FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Incumbent Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan has won a second term, defeating City Council President Cliff Ponte, according to results released by city elections officials.
Coogan received 62% of the vote, while Ponte took 38%.
Voter turnout in Tuesday’s municipal election was light, as only about 24% of Fall River’s 52,088 registered voters cast a ballot. That was down from 33% turnout in 2019 and 32% turnout in 2017.
Coogan, a former School Committee member, is finishing his first term after ousting disgraced then-Mayor Jasiel Correia in 2019. The mayor’s final days of campaigning were overshadowed by a bicycling accident last weekend in Mattapoisett that left his wife, Judi, hospitalized with serious injuries.
Speaking to supporters gathered at the Our Lady of Light Band club, Coogan became emotional at times because his wife wasn’t by his side. He said she is still in pain, but recovering.
Reflecting on the results, Coogan said, “The city of Fall River spoke very, very clearly and loudly tonight.” The mayor said he wants to work with Ponte and the rest of the outgoing City Council in the coming weeks on issues including the city budget, spending American Rescue Plan Act funds, public safety, infrastructure and education.
“When you’re in a 24-month term you can’t throw away months and say, well, we’ll wait until the new council comes in,” Coogan said. “We should work with this one and see what we can get through.”
“The race is over and we start fresh tomorrow,” he added.
Ponte was first elected to the City Council in 2015 and briefly served as acting mayor following Correia’s second arrest. The 32-year-old delivered a concession speech before 9 p.m. to supporters gathered at the Eagle on Main Street.
“I entered this race in early July, and I knew that I was going up against a very popular mayor, a likable mayor, somebody who was successful as an educator – I knew that,” Ponte said. “But I decided to enter this race because I felt that I could do a better job.”
“This was not an issues campaign. It was about likability,” he said. “This isn’t the end of Cliff Ponte running for political office,” he added, suggesting he might run again “in the not too distant future.”
During the campaign the two candidates tangled over issues including city finances, marijuana licensing and commitment to the mayor’s job. They debated on WPRI 12’s Newsmakers last week.