Correia wins race to replace himself
“I am speechless,” declared Jasiel Correia — and he wasn’t the only one.
The 29-year-old Fall River mayor had just been recalled from office — and then re-elected to that post — in a single election, a stunning electoral push-me-pull-you move by voters that left the young mayor elated and observers scratching their heads.
Under federal indictment for corruption charges related to a startup business he founded, Correia found himself the second Fall River mayor facing a recall election in five years. But unlike Will Flanagan, who was bounced from office in 2014, Correia survived yesterday’s balloting — even though more than 60 percent of voters favored the recall.
Here’s how he pulled it off.
The recall passed by a wide margin, 7,829 to 4,911. But Correia appeared on the replacement ballot as one of the five candidates to fill the seat if the recall passed. In other words, he was running to be his own replacement, if it came to that.
He got 4,808 votes, or about a third of the ballots cast in the five-way race, but it was enough to land him on top of the heap — and back in office. Or, more accurately, it simply kept him in office.
There are a few questions about the city’s recall process that are sure to gain fresh attention in the wake of yesterday’s result. The first is that, despite the chance to change this during an update of the city charter two years ago, a mayor facing recall in Fall River is allowed to run in the election concurrently held to select his or her replacement.
The second issue is that, unlike conventional elections for mayor, where the top two finishers in a preliminary contest face each other in the final election, the recall election is a single ballot first-past-the-post race, meaning victory goes to whoever earns the most votes, even if it’s far short of a majority. With five names on the ballot, that’s exactly what happened, as Correia garnered about a third of the vote, but edged out the second-place finisher by fewer than 300 votes.
The race will surely stand as yet another clear case for ranked-choice voting, a system designed to prevent electing officials with narrow plurality margins. The Fall River Herald News wrote about ranked-choice voting last month as a hedge against exactly the outcome seen in yesterday’s race.
In reporting on yesterday’s election, the Herald News raises the idea that Correia not only benefited from the lack of a runoff but perhaps also from a more deliberate effort to tilt things in his favor. It points to the fact City Councilor Joe Camara, a longtime Correia supporter who helped block a city council vote in November declaring Correia unable to carry out his duties, ran in yesterday’s recall election and pulled in nearly 2,000 votes. Whether it was by design or not, the paper says, Camara served as a “spoiler” who helped divide up the non-Correia votes enough for the mayor to prevail.
While Correia was celebrating yesterday’s stunning turn of events, it is hardly clear sailing for the brash young pol.
Correia can only hope the lucky breaks he had yesterday are a sign of what’s to come.
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