By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Mayor Ted Bettencourt will go to the polls in November with no opponent on the ballot.
The time limit for taking out papers to run for mayor expired last night, with only the sitting mayor signed up to run. Any opponent would have the nearly impossible task of mounting a write-in campaign.
“I hope people do think I’m doing a good job for the city,” the mayor said. “We’ve made good progress in a number of areas.”
He touted his ability to persuade city workers to sign onto the GIC, a state-run health care program that substantially reduces Peabody’s costs. He also has made construction of a new Higgins Middle School a signature issue.
Despite the lack of opposition, the mayor said he will go ahead with three planned fundraisers, in August, September and October. His campaign currently has $27,000 in the bank.
Longtime Peabody poll watcher Mike Schulze, an ally of the mayor, credits Bettencourt’s hard work and crammed schedule with establishing the kind of popularity that discourages opposition.
“He’s working hard to do the things he’s talked about. ... He’s got all sorts of irons in the fire. He’s nonstop,” Schulze said.
Meanwhile, Bettencourt is declaring “hands off” in the races for City Council and School Committee. Based on those who have pulled papers, it’s probable nine candidates will contest for five at-large council seats, while two run for a single Ward 5 seat, two run in Ward 2 and three in Ward 3. Four School Committee hopefuls are vying for three seats.
Four incumbents will be on the ballot for at-large councilor, including Tom Gould, Anne Manning-Martin, Mike Garabedian and Dave Gravel. The five hoping to find a new place as at-large members are former state Rep. Tom Walsh, Republican Scott Frasca, library trustee and former at-large candidate Margaret Tierney, former mayoral candidate Russ Donovan and Route 1 resident Peter Bakula.
In Ward 3, three candidates are looking to take the seat being vacated by the retiring Rico Mello. They include former candidate Thomas Serino, former at-large councilor Bill Toomey and former councilor and mayoral candidate Jim Moutsoulas.
In Ward 5, the retirement of Dave Gamache has helped attract two candidates, neighborhood activist and blogger Bob Croce as well as Joel Saslaw, who has been active in youth sports. Veteran incumbent Arthur Athas in Ward 2 matches up with Peter McGinn, a member of the Community Preservation Committee and brother of former councilor John McGinn, who was also former Mayor Peter Torigian’s campaign manager.
Running unopposed on the ballot will be Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne, Ward 2’s Bob Driscoll and Ward 6’s Barry Sinewitz. Each council seat is for a two-year term. Candidates are required to return 50 signatures by Tuesday, although it’s advisable to have as many as twice that number. As of yesterday only Gould, Osborne, Donovan and Bakula had failed to bring in the names.
Four candidates, including three incumbents, are vying for three School Committee terms lasting four years. Newcomer Neil Papamechail will be facing off against incumbents Jarrod Hochman, Beverley Griffin Dunne and Tom Rossignoll. As of yesterday none had returned their papers.
Six candidates for library trustee are competing for four seats with six-year terms. They include incumbents Jean Ahearn and Don McAllister, as well as Paul Jordan Misci, Louis Chinappi, Stephanie Najjar and Robert Forti.
Only one person can win a six-year term on the Peabody Municipal Light Commission, and only one has pulled the necessary papers, Charles Bonfanti, brother of former Mayor Michael Bonfanti.