Give special attention to Scott Lang

 This article appeared on October 2, 2005 in the Standard Times

The Standard-Times does not usually throw its support to any candidate during a preliminary election.

The reason is that we take the job of issuing political endorsements very seriously. We spend a long time getting to know candidates before we ask our readers to vote for them. We bring candidates in for interviews, ask them to speak in depth about the issues that are important to the community, explore their civic and work histories, and learn as much as we can about them.

In a race such as the one for mayor of New Bedford — for which there are nine candidates, five who are campaigning vigorously — it is next to impossible to do the kind of background work on each candidate that a serious endorsement requires.

Moreover, even though we are scrupulous about keeping our editorial positions and our news coverage separate, we are concerned that readers might believe our endorsement of one candidate in a primary would color our news coverage of the campaign leading up to the general election in November.

However, we believe that unusual circumstances in the 2005 mayoral election oblige us to provide voters with at least some guidance before they cast their ballots on Tuesday.

First, we must say that all five of the leading candidates — eight-year incumbent Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr., native son and former Los Angeles city administrator Dennis Dallaire, UMass Dartmouth administrator Matt Morrissey, former state Rep. Mark Howland and local attorney Scott Lang — are worth serious consideration. They care about the community and want to do their best on its behalf.

However, because of the sheer number of names that will appear on Tuesday’s ballot and because of an attack on one of the candidates in an unprecedently large advertising blitz by the Kalisz campaign, we believe that it is possible that one of the best-qualified candidates might be passed over by voters and that the entire community might pay a price for that.

That is why we are asking New Bedford voters to give special consideration to Mr. Lang, a widely respected local attorney and former Bristol County assistant district attorney, when they vote in the mayoral preliminary.

“There is a real feeling that our city has become lawless; that there is a complete lack of respect for the neighborhoods and its families,” Mr. Lang wrote at the beginning of his campaign. “The quality of life in New Bedford is on the decline. Rising tax rates and an erosion in city services is a recurring complaint throughout the city.”

Many others in the city, frustrated with what they see as the city’s failure to deliver on core issues such as education and public safety, share those sentiments.

Recognizing the threat that Mr. Lang represents to them, the Kalisz administration has launched an all-out war to destroy his candidacy before the preliminary, running a series of ads that have tried to paint Mr. Lang as soft on crime while he was a county prosecutor.

On the contrary, his experience within the criminal justice system, his skills as a negotiator and his clear and direct leadership style suggest that he is worth every consideration as someone who can help lead this city into a brighter future.

There is a lot more we want to know about Mr. Lang, and it is by no means certain that he will receive our endorsement if he becomes one of the two finalists in November. But we do join Mayor Kalisz and his advisors in acknowledging that he is a serious and formidable candidate, who has effectively raised issues that are important to the city’s future and that raise significant questions about the mayor’s own performance.

We urge New Bedford voters to ignore the mudslinging and give careful consideration to Mr. Lang’s qualifications when they vote on Tuesday.