Challenger tops mayor by nearly 1,800 votes
By AARON NICODEMUS, Standard-Times staff writer
NEW BEDFORD — Attorney Scott W. Lang easily topped Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. in yesterday’s preliminary election, creating a face-off between the eight-year incumbent mayor and the first-time politician.
Mr. Lang, at a jubilant celebration at the Panther Club in the North End, challenged the mayor to a series of six debates before the Nov. 8 municipal election. He said he wants to debate the mayor in each of the city’s six wards.
“I never thought in a million years I’d be a candidate for any office,” he said, “but somewhere along the way, I began to realize New Bedford was headed in the wrong direction. … I honestly did not think I would be standing in front of you on Oct. 4 as the winner of the primary.”
Mr. Lang won by 1,781 votes, getting 37 percent of the total votes cast, followed by Mayor Kalisz at 27 percent. The top two finishers will face off on Nov. 8.
Eliminated from the mayor’s race were Matthew A. Morrissey, with 15 percent; Dennis G. Dallaire Jr., with 12 percent; and Mark A. Howland, with 5 percent. Four other candidates — Fernando Coelho, Thomas J. Pina, E. Michael Janson and Michael Zaritt — earned a total of just under 2 percent.
A total 18,113 ballots were cast, meaning that 36.4 percent of the city’s registered voters actually cast ballots.
At his campaign party, Mr. Lang reached out to supporters of Mr. Morrissey, Mr. Dallaire and Mr. Howland, asking them to back his campaign. “There is a place at the table for you,” he said.
Reached after the results came in, Mr. Morrissey said he would be endorsing Mr. Lang’s candidacy.
“I ran for change, and to ensure that people in the city had a voice in government,” he said. “Scott Lang is the vehicle for change.”
The sea of long faces at Mayor Kalisz’ reception at the “Rex Club,” Club Recordaceos Portugal, in the North End had begun to thin out by 9:30 p.m., after the election results were in. But the mayor’s words remained upbeat as he vowed over and again to “get the job done” in November.
“For eight years I have been mayor, and I have been confident in the scope of our achievements, what the administration has been able to impact,” he said.
Mr. Lang defeated Mayor Kalisz in all but one of the city’s six voting wards. The mayor won in Ward 2, his home ward.
While Mr. Lang won narrow margins in the North End of the city in Wards 1 and 3, he won handily in Ward 4 and won by a 2-1 ratio in Wards 5 and 6.
Examined another way, 73 percent of voters chose someone other than Mayor Kalisz.
“I think it’s clear from the election results that people want change,” Mr. Lang said. “The people of New Bedford have said they want a different type of leadership. … They don’t want leadership from the top down, they want leadership from the neighborhoods up.”
In the final stretch to Nov. 8, Mayor Kalisz said he will be able to advance, “My plan is to move forward, so voters will recognize the impacts it can have on their lives.”
That was hard to do, he said, “with four people aggressively attacking the mayor. That’s something we haven’t seen.”
The Kalisz campaign did not respond to Mr. Lang’s challenge for six debates.
Mayor Kalisz had run numerous campaign advertisements, but singled out Mr. Lang for a series of negative advertisements that criticized Mr. Lang’s record as a prosecutor from 1978 to 1990. Mr. Lang had harsh words for those ads last night.
“I think the voters saw through that false, negative, misleading campaign, and it will do you no good, Mr. Mayor,” he said.
When contacted, Mr. Dallaire said the vote showed that nothing has changed in New Bedford. ”
“I think it’s a continuation of politics as usual,” Mr. Dallaire said. “It was about money and it was about political machines.”
When asked if he would support Mr. Lang or Mr. Kalisz, Mr. Dallaire said he will stay neutral.
“The bottom line is that the most qualified candidate did not win the primary,” he said.
He pledged to return in two years to run again. “The voters deserve a lot better than what they’re getting in this race.”
Mr. Howland was unavailable for comment.
Voters at the polls expressed a desire for change.
“I want somebody new in there, he’s done enough damage,” said Ellen Santos of Mayor Kalisz. She said she voted for Mr. Dallaire. When asked what her top issue was, she said reopening police substations in the South End and North End. I want those substations open. What’s the mayor doing? Nothing.”
Lorraine Lacoste said she has voted for Mayor Kalisz in the past, but chose Mr. Lang this time. “I thought it was time for a change,” she said. “He has a strong background in the city, he will bring positive change to New Bedford. Ms. Lacoste said Mayor Kalisz lost her vote because of his stance in negotiations with the police union.
“I think he should be working with labor, not against labor,” she said, and added, “And the roadwork and parks that are being done now that it’s the election.”
Kathleen Hogan said she also voted for Mr. Lang.
“I like what he’s going to do for the Police Department, and to reopen the substations,” she said. “I liked what he had to say about education. He said he would lower taxes, too, hopefully.”
A number of voters said Mayor Kalisz was their choice.
Ann Koczera, principal of the Pulaski School and husband to state Rep. Robert Koczera, said she voted for Mayor Kalisz. “He’s proven to be a strong supporter of the public school system,” she said. “My vote is where my heart is.”
Jason Esposito said Mayor Kalisz is supportive of his church.
“He hasn’t done anything to turn me off. I think a lot of the other candidates are in it because the salary is going up. Kalisz, he’s done all right, he’s out there more than any of these other guys,” he said.
Derek Tiago said he voted for Mr. Dallaire, after meeting him and being impressed by his demeanor and resume. Plus, he got two Dallaire for Mayor nail files. “I just thought he had good experience, having worked in government before,” he said.