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WOONSOCKET â€“ Youâ€™ve heard the rhetoric, youâ€™ve listened to the ads, youâ€™ve seen the signs. Now itâ€™s almost time to choose the candidates who will serve as mayor and members of the City Council for the next three years.
After one of the most spirited contests in years, voters will choose between incumbent Mayor Leo T. Fontaine and State Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt when the polls open tomorrow at 8 a.m. City elections are non-partisan, but for what itâ€™s worth, Fontaine is a Republican who is seeking his third term. Baldelli-Hunt is a Democrat who has served in the House since 2006.
The two faced off in five live debates in recent weeks, a campaign bisected by a primary which turned the incumbent into the underdog. Baldelli-Hunt outpolled Fontaine by a margin of more than 3-1 in the Oct. 8 runoff, allowing him to survive in second place. But two other contenders, progressive candidate Dave Fisher and Michael E. Moniz were eliminated from the ballot.
Fourteen candidates, including all the incumbents, are vying for seven positions on the City Council. The incumbents are Christopher A. Beauchamp, Albert G. Brien, Marc A. Dubois, Daniel M. Gendron, Roger G. Jalette Sr., Robert R. Moreau and John F. Ward, currently the council president.
Mixed in with the challengers, this is how the whole field finished in the primary, from first to last: Brien; Moreau; Beauchamp; Gendron; Christopher Roberts; Jalette; Anita Ann McGuire-Forcier; Garrett S. Mancieri; Ward; Dubois; Melissa A. Murray; Eric â€śChipâ€ť Cartier; Kathryn M. Dumais; and Richard J. Fagnant.
The two newcomers who broke into the top seven in the council runoff are both sitting members of the School Committee, which is approaching the sunset of its existence, at least as an elective body.
On inauguration day, Dec. 3, the School Committee will cease to exist, owing to a change in the City Charter approved by voters last year. A new school committee will be appointed by the mayor, with the consent of the City Council.
Thanks to another charter change approved by voters, the winners of tomorrowâ€™s elections will serve for three years instead of the normal two. That will put the city on the same election cycle as the state, allowing the city to open polling places less often and cutting costs.
Terms will revert back to two years after the synchronization is complete.