By Marjorie Nesin
---- — An unexpected guest turned up at Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s re-election fundraiser and campaign kick-off event Saturday night — drawing a few stares and some greetings before the mayor asked that he leave.
Mac Bell, the mayor’s opponent in the race, walked through The Gloucester House doors and stuck a “Kirk for Mayor” sticker below the “Mac for Mayor” one he wears regularly on his shirt these days.
Lenny Linquata, who owns and operates The Gloucester House, confirmed the exchange to the Times Tuesday, saying, “That’s just Mac being Mac.”
To Bell himself, “being Mac” means expressing his respect for other city politicians by being upfront and running a campaign that acknowledges his opponent. In no way was his appearance at Kirk’s party meant as a joke or a taunt, he said.
“Anyone who know me knows that if there’s one thing I am, it’s out front and aboveboard,” Bell said. “I don’t pull any punches. I say it like it is, and I’ve always said it like it is and I’m proud that my track record speaks for itself.”
Bell said he showed at Kirk’s fundraiser to hear her speak firsthand and listen to her platform. He said some of her campaign advisers and volunteers turned up at his campaign kick-off event the week prior.
“I said, ‘Well, I think you’re more than welcome to any of our events,’” Bell said of his conversation with Kirk, “and she said, ‘It’s really necessary for you to leave.’”
Kirk said Tuesday that she addressed Bell’s arrival right away, worrying that his presence might cause discomfort among her guests, who had donated to attend the fundraiser.
“I asked him to leave because I think it was very uncomfortable for my guests who had paid to be there,” Kirk said. “I didn’t want to have to temper my remarks, in terms of my campaign strategy, to my supporters by having my opponent in the room. He was very gracious and left after I asked him to.”
The exchange was at least the second case of Bell wading into Kirk’s camp when he may not have been wanted.
The day after securing his 11th-hour spot on the ballot in August, Bell had delivered a cake to the mayor’s office. He had also asked the executive assistant who works in Kirk’s office to sign his nomination form to earn the right to challenge the mayor on the November ballot; the woman declined.
Bell said he has donated to Kirk’s past campaigns, and he drew support from the mayor when he acquired the former Birdseye site and made overtures toward redeveloping it before selling it to Jim Davis and Sheree Zizik and their Beauport Gloucester LLC. He emphasized that he holds no personal negative feelings against Kirk and is running against her administration’s decisions rather than against her as a person.
“There’s no reason to do anything but respect or be kind to Carolyn because, God knows, she’s done her best,” Bell said. “I just want to respect her and treat her as I want all people in Gloucester treated.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.