, Salem, MA

September 14, 2013

Driscoll faces low-key election with 2 challengers

By Bethany Bray

---- — SALEM — City voters will see three names on the ballot for mayor at Tuesday’s preliminary election.

While next week’s preliminary will eliminate one of those three names, Mayor Kim Driscoll is facing what most would consider light opposition as she seeks a third term in office.

She is being challenged by Ken Sawicki and Cedric Ashley Jr., neither of whom has held elective office before.

Sawicki, a perennial candidate in Salem, is running for every office he possibly can this year -- mayor, ward councilor, councilor-at-large and School Committee.

Ashley, a former Salem High School football captain and 2012 St. Anselm College graduate, is making his first run for public office.

Ashley hasn’t done any fundraising — a conscious choice, he says.

“I don’t believe a campaign should be won or lost by one’s financial backing. It should be won or lost by hard work and actual dedication to the people,” he said.

Ashley, 24, works as a substitute teacher in the Salem Public Schools and says he’s done “a little” campaigning — knocking on doors and meeting residents.

“I’d bring fresh ideas (as mayor) that haven’t been thought of before,” said Ashley. “Age doesn’t matter. I may be young, but maybe a younger perspective might help the city. ... I would bring more of a new perspective, from a different school of thought — giving a voice to a younger generation because we don’t really have a voice, and we try.”

The two top vote-getters in Tuesday’s preliminary election will face off in the Nov. 5 final election.

Driscoll has been mayor since 2006. Before that she was Chelsea’s deputy city manager and served two terms on the Salem City Council. She has a background in planning and land use and has also worked as an attorney.

Both of Driscoll’s opponents this fall have arrest records.

Sawicki, 60, has been arrested numerous times over the past decade, for violating a restraining order, disorderly conduct, trespassing, disturbing the peace and other charges. He is perhaps best known for an incident during his campaign for City Council in 2007, when he allegedly locked a man in a portable toilet and tipped it over in a dispute over a $28 debt. He served two weeks in jail.

Ashley was arrested in Fairfield, Conn., in 2010 and charged with sexual assault. Police say he grabbed a female during closing time at a beach-side cafe; the woman reported it to authorities.

“That was a dumb decision I made when I was in college,” Ashley said this week. “I was newly 21 and being an idiot.”

The Salem News was unable to find any record of a case in the Connecticut court system following Ashley’s arrest. Rhonda Stearley-Hebert, a media spokeswoman for the Connecticut courts, said the court has “no public record” to release regarding Ashley.

Fairfield Police Chief Gary MacNamara said Ashley’s case was “erased,” and he had no further information to release.

The Salem Public Schools personnel department confirmed this week Ashley works as a substitute teacher in the district, and that a criminal background check is done on all employees.