Posted on November 30, 2014


Flanagan Sutter

Mayor Will Flanagan vs. his former boss Sam Sutter, Bristol County DA — frenemies in this recall election

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Incredibly enough, there’s an election going on right now, in the city of Fall River, Massachusetts. Seriously. It’s a recall election, no less, and voting day is December 16th, the week before Christmas.

The recall is the first since Massachusetts enacted recall leislation in 1980.
You might suppose that after all of the intensity expended on the recent Governor election — and all of the money — there’d not be a lot of energy left in people’s driveshafts for a mid-December recall election. Wrong — Fall River seems fully engaged in the drive to recall Mayor Flanagan. At least five candidates are running, and their house signs pop up everywhere, even on side streets — a lot of house signs.

1 Mike Miozza1 Shawn cadime

also looking strong for recall race : City Councillor Mike Miozza and Seekonk Town manager Shawn Cadime

There’s Mike Miozza, a city councillor; Shawn Cadime, Seekonk town manager; Louis Alves Melim; former City Councillor David Dennis; Ronald A. Cabral; Paul H. Anderson; and the big one : Sam Sutter, District Att0rney of Bristol County. Sutter’s a Fall River resident, and he might well finish first in the recall; and first place is all that it takes. If Sutter gets it, he’s the mayor, and Bill Flanagan isn’t.
Still, Flanagan is a candidate, too, and if he finishes first — and how does an incumbent not do so ? — then all this huff and puff has been for naught, Flanagan wins, and the challengers go home.

How, exactly, has it come to this ? The story’s a fascinating one.

The group supporting recall tried to recall Flanagan in 2012. This is their second attempt. They needed 2,459 signatures to obtain an election; 3,847 were submitted. That’s still a very small percentage of all Fall River voters.

What’s the issue ? Two : a so-called “pay as you throw” tax program, under which Flanagan has cut the city fire department’s budget, reportedly in one city councillor’s district in particaular. Then came a highly publicized, perhaps misreported, incident in which Flanagan was said to have thratened that city councillor with a gun. (Other reports say that the two got into fist fight.)

Indisputably there is bad blood between Mayor flanagan and a large part of fall River’s activists; and the challengers who seem the most robust have gone to lengths to wage an all-out campaign. Cadime has secured the sevices of a Boston-based consultant; Sam Sutter has been endorsed by the Coalition or Social Justice. Sutter also doubtless retains the strong, though not majority, support that he received in his 2012 challenge to Congressman Keating. Miozza, too, has assembled an active support group.

As I write this first look, Sutter seems to me to be a very strong candidate. If he had Flanagan alone, he would likely win. (and this has some drana to it, as Flanagna was once an assistant in Sutter’s District Attorney office. the two have been political allies; obviously not any more.) But Sutter most assuredly does not have Flanagan alone.

Per the recall law, the recall ballot has two parts. First is the question : shall Flanagan be recalled ? If a majority votes no, he is not recalled at all. If a majority votes yes, then comes the selection, by the same voters, of a candidate to replace him. Recall supporters challenged Flanagan’s right to appear on the replacement ballot if he is recalled in the fitrst part ; the Court said that he had a constitutional right to run, in any case; therefore Flanagan will be a candiate to replace himself.

A majority might well vote “yes’ to recall him yet fall short of seeing any candidate finish ahead of Flanagan in the second part of the ballot. There is no runoff; thus if Flanagan finishes first on voting day, he stays in ofice. If not, then not.

The candidates will participate in a “a karaoke debate’ on Decembetr 3rd and again at a Spindle City Straight Talk debate (7 pm to 9 pm) at Morton Middle School on December 9th. They’ll doubtless alll march in the city’s Christnmas Parade on December 6th.

This will definitely not be an ordinary holiday season on Massachusetts’ South coast.

—- Mike Freedberg / The Local vocal

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