BRISTOL: Attleboro is lucky with two qualified mayoral candidates | Columns


Either Mayor Kevin Dumas or challenger Paul Heroux will suffer their first electoral defeat in Tuesday’s mayoral race. But the good news is Attleboro wins either way.

The city is fortunate to have two experienced, well-qualified candidates running for mayor. The winner will be the city’s chief executive for the next two years, beginning in January. Each is more than up to the job.

The candidates are quite different and have served in different political offices. They also come from different political parties although the city election is nonpartisan. (Is anything really nonpartisan these days?)

Dumas is a Republican and Heroux a Democrat. Of course they both have a party organization behind them.

Voters have the privilege of choosing between a longterm incumbent mayor and the incumbent state representative who believes he could do more for Attleboro as mayor than as state rep.

Dumas is seeking his eighth term. If he is re-elected and serves out the term he will be tied with Cyril Brennan as the longest serving mayor of Attleboro.

If Heroux wins the race he will be a first-term mayor but one well versed in government. Besides serving in the Legislature for five years he has a master’s degree in public administration.

What this comes down to is a battle between a 14-year incumbent who has mastered the duties of the city’s top office and a challenger who is thoroughly familiar with the city and the views of its citizenry.

It’s tempting to say that Heroux would have the enthusiasm of a first-term mayor who knocked off an incumbent, but I don’t think that would be fair to Dumas who has been a dedicated hands-on manager since he was first elected to the post in his 20s.

As I mentioned in a past column the candidates were a year apart at Attleboro High School and both are in their prime now.

Speaking of AHS the No. 1 issue in the campaign is support for the school system and in particular the plan to build a new high school.

Both are for it and the passage of a supplemental property tax increase next spring to pay for the city’s 50 percent share of the $265 million project.

However, the candidates differ in their promises about school funding in the future, issues that have been debated and prominently reported on in this newspaper.

It was a crisis in school funding last year that created an opening for a challenge to Dumas in this election.

The mayor got a scare in the preliminary Sept. 19 in which a third candidate for mayor, retired fire chief and former city councilor Ronald Churchill, was eliminated from the field. Heroux finished first in that election with 2,217 votes and Dumas finished second with 1,966.

I don’t think you can tell too much from those results because the turnout for the preliminary was only 17 percent. It will be much higher Tuesday.

This will be a close race, and many factors will figure in the outcome.

A dynamic politicians talk about is the difficulty of telling when voters have tired of an incumbent and are likely to elect a fresh face.

That happened to Judith Robbins who was mayor for six terms until being ousted by Dumas in 2003.

Robbins said after her defeat that year that sooner or later an incumbent upsets, disappoints or antagonizes enough voters to cost them their office.

I don’t know if that time has come for Kevin Dumas. He’s certainly giving no quarter in the campaign.

Should he lose, however, I don’t expect to see him volunteering to work for his successor, as Robbins famously did as the driving force behind the Attleboro Redevelopment Authority.

And I don’t see Dumas getting out of politics. Will his next step be his hoped-for return to the mayor’s office or perhaps something statewide in the future?

NED BRISTOL is retired editor of The Sun Chronicle. He can be contacted at nedbristol@msn.com.

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