What Happens If Gomes Wins Mayor and Withdraws? [OPINION]
The odd political season that has been New Bedford's 2019 city election keeps getting more interesting. What if a non-candidate like Brian Gomes is a winner?
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell is running for re-election. He has made it clear that he is running for the new four-year term and he is running on his record of accomplishments and on his plans for the future. He has a big organization of supporters and a well-organized campaign. He has built a campaign war chest that tops $200,000 and he can double that if he needs to. But he won't need to.
At one point, Mayor Mitchell had City Council President Linda Morad, School Committee Member John Oliviera, and City Councilor At-Large Brian Gomes as potential opponents this year. All of those currently elected officials took out nomination papers to run for mayor. Councilor Morad and School Committee Member Oliviera decided to not run for mayor and successfully removed themselves from that line on the 2019 ballot.
Councilor Gomes failed at removing himself from the ballot line for the preliminary election for mayor and so he will be on that ballot line for both mayor and councilor at-large in October.
Standard-Times news editor and columnist Jack Spillane attempted to get Gomes to explain if he will withdraw his name if he wins the first or second spot in the preliminary election for mayor. He publicly failed to meet the deadline but he will have a second chance to withdraw his name again if he gets enough votes to qualify for the final election in November. Gomes evaded answering Jack's question.
So what happens if the non-candidate Brian Gomes wins enough votes to be on the final ballot but is able to successfully withdraw his name from the ballot? Does the third-place finisher move up to face the other candidate who qualified for the ballot?
Given the current field of candidates on the preliminary ballot, it is reasonable to assume that Mayor Mitchell and City Councilor Gomes will be the two candidates who qualify for the final election.
But the race for third is now the race for second, assuming Gomes is honest when he says he isn't going to be a candidate for mayor and is only a candidate for the city council.
What happens if the third and fourth place candidates for mayor in the preliminary are within the margin of error to trigger a recount, because the third-place candidate is actually the second-place candidate, and therefore qualified to be on the ballot in November to face off against the candidate who came in first place in the preliminary election?
Or is the election over if Gomes drops out after winning a spot in the final election and successfully removes his name from the ballot?
If I was running for mayor of New Bedford in 2019, I would want to know the answers to these questions and I would have an experienced election law attorney on my side.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.