New Bedford Ward 3 Special Election Dates Selected to Replace Resigning Dunn
Following New Bedford Ward 3 City Councilor Hugh Dunn's announcement on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight that he is resigning to focus on his growing responsibilities as an associate attorney at a Boston law firm, he has submitted a letter to City Clerk Dennis Farias marking an official resignation time and date of midnight on December 3.
According to New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell's office, the Elections Commission has identified the dates of January 24 for the preliminary election and February 28 for the general election in 2023 following Dunn's resignation and the city council's expected order of a special election at their November 22 meeting.
The city council would have to sign off on those dates.
Holly Huntoon, Mitchell's spokesperson, told WBSM that candidates will likely be able to pull nomination papers at the elections office in the first week of December with approximately one week to return signature papers with the required 50 signatures from Ward 3 residents.
Manuel DeBrito, Chair of the Board of Election Commissioners, told WBSM that while the New Bedford City Council would set the dates for the election, he was looking into any changes in the law since New Bedford's last special election.
During his time on the council, Dunn generated a high-profile as a local legislator. He chaired the powerful ordinance committee, which drafts and amends all city codes, and he used his position to champion labor-friendly causes such as passing an anti-wage theft ordinance and sending a home rule petition to Beacon Hill that will grant the family of New Bedford Police Sgt. Mike Cassidy full line-of-duty death benefits after he died from COVID-19.
Dunn also made headlines when he was involved in a car crash in the early morning of May 1, 2021 at a parking lot in New Bedford's downtown. Dunn was later charged with operating under the influence of alcohol. He was found not guilty after a bench trial last month.
Despite a rare open seat on the council, as of yet no resident of Ward 3 has declared their candidacy, and few have publicly expressed interest in running for the seat.
Robert Bromley, a senior fiscal analyst for the Rhode Island State Senate, told WBSM that he is exploring a run for the seat. Bromley is a well-known and well-respected member of the community for his work as a longtime member of the city's Veterans Advisory Board, the organizer of the annual Veterans Day parade, and curator of the Fort Tabor-Fort Rodman Military Museum in the South End.
Lisa Lemieux, a Democratic State Committeewoman and President of the Greater Southeastern Massachusetts Labor Council, is also viewed as a formidable contender for the seat. Lemieux told WBSM immediately following Dunn's resignation that she would do her "due diligence" in considering a potential run.
Previous candidates who finished behind Dunn in the 2017 special election for the seat – former City Councilors Kathy Dehner and Mark Zajac, Republican State Committeewoman and former School Committee member Jill Ussach, trial attorney Guy LaRock, and activist Beth Santos Fauteux – have not publicly declared interest in running.
DeBrito did tell WBSM that a number of people had come into the elections office to ask about running for the Ward 3 seat, but that it wouldn't necessarily equate to them completing the process of pulling papers and collecting signatures.
Mitchell said in a recent appearance on SouthCoast Tonight that he and Dunn worked together to shepherd major economic development projects in Ward 3 through the city council, such as approval to redevelop the distressed Hicks-Logan neighborhood, and redeveloping the city-owned golf course to add the Advanced Manufacturing Campus industrial park.
He said the next councilor should be committed to handling constituent calls for "pothole issues" and be adept at taking on complex matters of municipal government.
"When it comes to ensuring that the city is financially stable and growing and that we have policies in place that enable us to deliver the services that our residents are entitled to you need someone who does their homework," Mitchell said.