FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Fall River City Council President Cliff Ponte has taken the reins from Mayor Jasiel Correia for the time being but come November, voters will have to decide on the city’s next full-time mayor.
Faced with two separate criminal cases, Correia announced Tuesday that he would be stepping aside from his mayoral duties and taking a paid leave of absence until he formally resigns in January. He also suspended his re-election campaign.
While Correia’s name will still appear on the ballot, the announcement seemed to clear a path to the city’s top office for challenger Paul Coogan. The school committee member bested Correia in last month’s preliminary election by nearly 5,500 votes.
But on Wednesday, a new challenger entered the arena.
City Administrator Cathy Ann Viveiros held a news conference to announce she’s launching a write-in campaign for mayor.
“I thought it was very important that we give the voters of Fall River a choice in the upcoming election for mayor,” she said.
“As I hear about the change that my opponent is planning, I am very fearful that the tremendous progress we have made over the past six years will be lost,” Viveiros added. “We deserve more than a default vote for a candidate that I believe will bring back the failed economic practices from our past.”
Viveiros, a former city councilwoman, has previously run five unsuccessful campaigns for mayor.
Following Viveiros’ announcement, Coogan told Eyewitness News he believes Correia is orchestrating multiple write-in campaigns including hers to try to split the vote and win his seat back.
“I think this is the plan they laid out in that secret meeting,” he said. “The mayor did not resign so he’s obviously on the ballot and he’s still an active participant on this ballot so let’s find out where this ends up.”
Viveiros denied the claims that she’s playing spoiler for Correia, saying she wants to keep the city moving along the same path.
“I am an independent individual,” she said. “I have the experience. I’ve provided the leadership and the stability and the mayor has made it very clear that he is no longer a candidate.”
Coogan also said Viveiros called him last week to get a read on his plans for her current position. He said he told her that he has to win the election first and he wouldn’t be giving assurance to any city employees about their job status until then.
He also questioned why she would want a spot in his administration should he win the election, given her comments during her news conference.
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Viveiros said she questioned Coogan about his plans for multiple Government Center positions, not just her own. She also said she wouldn’t accept a job with his administration.
Eyewitness News will have more coverage tonight starting live at 5 on WPRI 12.