The citizens of New Bedford have been through a challenging municipal election and it has only just officially started. Can it get weirder?

Forgive me if I have forgotten a few of the twists and turns that happened on the way to selecting the two final candidates to be the next mayor of the fourth largest city in Massachusetts.

Remember when the voters of 2017 doubled the term of the city's mayor from two years to four years? That was going to create a larger and better pool of candidates for the job of the chief elected executive of the city.

Today we have a candidate for mayor that wasn't even elected to be on the ballot but they will be on the ballot. Richard Tyson Moultrie finished a distant third in the preliminary election, and therefore he was eliminated from the final election. Mayor Jon Mitchell received about 57 percent of the vote. City Councilor Brian Gomes came in at around 20 percent of the vote, and Moultrie had about 10 percent of the vote.

But Councilor Gomes has withdrawn himself from the race for mayor to concentrate on being re-elected to the city council. By withdrawing from the race, Gomes created a vacancy that will be filled by first-time candidate Moultrie.

Richard Tyson Moultrie is smart to make the best of this opportunity. He moved to New Bedford a few months ago and he has made a nice impression with many of the local people of the city. He isn't going to win but it will be interesting to see what he does with this accidental spotlight and premiere spot on the ballot.

A few months ago there was a field of potential candidates for mayor that looked like the field the proponents of the four-year term had envisioned. Former Mayor Scott Lang, City Council President Linda Morad, former Ward Two Councilor Steve Martins, Ward Three Councilor Hugh Dunn, and a few members of the local legal and business community were all thought to be considering a run for mayor.

At all times, Mayor Jon Mitchell was acting like a strong mayor and a strong candidate for re-election. Mitchell is a Harvard graduate, a former artillery officer, and he headed up the Whitey Bulger task force as a federal prosecutor. He will soon make history as one of the longest-serving mayors of New Bedford and the first elected to a four-year term.

Most of the challengers chose a different path for 2019. Even the challenger the voters selected, Brian Gomes, has now opted out of the fight. So now the fourth largest city in Massachusetts has an accidental race for the top job.

The people of Greater New Bedford should say "thank you" every time they see Mayor Mitchell. Remember, he can still withdraw from the race, too.

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 chris.mccarthy@townsquaremedia.com and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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