The speculation in New Bedford of a special election to replace Mayor Jon Mitchell has clouded over the reality that there will be an open seat on the city council this year.

We will know one way or the other if New Bedford is losing its mayor to the Biden Administration soon enough. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh have both been announced as Cabinet appointments by the Biden-Harris transition team. Maybe we will be adding Jon Mitchell to that list since he has been talking to the transition team, too.

However, we do know absolutely that long-serving city councilor Deb Coelho is retiring and therefore she is creating a rare opportunity for a new person to be elected to one of the at-large city council seats. The voters of New Bedford traditionally re-elect the incumbent members of the council, particularly in the five seats that are elected by the entire city every two years. In 2019, there were nearly 1,000 votes between the winning fifth-place candidate and the losing sixth-place candidate.

I've written before about who might run for Coelho's seat. Some names of other candidates who people think should consider joining the currently developing field include the following:

Labor leader Lisa Lemieux has considered running for the city council in the past but decided against it. She has great organizational skills and a loyal group of political allies. As a leader with various liberal organizations and an employee of SEIU, a progressive labor union, she is well known and respected by some of the most energetic local grassroots activists in the region. She could mount a serious citywide campaign.

Steve Martins, a former Ward Two councilor, is mentioned as either a candidate for mayor or the council in 2021. He still has a campaign account open and he has nearly $40,000 available for whatever he wants to do as a candidate. Should he choose to run, he would have the most cash on hand of any candidate potentially in the at-large race at this moment.

Anyone who has contemplated running for the city council now has the best opportunity they have had in years.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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