Nelson Almeida was elected Monday to the Seekonk Board of Selectmen. He received the most votes in the special election, defeating opponents Paul Buckley and Jeffrey Starr Mararian.
Almeida received 639 votes, 32 more than Buckley earned. There were 14 write-in votes. It has not been determined how many of those were for write-in candidate Mararian.
He will serve the remainder of former Selectman Bill Rice's term, which expires in April 2014. Rice resigned without explanation in June.
"I accomplished my campaign message, which was 'building relationships,'" said Almeida, during his victory party at Luxury Box Sports Bar and Grille. "What I did was I rode my bike and I covered about 70 percent of Seekonk in shorts and a T-shirt, just showing our community that I am part of the community, I don't want to stick out, and I am here to work for you and be your independent voice on the board."
Almeida, 35, was not known in local political circles prior to this year. He ran in the regular election in April, placing third of five in the race for two selectmen seats, a performance that impressed many political observers.
He said the campaign in this special election was a challenge because Buckley had the support of three sitting selectmen—Francis Cavaco, Bob McLintock and Gary Sagar. McLintock made a financial contribution to Buckley's campaign and Sagar wrote a letter endorsing him. However, Cavaco never made a statement or took an action in public in favor of either candidate.
"Essentially, I was running a race against four opponents," Almeida said. "Winning by 32 [votes], that isn't a large number, but what I went through was a huge accomplishment."
Almeida added, "We have a lot of residents that are sick and tired of what's happening on the board and they want to see somebody new on the board. Those who voted for me wanted somebody new, fresh—an independent voice."
Speaking at Seekonk High School shortly after the results were released, Buckley congratulated Almeida on the win and said he was pleased with the voter turnout of 13.41 percent, a significantly higher percentage than most political observers predicted.
"People said it was going to be a low turnout, but it was a good turnout," said Buckley, a 47-year-old Seekonk native. "[Almeida] worked hard, I worked hard. But turnout is what it's all about, and he obviously was the better candidate and worked hard for it and got the result."
When asked about what might have hurt his campaign, Buckley said he wasn't able to do as much campaigning in the south end of town. While Buckley defeated Almeida by a large margin in the north end (167-118) and a slim margin in the library area (204-195), Almeida had big wins in the south precincts (162-124 and 164-112).
"I wanted to get to the south end more, but I was busy with my job," Buckley said. "I had a campaign plan. I stuck with the plan. We'll see where it goes from there."
As for whether he'll run again in the next selectmen election in April when one seat (Cavaco's) will be contested, Buckley said he hasn't thought that far ahead. Mararian said he would be running, and possibly as a regular candidate rather than as a write-in. For now, Buckley said he would concentrate on his term as a member of the Board of Assessors.
"Maybe, this was a way of the voters telling me, 'Paul, you're doing a great job on the Board of Assessors. Stay there.'"
Votes by PrecintCandidates Precinct 1 Precinct 2 Precinct 3 Precinct 4 Total Nelson Almeida 118 195 162 164 639 Paul Buckley 167 204 124 112 607 Write-Ins 3 6 3 2 14