Sam Sutter, politician
No one will ever accuse Sam Sutter, the newly elected mayor of Fall River, of being dumb or blind. Or of lacking ambition.
Sutter, the soon-to-be-former Bristol district attorney, saw an opening with the troubles of Mayor Will Flanagan and drove a truck through it straight to City Hall, using his name recognition in this week’s recall election to top the field of eight, including Flanagan.
If it sounds familiar, it is. Sutter used a similar formula of voter dissatisfaction with his predecessor in the prosecutor’s office, Paul Walsh, to upend Walsh in a primary in 2006. Walsh’s office at the time was involved in a controversial case in which a former Taunton police officer was allowed to plead guilty to charges of indecent assault on a child but, because of the deal, was not required to register as a sex offender.
But anyone who thought Sutter was going to be content to live out his days as a district attorney should not be allowed to drive a car because they clearly miss obvious signs. Sutter has made noise over the years about eyeing higher office, though he never quite pulled the trigger until 2012. That year, he took on US Rep. William Keating in a primary for the newly drawn Ninth Congressional District, though he was handily defeated.
One inkling of Sutter’s wandering eye came in September when his office dropped charges against environmental activists who had used a lobster boat to block a coal shipment to Brayton Point Power Station. Sutter bought the “climate change defense” and was hailed by progressives around the country, although pilloried by conservatives for allowing a district attorney’s office to base prosecution decisions on political stances. Shortly after the decision, Sutter joined the September 21 march in New York to protest climate change, which his office touted all over social media.
And Sutter clearly knows his path to better digs (not that there’s anything wrong with the newly decorated offices at City Hall thanks to Flanagan) goes through the Democratic Party. Vacancies in a district attorney’s post are filled by gubernatorial appointment. There had been speculation about whether the opportunity to appoint a new DA would fall to outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick or to Gov.-elect Charlie Baker after he takes office next month.
The results of the election will not be certified until December 26, a 10-waiting period required by law to allow for recount challenges, of which there will be none since Sutter easily outpolled Flanagan, 36 percent to 26 percent, with the other six candidates splitting the remainder. Because the 26th falls on a Friday, the earliest Sutter could be sworn in would be the following Monday, December 29.
There have been questions about whether it would be right for Patrick to get one final chance to appoint another Democrat on his way out the door or whether Baker should have an opportunity to run a deliberative process and appoint a Republican successor.
The answer to what’s likely to happen was buried in a throwaway line in a story in this morning’s New BedfordStandard-Times about any recommendations Sutter might have about who should get the appointment.
“I want to discuss this first with Gov. Patrick before I say something publicly,” Sutter said.
Mrs. Sutter didn’t raise no fools.
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