss to Mitchell.

This election cycle will be without a serious contest for Mayor of New Bedford. Those of us who love local political races will have to settle for the battles for seats in the city council and I don’t think we will be without some action to watch. Stay tuned.

Editors Note: Chris McCarthy is the host of Sunday Brunch on 1420 WBSM New Bedford.  He can be heard most Sundays from 10am-1pm (depending on Red Sox/Patriots schedules).  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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