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August 5, 2013

Driscoll effect proves 'tough to beat'

Salem's first female mayor has ended string of hard-fought races

SALEM — Has Kim Driscoll ended Salem’s era of hard-fought mayoral races?

Driscoll very well may walk into a third term this fall, just as she did when she was re-elected in 2009. The veteran politico will face two little-known candidates in a mayoral preliminary next month.

In decades past, races for Salem’s top office were always contentious, with a history of toppling incumbent mayors. Driscoll, considered a long-shot candidate when she first ran in 2005, knocked off eight-year Mayor Stan Usovicz in a preliminary election and clinched 63 percent of the vote over her challenger, longtime City Councilor Kevin Harvey, in the November election.

“Salem has had several bruising mayoral elections, back as far as I can remember,” said former Mayor Neil Harrington, now the town manager of Salisbury.

Harrington said he believes every Salem mayor — himself included — has not left voluntarily but has been voted out of office since Mayor Francis Collins stepped down in 1969.

The exception would be Mayor Samuel Zoll, who stepped down in 1973 to become a district court judge.

Since Driscoll has taken office, Salem’s mayoral races, frankly, have just not been interesting.

“She’s just tough to beat. It’s tough to even think of taking on a record like that,” said former City Councilor Matt Veno. “She’s very good at building bridges, building relationships within the community ... That can sometimes disarm opponents. It’s tough to run against someone you have a good working relationship with.”

Driscoll was elected as Salem’s first female mayor in 2005 and re-elected in 2009 to a term that lasts through 2013. If re-elected in November, Driscoll would begin a third four-year term in January 2014.

She’s been actively campaigning this spring and recently held a well-attended fundraiser at Washington Street’s new eatery, Opus. Driscoll said this campaign will be no different from any other.

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