FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia kept his political career alive in Tuesday’s preliminary election, holding onto the support of enough city voters to make it into the Nov. 5 general election despite being arrested twice in the past year.
But the unofficial election results were still an ominous sign for Correia, who received far less support than the top vote-getter, School Committee member Paul Coogan – a clear sign the incumbent may struggle to win the majority backing he would need in November to stay in office.
Coogan received 62% of the vote, while Correia received just 21%. A third candidate, local activist Erica Scott-Pacheco, placed last with 16%.
Election officials said the unofficial results showed Coogan with 8,273 votes, while Correia had 2,777 and Scott-Pacheco had 2,171.
“The voters made their decision on who they want to lead the city, and we’re halfway home, and we’ve got to get to November,” Coogan said. “I think it was a great night for Fall River.”
Turnout was relatively strong, with over 13,000 voters going to the polls, representing roughly one in four of the city’s registered voters – significantly more than in the last two preliminary mayoral elections in 2017 and 2015.
“It appears the ‘yes’ recall vote has coalesced around Coogan, so while Correia will most likely advance to the general election, Coogan is now the frontrunner to win,” said Shannon Jenkins, a political science professor at UMass Dartmouth.
Correia addressed a crowd of supporters, blaming the large gap separating him and Coogan on the “assaults” to his campaign.
“We know why the numbers were the way they were,” Correia said. “We know it’s not because we haven’t done a good job.”
Correia added that voters have, “been intimidated and told false information,” which is why they chose not to vote for him.
“I understand where they’re at in their hearts and minds,” Correia said. “They don’t know what the future holds for Jasiel Correia.”
Correia’s endurance Tuesday marks yet another twist during a period of intense political in turmoil in Fall River. He was first elected in 2015 when he defeated Mayor Sam Sutter, who himself had been elected less than a year earlier after his successor, Will Flanagan, was recalled.
Flanagan, in turn, had been damaged by a scandal in which he allegedly used a gun to threaten a City Council member: Correia.
Correia was first indicted last fall for allegedly defrauding investors in his startup company, SnoOwl. A majority of voters cast a ballot to recall him in March, but he managed to be the top vote-getter on the same ballot when voters were asked who should replace him – leaving him in office.
Federal prosecutors unsealed another indictment against Correia earlier this month, alleging he accepted bribes from marijuana companies that wanted to open pot shops in the city. He has pleaded not guilty and at last check was slated to go on trial in February.
Despite the loss, Scott-Pacheco kept her head high, telling her supporters she is pleased to see how close she came to knocking Correia out of the mayoral race.
“I think that the 2,100 votes I earned sends a huge message,” Scott-Pacheco said. “Especially to Jasiel Correia and those who are contributing to the corruption in our city.”
Ted Nesi and Sarah Doiron contributed to this report.