With the Council set, attention turns to the next mayor’s race

If one were to call this recent City Election anything but a mayoral litmus test, then they’d seriously be missing what was written between the lines of the prolonged campaign season.

The Councillor at-large race had everything to do on the surface with who made it on the Council and who didn’t, naturally.

However, below the surface, the election had a great deal to do with who would be running to succeed Mayor Tom Ambrosino if and when he leaves the city’s highest office.

Already, ticket-topper and Council President Dan Rizzo has said he is a candidate for mayor the day that Ambrosino gives his farewell speech.

And, after a strong finish in stepping from ward councillor to at-large councillor, George Rotondo said he would also run for mayor.

Former mayor and current Councillor at-large Bob Haas – who finished a much stronger second place than anyone predicted – said he was interested in being mayor again, but wouldn’t say he was running. At best, he could be counted as a maybe.

Finally, School Committeewoman Carol Tye wouldn’t answer the question yet. Nevertheless, it isn’t lost on anyone that Tye received more votes than any other citywide candidate – whether for Council or School Committee – and was the only candidate to break the 4,000-vote mark. Several key political figures already have been heard giving a gentle nudge to Tye, in hopes that she would enter into a mayoral race.

The key to it all, though, is Mayor Ambrosino – who no one really wants to see leave. However, he has kept no secrets about his desire to find a new challenge as soon as possible, and certainly before his term expires in 2012.

While still the undoubted heavyweight of the Revere political world, the mayor has taken a self-assigned back seat, and that has led everyone else to begin scrambling for the front seat.

At last check, the mayor appeared to be in line for some kind of post in the new state transportation system, but that apparently has not materialized. Last week, he told the Journal that he wouldn’t be going anywhere until at least 2010.

It might even be 2011, but no matter, those who are serious about being mayor are already lining up. And, given that it would be a mid-term special election, no one would be risking anything but money. Any candidate that loses would still be able to retain his or her Council or School Committee seat.

“I don’t think I’ve made it any secret that I want to be mayor someday,” said Rizzo. “Whether or not the mayor leaves early or later, for me it’s just going to be a timing thing. Will we go into campaign mode come January or next summer? There is no question, I will be a candidate for mayor…I’ve paid my dues. I’ve been on the Council for 10 years. I believe it’s time to take a step to the next level.”

This week, Rotondo aimed his sights squarely on a showdown with Rizzo. Both men are not exactly buddies. Their dislike for one another’s policies and styles has been quite evident at Council meetings over the past year.

“If the mayor does leave, I will be running for mayor,” he said. “I believe I am the only one who can bring change and accountability to government and I will not use my position to advance my self-interests. The street sweeper will clean the streets and it’s my goal to clean up city government – from street opening permits to liquor licenses.

Haas said it would be disingenuous to say he wasn’t interested, but he also wasn’t about to be tied down to a mayoral run just yet.

“We’re thinking about it,” he said. “Every elected official does. If they say they don’t, they’re not being truthful. Tommy has been leaving for the last two years. I’m not making a comment until Tommy makes a definitive statement. If he leaves tomorrow, then I have to make a decision. No question about it, anyone would be a fool not to consider it for the unexpired term.”

Tye is the wild card in the whole discussion, as she is about as well known as anyone in the city – having been a teacher for decades – and also has shown the political ability to get large numbers of votes.

However, she didn’t appear ready this week to even discuss the idea of running for mayor.

“We have an extraordinary, talented mayor,” she said. “He is not only decisive, but also smart and well educated. We have a once in a lifetime kind of guy. I hope he stays forever. In these tough economic times, I don’t see anything in town for him…For this brief period of time, Tom is the man we need. That’s all I’m going to say now.”

And of course, were Ambrosino to stay on and run again in 2012, it would be the trump card that blows all the above hopes out of the water.

While most would consider that an impossibility, stranger things have happened.

As one astute politician rightly said this week, “Anything, I mean anything, can happen in Revere politics.”

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