Correia declares victory in retreat
Fall River mayor defiant in the face of indictments, election drubbing
IT RINGS like an echo of the solution to the Vietnam War quagmire proposed by Vermont Sen. George Aiken — “declare victory and get out.”
Fall River’s embattled mayor, Jasiel Correia, says he’s been a godsend to the once-struggling former mill city, completely reversing its fortunes during his four-year tenure. But he will nonetheless be abandoning his flagging reelection campaign and stepping back from day-to-day duties of mayor’s office itself.
Yet he’s doing all of it with his chin held high, as the 27-year-old mayor offered up remarks yesterday to a press gathering that sounded more like a recitation of his greatest hits than the somber reflections of a flame-out politician facing two separate federal indictments.
It was an odd spectacle, but par for the course for the brash young mayor, who was once seen as a boy wonder answer to Fall River’s woes but has instead turned municipal leadership there into a laughingstock.
In between the two indictments came the bizarre recall election in which a majority of voters said he should be bounced from office but, on the same ballot, gave him a plurality in the five-way contest to “replace” him in which Correia himself ran as a candidate.
Undeterred by his latest indictment, Correia was seeking another term, but finished a distant second in last month’s preliminary election, a prelude to what looks like certain defeat in next month’s two-candidate final election. That prompted a recent meeting with supporters where Correia unveiled a secret plan to have at least one write-in candidate enter the race to help divide up votes. The problem with the secret strategy was that someone handed Fall River Herald News scribe Jo Goode — whose dogged reporting has been very bad for Correia — an audio recording of the mayor’s pitch.
“When you are in a battle that you have a disadvantage, you have a couple of options,” he said on the recording. “You can give up. You can change the circumstances and try to figure out the alternative outcomes. Right now there is only one outcome if we go ‘mano a mano,’ one on one: We don’t win. And everything that we’ve done, all the things we have done, will be for nothing. So I need your help to still win in an un-traditional way.”
Paul Coogan, the school committee member who placed first in preliminary, said he hopes yesterday’s announcement that Correia is suspending his campaign isn’t just another ploy in his effort to win in an “un-traditional” way.
Also raising more than a few eyebrows is Correia’s declaration that, despite relinquishing most duties of the office, he plans to continue collecting his $119,000 a year salary until his term expires at the end of the year.
The Globe’s Michael Levenson said a beaming Correia seemed to be delivering a “State of the City” speech.“We were a city in rapid decline. But now Fall River stands as a symbol of revitalization and hope,” Correia declared in a speech that he said is “not goodbye,” teasing the possibility of a future comeback run.
“The people of Fall River have shown their continuous support for the work that I have done by electing me three times.” he said, counting an election in which a majority of voters said he should be thrown out of office as another star on his political resume. “I pledge that I will see that work through.”