By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — Some three weeks before Gloucester’s voters head for the polls, all five of the city’s five contested ballot races heat up Wednesday with the Gloucester Daily Times debates kicking off at 6:15 at Gloucester Stage Company’s Gorton’s Theatre.
All five debates will be at Gloucester Stage, and all are free and open to the public — with all of the questions to be posed based on submissions from Times readers.
Times Editor Ray Lamont, who will serve as the debates’ moderator, noted that there is still time today for readers to submit questions (see related story, Page 3) that can be posed to candidates in any of the contested races.
The two nights of debates will be capped by an hour-long debate between Mayor Carolyn Kirk and challenger Mac Bell, who will square off Thursday night at 8.
But the debates will open tomorrow with Ward 5 City Council candidates William Fonvielle and Scotadam Chernov fielding and debating questions in a 30-minute pairing set for 6:15, while Ward 2 incumbent Melissa Cox and challenger Ann Frontiero Mulcahey will engage in another 30-minute debate starting at 7. The Ward 2 race is a rematch and role reversal of the 2011 campaign, when Cox, then the challenger ousted Mulcahey in her bid to win a second ward term.
The final Wednesday debate will be a one-hour session among all eight candidates for the four councilor-at-large seats, with incumbents Joe Ciolino, Sefatia Romeo Theken and Robert Whynott being challenged by Steve Curcuru, Dennis Latham, Paul Lundberg, Greg Verga and Robert Whitmarsh.
Verga is a current councilor but presently represents Ward 5 and is now seeking a citywide at-large seat, while Curcuru is a former Ward 3 councilor who is making his first citywide run. City residents are assured of having at least one new at-large representative; incumbent at-large and former mayor Bruce Tobey is not seeking re-election.
The debates continue Thursday, with the nine candidates for six elected School Committee seats engaging in an hourlong debate starting at 6:30. That race includes incumbents Kathleen Clancy, Tony Gross, Jonathan Pope and Melissa Joy Teixeira, along with challengers Joel Favazza, J.D. MacEachern Jr., Hannah Scialdone Kimberley, Jack O’Maley, Michelle Sweet.
That board is assured of two turnover seats, with neither Valerie Gilman nor Roger Garberg seeking re-election. While the committee includes seven members, the seventh seat automatically goes to the mayor.
The School Committee debate will be followed by the exchange between the mayoral candidates at 8 p.m. And that debate will come a little more than a week after Kirk and Bell squared off for the first time in a one-hour forum hosted a week ago this morning by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce at the Elks at Bass Rocks.
They are also slated to meet tonight at 7:15 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in a discussion that will focus on environmental issues. That program, sponsored by the UU Church and Maritime Gloucester, is open to the public for a donation of $20, or whatever attendees can afford.
The mayoral candidates will also meet in a closed debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of Cape Ann, at a date to be announced, in the studios of Cape Ann TV, and all candidates for all offices are also expected to participate in a forum set for Oct. 29 at the Lanesville Community Center.
But the Chamber and Times debates are being held earlier than in the past, giving the mayoral and other campaigns an accelerated kick into high gear.
The early scheduling of the Times debates is due in part to a scheduling conflict over the following two weeks at Gloucester Stage. But Lamont said he believes the timing of this week’s debates will work out better for all.
”This will give voters a lot more time to consider the candidates’ stands, whether they see the debates live at the theater or over Cape Ann TV,” he said, “and it will perhaps give the candidates more time to react in the days and weeks ahead to the views and positions raised by their opponents, as well.”
All of the Times debates will be recorded and replayed a number of Times over Cape Ann TV in the days leading up to the Nov. 5 elections.
“I know we’re receiving a lot of very good questions, and I hope a lot of people will turn out to see and hear what their candidates have to say,” Lamont said. “These should be the kind of spirited debates that will help voters make their decisions — and Gloucester voters this year have a number of key decisions to make.”